Guest Post – Towards Standardizing Plain Language Summaries: The Open Pharma Recommendations – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Plain language summaries (PLS) of peer-reviewed medical journal publications are summaries of a piece of published literature that simplify highly-specialized terminology and jargon into language everyone can understand. PLS are intended for everyone engaging with medical research, such as patients, patient advocates, caregivers, healthcare professionals and policymakers. Frequently, they are brief, text-based lay abstracts formatted like, and hosted alongside, the scientific abstract. However, consensus on industry standards for PLS is still in its infancy, so other formats in use across the industry include multi-page visual infographics and digital enhancements, usually hosted in the supplementary materials or on third-party websites….

Why write a PLS?

Open science is a human right. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to […] share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. The concept of open science as it relates to financial availability and open access publishing is already well established, and its principles can be seen in action in the likes of preprints, open source data sets, and open peer review reports, among others….

Accessible open science improves trust and transparency. At a time when public trust in the pharmaceutical industry is low, transparency is more important than ever, and what’s more transparent than sharing accurate and credible research directly with the public, in language they can understand?…

Our recommendations also call for PLS that are directly discoverable and findable instead of being buried in supplementary materials or multiple clicks away on third-party websites. PubMed is one of the most widely-used public databases of medical literature and already has an built-in function for hosting PLS. To be indexed on PubMed, a PLS needs to be text-based, 250 words or less, and tagged accordingly when uploaded by publishers. Therefore, the Open Pharma recommendations advise that PLS should meet these technical requirements. We do recognize, however, that PubMed is not an ideal platform for all stakeholders, and we would welcome future development of a central database for PLS that can match PubMed’s discoverability while providing more options for different content formats, such as infographics and videos to increase understanding and engagement….”