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Meeting report: summary of day 1 of the 2018 European ISMPP Meeting

ISMPP 2018 EU meeting report

The 2018 European Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) was held in London on 23–24 January and attracted nearly 300 delegates; the highest number of attendees to date. The meeting’s theme was ‘Advancing Medical Publications in a Complex Evidence Ecosystem’ and the agenda centred around data transparency, patient centricity and the future of medical publishing. Delegates were treated to two keynote addresses, lively panel discussions, interactive roundtables and parallel sessions, and also had the chance to present their own research in a poster session.

A summary of the first day of the meeting is provided below for those who could not attend, and as a timely reminder of the highlights for those who did. A summary of the second day of the meeting can be found here.

Year in review: a look back at 2017

After a welcome from the Chair, Fiona Plunkett, the meeting’s plenary sessions began with a review of 2017 by Jackie Marchington (Caudex Medical Limited). Marchington recounted how 2017 saw the launch of the Open Pharma initiative, the development of new guidelines for conference abstracts and presentations (currently available at PeerJ Preprints for comments and feedback), and an International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) update on the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, including new information regarding predatory or pseudo-journals, ethics and data sharing.

‘Fake news’ is perhaps a term that will be synonymous with 2017. Marchington recalled that in August, Bloomberg Businessweek issued an article ‘Medical Journals Have a Fake News Problem’ about major pharmaceutical companies publishing articles in predatory Omics journals. A similar article about academics and ‘worthless journals’ was published by The New York Times. Last year also saw the headline by TrialsTracker that 45% of sponsored trials had not published results, which many feel might be an overestimation of the rate of non-disclosure. The audience were reminded that it is down to those working in the industry to “put fake headlines to bed” and limit the potential damage that can arise from them.

On a lighter note, ‘A Day in the Life of MedComms’ was highlighted as an annual celebration that gives a unique insight into our industry. This year’s event will take place on 6 June; don’t forget to mark the date in your diary if you would like to join in!

Medical publications and data disclosure – ensuring compliance, efficiency and effectiveness for publication and data disclosure teams

The meeting’s first panel discussion focussed on the ever-evolving regulatory and cultural environment surrounding the public disclosure of data generated in industry-sponsored medical research. Moderator Russell Traynor (Envision Pharma Group) began the session by reminding delegates of the usefulness of the Educational Series on Data and Financial Transparency launched by the ISMPP Global Transparency Committee in late 2017. This resource, available to ISMPP members, was developed to raise awareness among publication professionals of the numerous guidance documents and policies focusing on these topics.

Since early milestones such as the launch of in the early 2000s, demands for clinical trial transparency and data sharing have continued to escalate, with recent developments including the ICMJE announcement on data sharing statements in clinical trial publications. For the industry to continue to meet these demands, each organisation will have to overcome the real-life issues that arise when planning the release of large volumes of data generated in multiple clinical trials, performed at country, regional or global levels and in many different settings. Each member of the panel — Julie Ford (Novartis Pharmaceuticals), Karen Mittleman (Sanofi) and Santosh Mysore (GlaxoSmithKline) — provided examples of such potential pitfalls and actions that can be taken to avoid them. Common challenges include the need to keep up-to-date with the continual and rapid changes in disclosure demands and practices; the necessity of maintaining anonymity when sharing patient-level data, especially in studies that involve patients with rare diseases; and the ever-present call for sufficient resource within the teams responsible for managing data disclosure. Many of the logistical difficulties involved in data disclosure can be overcome by developing and implementing robust internal procedures, ensuring that individuals feel accountable and responsible for their own work, and providing adequate training and IT systems. Looking to the future, further integration between different functional teams is inevitable; indeed, this is already happening within many companies. In particular, close collaboration between trial teams who may be responsible for ‘non-interpretative’ disclosure of data via and other databases, and the publications teams who manage ‘interpretative data disclosure’ is essential. The session closed with the prediction that the concept of ‘publication planning’ will soon be replaced by that of ‘integrative data disclosure planning’.

Speed research: part 1

A record number of ISMPP members presented their research during the meeting’s poster session and the meeting abstract committee, chaired by Laura McGovern (ApotheCom), selected six of the best for oral presentation during two ‘Speed Research’ sessions.

The first of these sessions centred around the theme of maximising the dissemination of research. Charlotte Bell (Cello Health) kicked things off with a summary of her team’s work to determine ‘Does ‘open access’ affect the amount of attention an article receives online?’ The group analysed the ten most recent original research articles published in general/internal medicine journals with an open access option and Altmetric scores. Three journals were selected from each tier of journal: ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ impact factor. Of the 90 articles analysed, 34 were open access. The group found that mean Altmetric scores were higher overall, and within each journal ‘tier’, for open access articles than for non-open access articles (113.7 vs 31.6). The team suggested that future studies might build on these findings to look at the effect of open access on the online engagement of healthcare professionals and patients.

Next up, Jürgen Wiehn (Shire) reported on his team’s research into ‘Can the social-media footprint of published articles predict long-term impact?’. This group looked at the Altmetric scores of 32 publications of Shire-sponsored research over a 52–76-week period, including a more detailed look at Altmetric scores in the first four weeks post-publication (for 23 articles). Mean scores were higher for open access articles and, in general, increased most during the first month after publication, after which time they remained fairly constant. They found no correlation between Altmetric scores and impact factor, downloads or Research Gate reads. Overall, articles ranked highly by Altmetric score were also highly ranked by number of citations, although there were some marked exceptions to this general pattern. A further analysis of the impact of publishers’ social media activity found that the mean number of tweets per article was higher for those articles tweeted by the publisher. The authors suggest that Twitter activity might be a useful additional tool to determine both the immediate and potential readership of an article.

The session was rounded off with a talk from Neil Venn (Prime Global) on his team’s work to address the question ‘Do authors fully utilize opportunities to share supplementary information at conferences?’. The team analysed abstracts submitted to The American Heart Association’s 2016 meeting to investigate the proportion of authors who provide materials beyond the traditional abstract and ‘live’ presentation of a printed poster. The meeting’s organisers encouraged authors to upload an e-poster (in PowerPoint or PDF format) and also allowed authors to upload a supplementary audio file. E-posters and audio files were made available to meeting delegates and, after the meeting, to the public. Of the 4000 abstracts accepted, 3001 were presented. Of these, 60% were accompanied by an e-poster and <3% were accompanied by an audio file. The team concluded that authors may be missing opportunities to disseminate their research to a wider audience. They questioned whether this might be due to concerns regarding the provision of an enduring copy of a conference presentation, which is not peer reviewed and may later be superseded. If correct, this may present a growing challenge as more and more congresses make the switch to digital.

Time to embrace change in medical publishing?

After breaking off for roundtable discussions on a whole host of publications-related issues, delegates came together again to see some of these hot topics discussed in further detail by the faculty. To this end, Richard Smith (Open Pharma) moderated a lively panel discussion on the relatively slow pace of innovation and change in medical publishing and potential opportunities for improvement. The cross‑industry panel comprised Chris Rains, Shire; Chris Winchester, Oxford PharmaGenesis; Lise Baltzer, Novo Nordisk; Martin Delahunty, Inspiring STEM Consulting; Rebecca Lawrence, F1000; Robert Kiley, Wellcome Trust; Santosh Mysore, GlaxoSmithKline; and Theodora Bloom, The BMJ.

The multi-stakeholder group Open Pharma was formed with the aim of improving the speed and transparency with which industry-sponsored research is published. The group believe that the pharmaceutical industry has a role to play in improving scientific publishing; an endeavour that, it could be argued, has so far been led by non-industry funding bodies. Four workstreams have been established to explore the potential benefits of innovations in open access; ORCiD, CRediT and Convey; preprints and post-publication peer review; and layered publication platforms. The areas of open access and preprints were further explored during the panel session.

Robert Kiley stressed that the definition of open access must stretch beyond free access to read an article, to the free re-use of the data therein. It was noted that, at present, some publishers are unwilling to permit such usage for industry-sponsored research (ie via the assignment of a CC-BY licence). The panel felt that, along with the myriad of open access options available and potentially confusing terminology, this presents a potential barrier to the dissemination of research. The panel went on to discuss the opportunities associated with the mandating of open access publishing by funding bodies, as already championed by the Wellcome Trust. The experience of the Wellcome Trust is that authors do not seem to be perturbed by such a requirement and that publishers are willing to adapt their policies accordingly. It now seems that industry may begin to follow suit, with Shire announcing a new requirement for research they fund to be published via open access.

The second part of the session focussed on preprints and post-publication peer review. Medical publishing can be a protracted affair and once an article has been submitted authors may feel that the time to publication is out of their hands. Preprints (articles that have not yet been submitted to a peer reviewed journal) provide a potential means to speed up the dissemination of results and allow pre-publication, open, peer review. A preprint server for the medical community is due to be launched in 2018. Fears were raised that some journals may refuse to publish an article previously published as a preprint and indeed, there is currently some variability among medical journals in this regard. However, the field of physics was highlighted as an example where the two models have co-existed in harmony for decades. The transparency of open peer review, as adopted by open research publishing platforms such as F1000Research and Wellcome Open Research, was also highlighted by the panel. These publishing models can speed up the process and may also help the publication of less ‘impactful’ data, such as negative results, which can often be rejected from the more traditional top-tier journals. The advantage of rapid publication and sharing of results on the advancement of medical research and subsequent benefit to the patient was emphasised.

Finally, Smith posed the question “Do we still need journals?”. The panel argued that journals can nurture a fledgling field of research and also play an important role in maintaining ethical standards in medical publishing. As the industry begins to adopt new innovations and technology this may well be a question that is posed again.

Debate: will we be replaced by robots?

This thought-provoking session on artificial intelligence (AI) was moderated by Martin Delahunty (Inspiring STEM Consulting). Given the perceived threat posed by the potential automation of many jobs, AI is a topic typically met with worry rather than enthusiasm. Delahunty explored what robotics and AI might mean for medical publishing and surprised the audience with a plethora of existing examples of AI-based innovations in the field.

With respect to pharmaceuticals, examples included the recent collaboration of GlaxoSmithKline with Exscientia and Insilico Medicine to pursue AI-driven drug discovery in numerous therapy areas. Healthcare is also the focus of many new AI start-ups, a number of which have the potential to transform the current patient–healthcare system interaction. From the journal editor’s perspective, AI offers increased operational speed and efficiency to perform a range of functions, including identifying peer reviewers and detecting plagiarism, and could ultimately speed up the peer review process (AI is already being used by some journals to select peer reviewers). Delahunty also explored the vulnerability of clinicians to replacement by robots. While it is predicted that AI will mostly augment the work of clinicians in the next 10–15 years, future redundancy to AI is more likely in diagnostic specialisms based on pattern recognition, such as radiology, histopathology and dermatology. Experts also envisage that AI will reverse the clinician–patient relationship to a “the patient will see you now” approach, whereby AI systems could deliver diagnoses without the need to visit a doctor.

So, what does the future hold? Russel Traynor (Envision Technology Solutions) took to the stage to explore this question. Traynor’s take-home message was that the development of robotics is expanding exponentially. In publications management, this has moved from the use of archival systems and manual workflows, to systems capable of “smart actions” to support standard operating procedures (SOPs). Traynor predicts that in the future AI will further evolve these systems so that they can execute rather than support SOPs.

The final speaker in this session, Harry Politis (Nucleus Global), discussed the application of content personalisation to the medical profession. Politis highlighted the ability of AI to learn from user interaction with online content to predict what users want to see next. This ability could be harnessed for a number of applications in healthcare and medical publications, from clinical trial design and recruitment to intelligent e-learning programmes.

Delahunty concluded that AI is all about “augmenting intelligence” and that, although some skill sets and capabilities will inevitably become automated, medical publication professionals won’t be replaced by robots just yet – much to the relief of the ISMPP delegates!

ISMPP and ISMPP CMPP™ update: the expanding role of ISMPP

As the first day drew to a close, Juliana Clark (Amgen; Chair for the ISMPP Board of Trustees) and Susan Scott (Scott Pharma Solutions Ltd; member of the ISMPP Recertification Committee) provided delegates with an update on ISMPP and the Certified Medical Publication Professional (CMPP™) qualification. The session emphasised ISMPP’s aim to grow membership through education and collaboration. Clark discussed numerous examples of these highly valued collaborations, including the AMWA–EMWA–ISMPP Joint Position Statement — the first unified position on the role of professional medical writers and now available in six languages — and the Transparency Matters initiative with Medical Publishing Insights and Practices (MPIP). Also highlighted was ISMPP’s endorsement of ORCiD, the non-profit organisation providing a digital identification platform for all involved in research, scholarship and innovation. Of note, Clark voiced ISMPP’s enthusiasm for member-initiated research and thanked all who communicated such work via publication or presentation at meetings over the last year.

Key updates to ISMPP CMPP™ certification were also outlined. The first of these was that the CMPP™ exam now consists of four knowledge domains:

  • developing a publication plan
  • implementing a publication plan
  • fostering ethical and compliant behaviours in publications
  • monitoring evolving trends related to the medical publication profession (this domain is a new addition).

For those already CMPP™ accredited, new updates have been made to the CMPP™ recertification programme. Importantly, recertification credits will soon also be available via self-study continuing education, such as webcasts or online courses. Scott concluded by stressing the value of CMPP™ accreditation in job applications and reminded delegates of the 2018 CMPP™ testing windows: 1–31 March and 1–30 September.


Day one was rounded off with poster presentations from 27 ISMPP members, showcasing the depth and breadth of the research carried out within the community.

To see the summary of Day 2 of this meeting, click here.


By Aspire Scientific, an independent medical writing agency led by experienced editorial team members, and supported by MSc and/or PhD-educated writers

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