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ISMPP U previews Annual Meeting with first standalone session on ‘bite-size content’

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As the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) prepares to go virtual this year, the first of two standalone ‘preview sessions’ was held recently via the ISMPP U programme. This session examined the evolution of medical communications to meet the needs of modern audiences: specifically, the current landscape for short, quickly digestible, or ‘bite-size’ content.

Mary Gaskarth (CMC Affinity) served as the moderator for this session and was joined by:

  • Richard Ashdown, McCann Health Medical Communications
  • Joanne Walker, Future Science Group
  • Beth Whann, Pfizer


Why bite-size… and is it always the answer? – Richard Ashdown

Current lockdown and social distancing measures have resulted in a surge in the use of technology and accelerated a change in information consumption habits. Will these trends now continue, or will we go back to the world that we once knew?

Long-form content is traditionally associated with scientific publishing, yet as the volume of content available to us grows, there is an increasing need to filter our digital consumption. Short-form content is one way of doing this. Short communications focus on single ideas, presented concisely, and are quickly understood. Indeed, the scientific abstract serves as one of the original short-form pieces, and persists to this day.

The scientific abstract serves as one of the original short-form pieces, and persists to this day.

Physicians are becoming ever-more engaged with social media, yet the content they share predominantly focuses on long-form articles – perhaps short-form scientific content best serves its role in quick comprehension, and signposting towards the full-length information for those who want more?


What do we mean by bite-size content – what formats does it include? – Mary Gaskarth

Gaskarth presented an overview of some of the most common forms of bite-size content, including infographics, video, and plain language summaries, noting that many of these are increasingly welcomed by journals as supporting elements in a submission. Indeed, many journals and publication teams are also encouraging the development of ‘tweetable content’ to further increase the reach of published materials.

Scientific posters may also be ripe for improvement, and Mike Morrison’s ‘Poster 2.0’ concept was discussed as an alternative to the traditional presentation styles.

Regardless of the content, considering the online presence of a project early on will help to ensure that the correct structure and keywords are employed to maximise search engine discoverability, particularly for freely available abstracts.


Bite-size in publications: an industry perspective – Beth Whann

Well planned and executed bite-size content can bring a number of benefits to a publication plan. For example, using the ‘Poster 2.0’ format at a scientific congress may help to ‘cut through the noise’ of many other similar-looking presentations, and bring key takeaways to the forefront.

Will Twitter posters be the next evolution in congress presentation?

When it comes to publishing your findings, some data may be more clearly conveyed by just getting straight to the point. Consider brief reports instead of full articles to facilitate prompt publication of research including terminated studies, retrospective or post-hoc analyses or confirmatory data.

For any article, plain language summaries provide an opportunity to extend complex information to a wider audience, be it via a single sentence or extended report, by using simple language and easy-to-understand visuals. (More on Pfizer’s plain language summary guidance will be shared in a poster presented at the upcoming ISMPP 2020 Annual Meeting.)

Social media can further increase the reach of an article – especially when content isn’t hidden behind a paywall. Whann noted industry reluctance to post directly, but many authors are already active on social media and keen to promote their own work.


Bite-size: how your journal can help – Joanne Walker

Alongside a traditional publication, bite-size content can provide an ideal entry point to engage with readers. The brevity of these short-form pieces can appeal to time-poor physicians, while also expanding the reach of the publication to less specialist audiences. Future Science Group has seen increases in article attention metrics for articles offering bite-size content, compared with those that do not. Crucially, these additions are often available before journal paywalls. Whether graphical abstracts, video abstracts or plain language summaries, the same peer review rigour is maintained for the bite-size content as for the original article, and in some cases – such as video content and standalone video articles – these additions are even becoming citeable in their own right, with individual Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).

Many journals are keen to engage in social media too, from posts about recent publications, to expanded Twitter content previews or author interviews to accompany key studies of interest.


Scientific publications are evolving with the needs of the modern reader and bite-size content is sure to become increasingly widespread in years to come. Why not join the conversation at #ISMPP or learn more at the 2020 Annual Meeting of ISMPP.


Summary by Duncan Campbell PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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