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How is coronavirus affecting medical publication planning?

Impact of coronavirus COVID-19 on the global economy, Financial crisis 2020.

Following on from our recent report on an International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) webinar exploring the subject, survey results published in the MAP newsletter provide further insights into the impact of coronavirus on medical publication activities. The survey of 17 publication leads from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and the agencies supporting them, was conducted during April 2020. It aimed to better understand these stakeholders’ key concerns during this unprecedented time, alongside the rapid adjustments that were being implemented to ensure robust publication planning in the immediate and long term.

Concerns highlighted in the survey included compliance considerations due to the rapid move of many major scientific congresses to virtual platforms: 71% of respondents cited the need to review and approve scripts and final videos for online presentation at virtual meetings as an area of uncertainty. A similar proportion of respondents felt there was a need to establish clear rules and timelines for decisions on authorship when author feedback is delayed – a concern arising from the increasing unavailability of authors due to the pandemic that has been addressed in ISMPP guidance.

With regards to contingency plans to minimise the impact of coronavirus on achieving publication goals, most respondents (82%) had or intended to have a meeting with internal stakeholders to adjust publication planning priorities. Other strategies being employed by a large proportion of respondents (71% in each case) included:

  • doing more with less by, for example, enhancing posters with virtual options and aiming to re-use these materials
  • withdrawing abstracts from cancelled or online congresses and submitting them to a meeting later in the year
  • refocusing efforts on manuscripts, including the use of fast-track options.

“The need for iterative publication planning remains key, and publication professionals have shown the priority is to adapt rapidly to refocus activities while remaining compliant.”

In the long term, more than half of respondents (53%) indicated that the current disruption will make them more reliant on a digital communications approach in the future, bringing such activities to the fore from a previously supporting role.

The authors conclude by emphasising the critical need to continue to share scientific research in a timely and accurate manner. They suggest that a rapid return to ‘business as usual’ following the global recovery from coronavirus is unlikely, but the extent of any lasting impact on medical publishing remains to be seen.


Summary by Alice Wareham PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


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

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