The 2023 European Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) was held in London on 24–25 January. The first in-person European Meeting since 2020, themed ‘Fueling Creativity’, saw a record 360 delegates in attendance.
A summary of the second day of the meeting is provided below to benefit those who were unable to attend the meeting, and as a timely reminder of the key topics covered for those who did.
A summary of the first day of the meeting can be found here.
Summaries of Day 2
Day 2 opened with parallel sessions, with attendees each having the opportunity to select 2 sessions to attend.
Parallel session: A balancing act: creativity and industry compliance
- Creative solutions that aim to improve data accessibility, transparency, and patient engagement come with risks, but are achievable with rigorous risk assessment.
In this parallel session, Geraldine Drevon (GSK), Christine Vanderlinden (GSK), Catherine Skobe (Pfizer), Veronica Porkess (UCB), and Jonas Lind Hansen (Novo Nordisk) explored the balance between industry regulations and creativity that must be navigated to address evolving needs for scientific dissemination.
The first part of the panel discussion focused on scientific dissemination on independent (ie non-industry-sponsored) platforms, such as figshare. Vanderlinden was tasked with identifying risks: lack of control over who can access the data and how the materials are used, the potential for varied quality of data posted on such sites, and how companies should compliantly decide which data are (and are not) uploaded. Despite these risks, Skobe shared a case study demonstrating how Pfizer has successfully developed a process to use figshare to publish manuscript plain language summaries (PLS), ensuring all content is peer reviewed and can be linked to the journal article using a digital object identifier (DOI). After a successful pilot, they plan to expand the process for other uses, such as enhanced publication content, further supplementary information, and eventually as a green open access repository.
The next topic in the session was use of industry-owned platforms. While some risks are similar to those for independent platforms, Porkess discussed further potential issues related to copyright and balancing access versus promotion of data (eg if someone scans a poster QR code, is it appropriate for users to be able to access other posters from that link?). Hansen provided some guidance on these platforms from a legal perspective, advising that the perception of company-owned websites being promotional is false – if content is objective and meets the same criteria as other publications (including in terms of copyright), then such sites are a viable solution for sharing enhanced content, if journals and congresses do not offer the possibility. Hansen emphasised the need to involve legal and compliance teams throughout the process, not just at the end. A case study from Novo Nordisk showed the process of building a freely accessible scientific exchange platform (Science Hub) to address the varied communication preferences of today’s healthcare professionals (HCPs). Novo Nordisk use the platform to house manuscripts or links to manuscripts, publication extenders, congress presentations, and medical education materials, which are all rigorously assessed for compliance before being uploaded.
The perception of company-owned websites being promotional is false – if content is objective and meets the same criteria as other publications…then such sites are a viable solution for sharing enhanced content.
Industry involvement with patients
Finally, the panel discussed the involvement of patients in scientific publications. Vanderlinden explained how to mitigate potential risks associated with patient authors for industry-sponsored manuscripts, including:
- the importance of careful assessment of why patients should be involved (it may not make sense for every publication)
- involving patients from the evidence generation step onwards, rather than when considering publication
- preparing patients to help them provide meaningful feedback on publications.
As raised in the fireside chat session on Day 1, payment of patient authors remains a challenging topic in the industry, with varied processes and policies at different pharmaceutical companies. A final case study from UCB showcased a successful partnership with patients to develop a manuscript on the lived experience with a disease. The protocol was designed in collaboration with a patient council, analysis of key themes was patient-led, and patients were included as authors of both a poster and a peer reviewed manuscript, in accordance with International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) criteria.
The Q&A session following the panel discussion raised some interesting points, including:
- the importance of developing industry guidelines for digital platforms and partnering with patients, to help improve uptake by risk-adverse companies
- the concept of a ‘professional patient’ who may work with multiple pharmaceutical companies (and therefore may be considered more objective), but may create challenges for appropriate payment
- criteria for selecting appropriate publications for patient authorship remain to be defined, with suggestions including active participation in study design, or a topic such as quality of life.
Parallel session: connecting the dots – turning information into insights
- Insights are the combination of information and context, and need to be actionable (aligned with strategic goals) and managed in an ongoing process.
Belinda Dean (3 Stories High) moderated this session, which focused on how insights gathered from external stakeholders can be used to inform strategic planning.
Kicking off the presentations, Sharon Suntag (IQVIA) explained that while information can be gathered from multiple sources, adding context is what provides the insight. Suntag summarised the ‘cycle of insights’:
- Interrogating data sources: these are unrefined facts.
- Assessing the information: what is happening?
- Forming the insights: adding context.
- Producing an actionable insight: what to do.
Suntag highlighted that strategic goals need to be considered when moving through this process. Suntag also highlighted that data lakes might contain information that is:
- structured – available in a table format that is defined and searchable and has been developed for a specific purpose
- unstructured – qualitative data, website content, presentations, medical data such as lab reports, or imaging.
Suntag emphasised that it is important to use the most appropriate data when developing questions to drive insight generation, and that different data sources are needed to ask questions of different key stakeholders.
Laura McGovern (Nucleus Global) then provided an agency perspective on a schematic approach to insights-driven medical planning. McGovern discussed a project which captured cross-functional insights based on a small data lake. Initially, insights were collated and evaluated against the medical objectives. McGovern highlighted that the quality of different sources needs to be carefully weighed – for example, social media may be fraught with fraudulent posts. Using a digital dashboard can optimise the efficiency of collecting insights at this stage. Once insights were gathered, a cross-functional workshop was held to align on priority actionable insights. A core group then worked to build an action plan (including timeframes and roles and responsibilities). The plan was then implemented, and its success evaluated through the collection of metrics. McGovern noted that the process of insights-driven medical planning is circular, with additional insights gathered and the plan amended as needed.
The final speaker in this session was Clare Baker (Idorsia). Baker shared that the insights-driven medical communications planning process at Idorsia begins with medical objectives and involves alignment of questions and listening priorities across countries and regions. The process was framed as follows:
- Insight gathering: insights are gathered from medical science liaisons (MSLs) using Customer Relationship Management platforms, medical information requests, and ad boards.
- Insight analysis: this ongoing process includes manual activities and artificial intelligence (AI) approaches, such as Microsoft Power BI.
- Insight reporting: at Idorsia, this is manually led by the Medical Operations function to identify insights that can inform product and communications strategies.
- Insight actioning: determined by cross-functional review.
Baker explained that cross-functional collaboration and sharing feedback are key to the success of insights-driven medical communications planning. Partnerships with agencies can also help with implementing insights within strategic and communications plans.
Cross-functional collaboration and sharing feedback are key to the success of insights-driven medical communications planning.
Parallel session: Publications without borders: harmonising local and global planning
- Understanding local needs and priorities will help global publication leads to integrate local publications into the global plan; open communication is key to achieving this.
Maria Haughton (AstraZeneca) chaired this session, and also presented slides on behalf of Michael Sheldon (GSK) who was unable to attend. Tom Grant (UCB) and Anisha Mehra (Ferring Pharmaceuticals) completed the panel, sharing perspectives on challenges and best practices for developing publication plans that integrate global and local priorities. Despite the differences in company sizes, common themes emerged.
The panel all acknowledged the importance of local publications to augment the global plan. Different countries may have different medical priorities and products may have different launch times; local publications can target these specific needs. However, local teams often face resource and time challenges. Small teams are often responsible for multiple products and therapy areas, and often, publications are at the bottom of a very long priority list. Local teams might also be siloed from global, and not aware of processes. High staff turnover at a local level also means that existing knowledge on process is lost, which can translate to challenges for global publications leads, eg last minute requests, ‘surprise’ publications, and the risk of non-compliant publications when processes are not followed.
The panel (and the audience during the Q&A) had some practical recommendations to ensure best practice for local engagement in publication planning. Collaboration was key –a regular call with local teams is a very simple way to keep global informed about local priorities and plans and vice versa. Further, engaging with local teams in a meaningful way is important. This could be through involvement in publication planning workshops. Regular training should be carried out, with the use of case studies to illustrate the benefits of publication planning, as well as the development of clear processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs). The local point of view can also go beyond medical priorities and may impact how publications are delivered – for example, when considering whether local or global agencies should be employed, it is important to consider the preference of the local teams. The recommendations all came back to one core issue: open (and two-way) communication. Engaging with local needs and priorities will help global publication leads integrate local publications into the global plan in a meaningful way, that is beneficial for all.
The recommendations all came back to one core issue: open (and two-way) communication. Engaging with local needs and priorities will help global publication leads integrate local publications into the global plan in a meaningful way, that is beneficial for all.
Parallel session: guided poster tour
Attendees also had the opportunity to attend a guided poster tour, which visited 4 posters:
- Accessibility of scientific information for non-English speakers: using browser-based tools to translate plain language summaries (PLS) and abstracts.
- Ghosts in the machine: retracted articles still haunt the literature.
- Diversity in medical publications: a cross-sectional evaluation of COVID-19 vaccine research.
- Evaluating the publication of randomised controlled trials in inflammatory bowel disease by trial outcome and journal attributes.
Once upon a time… Effective storytelling in an age of omnichannel communication
- Providing a clear, succinct, and aligned narrative using a variety of formats, across different channels and to a broad, cross-functional audience requires advanced planning but is a vital component of effective scientific storytelling.
Chaired by Caroline Halford (Springer Healthcare), the ever-growing role of omnichannel communication for effective storytelling was discussed in this plenary session. Despite great changes in communication methods over the past 20 years, succinct and engaging content that maintains scientific integrity continues to underpin effective communication across multiple types of media. Omnichannel communication is a vital component of this: a holistic method to share preferred content in preferred formats, that takes into account the readers’ perspective and delivers what they want to read.
The new normal: bitesize information needs
Nathalie van Havre (European Hematology Association) kicked off the session with a staggering statistic: since 1950, medical knowledge doubling time has decreased from 50 years to just 73 days. Efficient communication needs to adapt, harnessing different methods of learning.
Van Havre noted that microlearning is a simple and cost-effective addition to an educational strategy. Delivering scientifically sound information in a variety of formats, microlearning keeps learner fatigue at bay. At EHA, microlearning is used to deliver key topics of interest to an audience that spans 100 countries, through initiatives such as ‘Learning Mondays’, ‘Thinking Thursday’, and more in-depth case studies. Describing some key elements of a successful microlearning piece, van Havre highlighted the importance of interactivity, linking out to relevant sources, using a mixture of words and pictures, and encouraging a transferable, systematic thinking process.
Creative storytelling across communications
Fiona Thomas (KPMG) explained that storytelling doesn’t just happen at a single point in time. A great story is one that is retold over and over, and stories must align, complement, and build on one another across the various formats of communication. In scientific storytelling, a clear and aligned narrative needs advance planning and must be developed with a broad audience in mind.
Thomas also noted that a scientific story should be complete regardless of the journey the consumer has taken. She shared some key takeaways:
- Content and clarity are key.
- Profile your learners, not HCP type.
- Scientific storytelling is a relay: build the story and plan for the unexpected.
In scientific storytelling, a clear and aligned narrative needs advance planning and must be developed with a broad audience in mind.
Getting attention in the digital age
In the final presentation of the session, James Dathan (AstraZeneca) challenged the standardised processes in scientific storytelling. Using posters as an example, the format of scientific communication has changed little, despite user feedback showing a clear preference for infographic presentation of data. The use of omnichannel communication, including QR codes, allows readers to choose whether to delve more deeply, and even virtually connect with presenting authors, allowing posters to highlight the main results and conclusions. Dathan noted that in an age of digital adoption, front and centre information is no longer necessary, and innovation should be the motivator for change. Concluding, Dathan underscored the need for collaborative co-creation of scientific stories that embrace omnichannel communication.
The Q&A session also raised some interesting points:
- Collaborative co-creation of digital content is key to managing risk and understanding how to use social media compliantly.
- While we need to consider the different time zones of our audience, the latest data suggest Tuesday and Thursday mornings are good for sharing digital content. Releasing the same type of content on the same day provides consistency.
- Catering for different learning or HCP types isn’t sophisticated enough. We need to combine different formats and modalities to support different learning styles, while also considering different demographics and digital competence.
Member research oral presentations
AI for the development of clinical trial lay summaries: are we ready to replace writers with machines?
- Improvements are needed before AI can take over from writers in developing clinical trial lay summaries.
In the first of the three presentations in this session, David McMinn (Lay Summaries Ltd) shared findings from research into whether automatic text summarisation using natural language processing can accurately generate lay summaries. A literature search was performed to identify existing AI models, which were performance tested. The two best performing models were then fine-tuned and re-tested. McMinn found that the selected models were able to accurately produce certain sections of the lay summary, namely the title, background information, objective, and generic content but struggled with the results, adverse events, flow, and complex trial designs. The performance of AI models may be improved in the future with more powerful computers, larger data sets, enhanced metrics, and targeted text extraction. McMinn concluded that while AI does show promise, improvements are needed before writers can be replaced by machines.
Are conference presentations accessible? Insights from an online survey to improve equity
- Less visual clutter on posters and providing slides ahead of talks would improve the accessibility of conference presentations.
James Wells (CMC Connect) presented results from a 23-question online survey, which was designed to establish accessibility requirements and preferred methods of receiving information among conference attendees with diverse needs. Of 493 respondents, 57% reported at least one accessibility need or disability, most frequently processing, sensory, hearing, or visual needs. Respondents preferred posters with less text, considering it easier to gain information from the #BetterPoster design than infographic examples or traditional text-heavy posters. When asked how posters could be improved, recommendations included:
- less visual clutter (71%)
- bigger text (48%)
- bigger figures (43%)
- plain language (42%)
- audio summary via a QR code (32%).
Respondents felt it was easiest to gain information from talks with traditionally formatted slides containing text (with or without images), compared with TED-style talks with limited slides, slides with little text, or panel discussions with no slides. Recommendations to improve the accessibility of talks included:
- providing slides ahead of the talk (66%)
- recording a video of the talk for attendees to watch afterwards (60%)
- more verbal explanations of images (50%)
- bigger images (48%)
- less text on slides (45%)
- live closed captions (34%).
Respondents also provided recommendations for conference spaces, which included ensuring that there is sufficient seating (including in poster halls), ensuring sufficient space for wheelchair access, providing quiet spaces, improving acoustics/microphone use, and providing quality virtual options.
Respondents felt it was easiest to gain information from talks with traditionally formatted slides containing text (with or without images)…Recommendations to improve the accessibility of talks included providing slides ahead of the talk.
Adverse event reporting in industry sponsored primary clinical trial articles
- A substantial proportion of industry-sponsored clinical trials articles use vague, general phrases to report adverse events.
In the final presentation of the session, Susan Wieting (Takeda) discussed the results of a study performed to assess how well the recommendation from Medical Publishing Insights and Practices (MPIP) to avoid overly general descriptions of adverse events (AEs) is followed in industry-sponsored clinical trial publications. A MEDLINE search was performed to identify abstracts of industry-sponsored peer reviewed articles (from the top 10 pharmaceutical companies by 2021 revenue) published in 2016–2022, that included one of the following phrases:
- safe and well tolerated
- AEs seen were minor and generally well tolerated
- no unexpected AE
- or a similar phrase.
In total, 103 articles were identified: 13 articles contained the phrase “safe and well tolerated” and 92 contained a similar phrase to those specified. Of these 92 articles, 49 used the phrase “well tolerated” and 24 included “generally well tolerated”. When assessed by year, the use of vague phrases had not reduced over time. Wieting noted that vague phrases are not informative, and highlighted the opportunity for the industry to consistently report specific AEs, which would increase the clarity and robustness of data.
Keynote: Global economic and policy influences on the pharmaceutical industry
- Low–middle income countries are leading the way in healthcare innovations for an ageing population.
The Day 2 keynote presentation was given by Mark Chataway (Hyderus/Baird’s Communicant Management Consultants Ltd), who laid out the extent of the global challenges facing healthcare and what these might mean for medical communications.
An ageing global population
Chataway set the scene by charting the enormous changes in life expectancy seen over the last decade and forecast over the years ahead. In short, the world is getting older. Chataway outlined that life expectancy is generally higher in countries with greater levels of healthcare spending. He made the case that the additional cost can be offset to some degree by the spending patterns of older people, who will spend money rather than save it, thus giving back to the economy. This is augmented even further if ‘retired’ people also work part time, although Chataway noted that retirement ages haven’t yet kept pace with increased life expectancy.
What does this mean for medical communications?
- Even more attention to measures such as quality-adjusted life years and disability-adjusted life years
- increased focus on productivity gains and health-care resource utilisation associated with treatments
- a need for better patient education on the quality of life possible in older age.
Health spending and system innovations
Another global trend Chataway highlighted was the decrease in extreme poverty. Despite this, health spending in low–middle income countries has not kept pace with increases in life expectancy. There are signs this is starting to change, as health sovereignty becomes more important in some regions and emerging economies look to invest in health technology. Examples include:
- the G20’s focus on digital health innovations and solutions
- the increased prevalence of innovative healthcare networks in some middle-income countries (eg in South Africa, nurse-led clinics refer through to leading institutions)
- innovations capitalising on efficiencies of scale, as previously reported for heart surgery in India.
What does this mean for medical communications?
- Some medical specialties are changing or even disappearing.
- Publication professionals will need to support HCPs and researchers who are new to publishing.
As health sovereignty becomes more important in some regions and emerging economies look to invest in health technology…publication professionals will need to support HCPs and researchers who are new to publishing.
Chataway closed by noting the expansion of personalised medicine and related infrastructure, such as the large national health records database currently being established in India.
What does this mean for medical communications?
- Registries and databases will become accessible to researchers in areas where cost may have been prohibitive until now.
- Conversely, some of the largest new databases may place restrictions on what can be published.
GPP and me
- GPP 2022 serves as expanded guidance to medical publications professionals and continues to evolve, yet authorship remains contentious and questions remain around the use of social media and AI.
The final panel discussion session looked at how GPP 2022, published in August 2022, has changed working practices for medical publications professionals. Moderated by Eleanor Raynsford (Ipsen), panellists were Laura Dormer (Becaris Publishing), Eline Hanekamp (Excerpta Medica), Fiona Plunkett (Articulate Science), and Vanderlinden. All panellists were GPP 2022 steering committee members and authors.
Ahead of the meeting, a questionnaire circulated via the ISMPP community forum and LinkedIn received 29 responses, with 59% reporting that the updates to GPP had affected their day-to-day activities. 75% of respondents still had questions about GPP 2022, aligning with three main topics: authorship, reimbursement, and patient involvement. These topics formed the basis of the panel discussion. The panel noted that the survey results were as expected, stating that “GPP 2022 is not a revolution. It is an evolution, providing supplementary material to give everyday guidance.”
GPP 2022 expanded guidance on authorship in line with ICMJE recommendations, including removing limits on the number of authors. The panel discussed that authorship should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and not subject to arbitrary limits. The panel noted that a steering committee should be established well in advance of publication initiation. The steering committee is then best placed to discuss any queries and concerns arising during publication development.
Authorship should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and not subject to arbitrary limits…The ISMPP Authorship Algorithm tool can help to determine author contributions to ICMJE criteria #1.
The ISMPP Authorship Algorithm tool can help to determine author contributions to ICMJE criteria #1 (substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work). Where large numbers of potential authors are involved, it is unlikely that all can contribute substantially to publication development. Assigning a study or working group would capture all individuals involved – these contributions are also indexed, for example on PubMed. Where appropriate, contributions should also be acknowledged and captured on indexing sites. The panel also discussed the case of individuals becoming unavailable during publication development, eg through parental leave or a new job. In this case, their role as author must be reassessed using the ICMJE criteria. A discussion should be held in advance of any known leave (ideally with the steering committee) on whether the individual will be able to fulfil their role. Sensitivities should be considered for leavers, for example those moving to competitors. Acknowledgement or contributorship may be suitable alternatives.
A case study was shared by Helen Chambers (Costello Medical), who noted that GPP 2022 had helped enforce good practice when discussing publication development processes with clients. Key to this was the guidance that all authors should be engaged prior to project initiation. Chambers reflected that ultimately, early author input drives a smoother process.
GPP 2022 provides further details for reimbursement of HCPs and patients, the latter being a hot topic of discussion in other sessions. The panel noted that it is transparent, legitimate, and appropriate that a provider of services or a patient should receive payment for their contribution and still qualify as an author, as long as a full disclosure is incorporated. While authors cannot be paid for their name being listed as an author, it is possible to reimburse their time for contributing their expertise: patients should not be excluded as authors for receiving reimbursement for their services. However, company reimbursement policies for patient authors vary.
Tamzin Gristwood (Oxford Pharmagenesis) shared a case study where GPP 2022 provided clearer rationale around naming medical writers on review articles. Gristwood noted that if appropriate, the writer can be an author and also receive payment (through their professional medical writing role) in terms of time spent developing the article.
It is possible to reimburse [patient’s] time for contributing their expertise: patients should not be excluded as authors for receiving reimbursement for their services.
GPP 2022 also provided guidance on working with patients, to ensure patient expertise is respected and assistance provided (if required) to help them reach their full potential for contributing as an author. GPP 2022 has increased the confidence of both agencies and pharmaceutical companies working with patients, providing guidance on how best to involve patients in the publications process. Importantly, patient author involvement must be meaningful and valid rather than a tick-box exercise, with early engagement ensuring that patient authors can be involved throughout the publication process. Patient authors and patient reviewer feedback are both invaluable, and provide a different perspective from that of HCPs.
Several areas of outstanding queries were also raised during the session.
In terms of patient involvement:
- Although the development of PLS is becoming more common, is this medium providing patients with a voice if their involvement is limited?
- Should journals question a lack of patient authors, and should they be looking to update their guidance on authorship?
- Authors are generally required to provide details such as qualification, affiliation, and contact details. While a ‘traditional’ author can provide their work credentials, there is no clear guidance for patient authors.
In terms of social media:
- There is clearly a need for guidance on social media, but GPP is not best placed to provide that guidance. Guidance would be best coming from a legislator or regulator.
- Should authors work with publishers, so that journals share publications on social media?
In terms of AI:
- While no information about the role of AI in publications was given in GPP, it was noted that the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) and Nature both recently shared information that may serve as a useful reference point.
Poster awards, exhibitor raffles, and closing remarks
Rob Matheis (ISMPP President & CEO) and Raynsford closed proceedings, thanking the abstract review committee and poster presenters. This year’s poster prize winners were congratulated:
- Most reflective of meeting theme: Why did it go viral? An informatics-based case study of exaggerated language in news and social media – Hollie Rawlings, Tomas Rees, Lubaina Koti, Avishek Pal, and Andrew Liew.
- Best original research: Does publishing on medRxiv affect a manuscript’s outreach? – Pedro Caldas Custodio de Campos Silva, Christian Matheou, Alex Marshall, and Shilpa Khobragad.
- Most innovative digital poster format or enhancement: Ghosts in the machine: retracted articles still haunt the literature – Stephen Craig and Andy Shepherd.
Why not also read our summary of Day 1 of the meeting?
The Publication Plan also looks forward to bringing you more insightful and thought-provoking coverage from the forthcoming 19th Annual Meeting of ISMPP, due to take place on 24–26 April 2023 in Washington, DC.
Written as part of a Media Partnership between ISMPP and The Publication Plan, by Aspire Scientific, an independent medical writing agency led by experienced editorial team members, and supported by MSc and/or PhD-educated writers.