Towards Standardizing Plain Language Summaries:
The open pharma recommendations
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Adeline Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a medical writer in the Patient Engagement and Open Pharma teams at Oxford PharmaGenesis. She serves as a rare disease patient advocate on the steering committee for the Oxford Patient Engagement Network for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions (OPEN ARMS) at the University of Oxford, and is the patient engagement workstream lead for the Social Media and Web-Based Metrics Working Group at the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP). She is also an author of the open pharma recommendations for plain language summaries of peer-reviewed medical journal publications.
What is a PLS?
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.
Despite these variations, PLS are concretely distinct from regulatory trial results summaries (also known as lay language summaries or clinical trial summaries). These are longer summaries of clinical study reports, associated with a specific clinical trial and written specifically with patients and participants in mind, to satisfy the requirements of the EU Clinical Trial Regulation (No. 536/204 Annex V). This blog post focuses on PLS of peer-reviewed medical journal publications. For more information on the differences between the different types of plain language documents, please see “What’s in a name? A Crib sheet for plain language documents“.
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