Collaboration, Connectivity and Change: A Holistic View of the Scientific Communications Environment in 2021

Findings from the 2021 European Meeting of The International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP)

Innovation in Changing Times

The COVID-19 pandemic brought sudden global change as the world adjusted to new ways of working. The impact on the pharmaceutical industry was wide-ranging and required rapid innovation to ensure the continuation of clinical trials and the publication of key scientific data in a timely manner, in formats appropriate to the increased range of audiences.

Although many publication professionals were already working on ways to innovate the communication of data, a greater focus on this is needed to keep pace with the acceleration in demand for innovative content.

Virtual Meetings

Quick adaptation to virtual meetings has enabled the engagement of a wider range of audiences.

Hybrid Meetings

Further innovation is required as it is likely that hybrid meetings will be common in the future.

Danielle Sheard

Our Insights Into 2021 and Beyond

“There really is no better time to be working in scientific communications. I hope the positive changes in our industry are here to stay.”

Danielle Sheard, Global Head of Publications and Client Engagement, Costello Medical

The Importance of Data

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the public more engaged than ever with scientific data. The public now have a greater thirst for information, so it is important that they can easily access this from trustworthy sources.

Role of the Publication Professional

Careful management is required to ensure that the public are not overwhelmed with information and that the potential risks of data misinterpretation are considered.

As publication professionals, we need to do all we can to provide the public with the information that they desire in an understandable and accessible format, by using appropriate communication channels.

Publication Professional

Key Considerations for Publication Planning

The specific audience of each publication needs to take centre-stage during publication planning to ensure these aspects are met. Practical recommendations to achieve this include:

Data Presentation

Have open discussions about data presentation with authors prior to publication development


Research preferred platforms your audience use to source their information and use this insight to maximise reach

Readability Score

Utilise readability scores to ensure both language and writing style are appropriate for your audience

Patient Centricity at the Forefront

Patient centricity across the pharmaceutical industry has never been more important. Patients should be involved from the start of the clinical development process to ensure that the research objectives and study endpoints defined in clinical trial protocols are relevant to meet their needs.

Patient Centricity in Practice

Increased involvement of patients will encourage the consideration of health equality within the pharmaceutical industry. Exclusion criteria for entry to clinical trials often result in a non-representative patient population, and outcomes for patients with disabilities are commonly under-reported.

Data from clinical development programmes, and the wider industry, need to be communicated in an accessible way to patients to ensure their engagement and understanding.

Patient Centricity

Patient involvement will facilitate a deeper understanding of study and publications processes, thereby building trust and empowering patients. Partnerships between patient organisations and the pharmaceutical industry provide a key way to facilitate and drive this.

Key Considerations for Publication Planning

Content Development

Develop content with patients, or representatives of the target audience, to ensure that all materials are understandable and relevant

Patient Communication

Communicate with patients on their preferred channels, whether that is via patient organisations or social media, to ensure maximum accessibility


Consider the compliance issues around patient involvement carefully from the outset; with transparency being of utmost importance

Optimising Content for Busy Healthcare Professionals

In 2020, healthcare professionals faced more time pressures than ever before. As these pressures are expected to remain, publication professionals have a responsibility to support the development of easily accessible materials that are appropriate for busy healthcare professionals.

Enhanced Content

The inclusion of video abstracts, podcasts and infographics, to accompany manuscripts and posters, can help to improve the impact and accessibility of publications. Enhanced content is now easier to publish than ever before, with publishers taking steps to ensure these materials are peer-reviewed and open access.1,2

Video Abstract Podcast Infographic

Key Considerations for Optimising Content

Publication Planning

Discuss whether these additional materials would be suitable during the early stages of publication planning

Tailored Content

Tailor the content to the audience, to ensure that the extra investment increases reach


Track the metrics and impact of these materials to quantify whether they are utilised and valued by readers

Responsibilities for Publication Professionals in 2021 and Beyond

Moving forwards, publication professionals must make it their mission to put all of the abovementioned considerations into practice in order to truly realise the potential of such a rapidly evolving medical communications landscape.

Group Work

Publication Planning and Scientific Writing Amidst the “Infodemic” of Modern Times…

Encourage patient involvement at early stages of publication planning to:

  • Influence study design and endpoint selection
  • Understand which data and outcomes are most relevant and informative to include in publications

Upskill in presenting real-world and qualitative data in meaningful ways that:

  • Allow quick interpretation and understanding
  • Facilitate pooling of outcomes across studies, with potential future application of artificial intelligence

Simplify and ensure clarity in our writing by:

  • Aligning key results with what is truly important to the reader
  • Conveying direct and digestible messaging with quality and quantity considered
  • Balancing technical and lay language throughout publications – plain language summaries alone do not provide a full solution!

Journal Selection “Beyond the Impact Factor”…

Many pharmaceutical companies commit to publishing in open access journals. Authors should be encouraged to target open access journals, where articles are published under a CC BY licence, to increase accessibility for the intended audience.

Engage in open and transparent conversations about the type and quality of data, the expected audience and the purpose of publishing the data; how and to whom are the study outcomes relevant and meaningful?

Understand the target audience; are they a healthcare professional, a patient, or the general public?

Consider which content format would be most suitable for them, such as a traditional article, infographic or video-audio summary

Scope relevant journals based on subject matter, readership and content formats offered

Present the journal and enhanced content options if applicable. Provide suggestions to authors at project outset


  1. Halford C. et al. ISMPP EU 2021 Poster Presentation #13.
  2. Walker J. et al. ISMPP EU 2021 Poster Presentation #37.

If you have any questions about this report or our Medical Communications services, please contact us.