Publishing the outcomes of scientific research is essential to helping clinicians, researchers, caregivers, and patients learn about key developments in medical treatments and care. But many scientific journals only publish jargon-heavy, technical information that most non-specialist readers must work hard at to understand, especially when it comes to working through scientific complexities and heavy data analysis.
It’s no surprise that the medical arena has seen a growing demand for scientific research that non-specialist readers can access and understand. To meet this demand, many journals now offer authors the option to feature a Plain Language Summary (often called PLS) within their article.
The PLS is a concise recap of virtually any scientific publication written by authors using non-technical language that all readers can understand. They can also include helpful infographics and other images to make the material as easy to digest as possible. By providing a summary of a published scientific article with the technical jargon removed, a PLS helps all audiences, such as patients, patient advocate, caregivers, and non-specialist healthcare professionals, understand what is being discussed. Readers don’t have to read and understand the original publication before reading the PLS to gain a full understanding of the topics covered. Instead, these summaries offer the information readers need to grasp from a jargon-heavy publication. The idea is that a PLS offers an easy route to information collation for all audiences regardless of their scientific background.
All stakeholders involved in publishing can benefit from having a PLS alongside an article. For publishers it means a whole new audience, beyond the traditional academic or healthcare professional reader, can access and read their journal content. Likewise, a PLS allows authors to widen the reach of their work and, more importantly, foster trust and transparency in their research. For patients, they are able to read medical publications in the hope that they can better understand how to manage their conditions and/or the treatments that could be available to them. For healthcare professionals, a PLS can play an important role in improving patient communication, especially given the limited time available they may have with each patient.
At the Future Science Group, we are recognizing the need to make technical scientific and medical information accessibility to a wider audience and offer several options for peer-reviewed PLS within our journals. All authors can feature a PLS alongside their article. These are written by the authors and appear immediately underneath the main abstract, in front of any paywall (if applicable). Authors can also feature a more in-depth, visual PLS as supplementary material alongside their article. Finally, unique to our group, our journals are now publishing PLS as a new article type – called Plain Language Summary of Publication articles, also known as PLSPs.
PLSPs are peer reviewed and published as standalone articles in a relevant Future Science Group journal. Each article has its own unique identification number (known as a DOI) just like the original paper, ensuring it can be cited and discovered on search platforms such as Google. PLSPs are written by authors of the original article and can include patient authors, allowing them to provide their own perspective or ‘voice’ on the work. PLSPs can summarize any article, including articles originally published in journals from other publishers. Once published, each PLSP is made open access, allowing anyone to freely read the article online. By sharing the PLSP across social media as well as with relevant patient organizations and groups, we also help as many people as possible find and discover the PLSP.
Our aim at the Future Science Group is to enable as broad an audience as possible to understand published literature and by publishing PLSP, we hope to achieve this. For more information on how we are publishing PLS, visit our website here: https:/www.plainlanguagesummaries.com/.