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  • Susan Cuozzo

Highlights of the 16th Annual ISMPP Meeting


The 16th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) was held earlier this month. For the first time ever, it was a virtual meeting and over the course of three days it included a mix of live Zoom sessions and on-demand engagement. It had been a few years since I attended an ISMPP Annual Meeting because business travel, work demands, and parenthood make traveling to a conference for my own enrichment challenging. Obviously, with COVID-19, this year is different and I jumped at the chance to participate virtually. There were many great presentations given by leaders in their respective fields and I had some favorites that really left an impression.


I enjoyed a session called Applying the ABT Framework to the Communication of Medicine. The presenter, Randy Olson, PhD, was dynamic and had a fascinating personal story having left the world of science and a tenured job in academia to become a filmmaker. In his journey, he learned about the ABT communication method, which is an acronym for AND, BUT, and THEREFORE. In the session, Randy took statements akin to those you would see in a scientific narrative and applied the ABT method to make them clearer and flow better. While the method helps tighten and improve high-level overarching communications, I think it could only improve subsequent full-length publications in terms of better storytelling to resonate with a wide range of audiences. I highly recommend learning more at http://storycirclestraining.com/.


Another favorite session was on creating better research posters led by Mike Morrison and Jason Gardner. Mike aptly pointed out that posters have basically looked the same for the last 30 years and that does not facilitate communication of important data. The Internet has changed so much about our world and our lives but the format of scientific posters has largely remained stuck in the past. The good news is that medical congresses including American Society of Clinical Oncology and American College of Cardiology are encouraging progress and have started adopting the #BetterPoster format. Instead of word walls where information is crammed and may be lost to the reader, a format with conclusions and main findings in plain language are emphasized.


I also learned a lot at the ISMPP Annual Meeting about Plain Language Summaries in sessions, posters, and a roundtable discussion. Plain Language Summaries were once rare but are increasingly being recognized as an important tool in the communication and dissemination of medical information and clinical trial data to patients, caregivers, and non-specialist health care professionals across therapeutic areas. ISMPP members should check out the posters from the Annual Meeting for great information and best practices on developing effective Plain Language Summaries. For examples, I think Pfizer has done a great job online at https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-kits/oncology/apls and for guidance on creating a Plain Language Summary to accompany a manuscript submission, check with the journal for their criteria.

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