It’s noisy and crowded out there – never has it been so challenging to find novel and cost-effective ways to create an impact with publications and get your message heard. Our clients want a return on investment – but what are the best channels? How do we know what our audiences prefer?

Our goal as an industry is to deliver key insights to the right audience at the right time, and Wednesday’s programme at ISMPP EU 2020, featured a session led by Fiona Plunkett (Articulate Science) that explored how innovative ideas can add value across the data generation and dissemination journey. She introduced Frederico Calado (Novartis Oncology), who reminded us that data is necessary – but not sufficient alone – to generate value: interpretation, analysis, context and expert insight were needed to generate facts and messages. He highlighted that some individuals will never be convinced by data-driven evidence – the key factor was trust: the reassuringly balanced nature of RCTs’ use of randomization means that groups are comparable and bias is reduced, whereas RWE is rather less standardized, but generates more generalizable data. Essentially, a trade-off is needed to get the best of both the RCT and RWE worlds. This is a major technical challenge, but a solvable one – with the right narrative and approach. Here, guiding questions are useful:

  • Does it say “fit for purpose”? An honest approach to the reasons for choosing RWE vs RCT, and the limitations of both, when the decision to try to inform should be a priority
  • Can this evidence have emotions? Remember that you are delivering evidence, not data: try to use storytelling techniques
  • Are the basics really clear? Know your audience, and don’t make assumptions about their knowledge level: use simple language and graphics
  • Are we pushing the envelope? Be bold – try new approaches!

In conclusion, data can potentially change the environment, but narrative is the essential element that balances the utility of RCT vs RWE when communicating the data.

Handing over to Michael Alexander (European Society of Cardiology), the discussion moved on to how congresses were finding new ways to disseminate data and helping specialists find the information they need. Michael kicked off with some impressive statistics on the ESC annual congress’s reach – over 32,000 attendees in 2019, with translational science emerging as the hottest area of the scientific programme. Other innovative features – such as “Meet the Trialist” sessions; Rapid-Fire Abstracts; Science Box; Clinical Case Corner; and a Highlights session for each major topic – have proved very popular with attendees. For scientific posters, use of interactive e-posters on standalone terminals complements traditional in-person presentation, and is growing.

The introduction of digital tools – such as the congress app and ESC TV – and the introduction of interactive virtual patients and live streamed broadcasts of procedures, have hugely diversified the ways in which data are made available. But print media are still enduringly popular, particularly for news updates of past and future sessions.

The session ended with a presentation by Rob Pilbrow (OPEN Health) examining how publication and communication innovations have influenced the impact of new data. Data saturation is the biggest challenge when trying to get our message across – people rarely pay attention to what is happening in the present. Given that scientific publications are growing year by year, much more needs to be done to increase visibility. The growth of video abstracts and the strategic use of slide presentations, infographics and “talking head” videos to enhance and draw attention towards publications, in a world of increasing distraction, is now key. In any event it is essential to use the correct type of digital enhancement at the right time – planning and targeting according to the product lifecycle. Open access remains the most easily achieved manner in which to raise click scores – an unwavering advantage in the increasingly crowded arena of scientific communication.

 What we took away from the session was a sense that publications have finally shed their old image of being a ‘static’ form of communication, and it strikes me that we can instead think in terms of rebranding publications as ‘curated content’ – with all the ways that it can be enhanced, integrated, targeted and delivered, there is no limit to how publications can be designed to engage end-users for maximum impact.