Future Science Group Explains How to Publish Plain Language Summaries

Since the progressive scientific publisher Future Science Group introduced its forward-thinking plain language summaries (PLS) in 2020, countless authors of scientific publications have shown interest in preparing PLS content. These authors are keen to publish accessible summaries of technical journal articles through the globally recognised group.

A PLS is a peer-reviewed plain language overview of a scientific or medical publication. Clinicians and researchers rewrite the technical content, breaking down the information for non-specialist audiences. Future Science Group has designed PLS to help readers grasp virtually any medical or scientific topic, including the new DESTINY-Breast-01 study, which examines a potential new breast cancer treatment.

The launch of Future Science Group’s PLS marks a major step forward for the fast-evolving scientific publishing industry. This unique concept offers much more than a lay abstract, which simply summarises an article in a paragraph that appears within the publication. On the other hand, readers don’t need to read the original scientific article to understand the related PLS; these summaries communicate expert-level research findings to non-expert audiences in standalone publications.

Why Plain Language Summaries Are Important

Demand is rapidly growing for scientific resources that non-specialist readers can access. To put this into perspective, 45 percent of patients and caregivers currently access journal articles to broaden their medical knowledge. Future Science Group’s research has revealed an unmet need for easily accessible standalone journal articles in the medical arena.

Publishing open-source summaries makes it possible for patients, caregivers, and other non-specialist readers to understand scientific concepts and the latest medical research quickly – they don’t need to trawl through extensive data and complicated language to do so. As there is no jargon and complex technical information to consume, PLS prove invaluable when it comes to empowering patients and improving the dialogue between patients and practitioners.

Seven Steps to Publishing a Plain Language Summary

So, how can you publish a PLS in a Future Science Group journal? These are the seven steps clinicians and researchers need to follow to publish PLS and help non-specialist readers learn about breakthrough areas of science and medicine.

1)     Pre-Submission

Having chosen the article you’d like to repurpose into a PLS, your first task is to identify who the PLS’ target audience is. Pinpointing your audience should inform the reading level and language you need to use. Knowing who will read the summary will also help you decide what information to include and how to present this information.

Before you get started, you’ll also need to seek permission from the original journal’s editor to publish the PLS. If you plan to write a PLS based on an article written for an alternative publisher, Future Science Group would need to accept the PLS as an ‘Acceptable Secondary Publication’ under the ICMJE guidelines.

Once you’ve identified your audience and sought permission to write the PLS, you can select the best-fit journal for your market. Email the editor of your intended Future Science Group journal to determine whether your PLS will be suitable for publication. If so, it’s also a good idea to request a copy of the journal’s author guidelines.

Next, you need to determine who to involve in the writing process. Ideally, Future Science Group prefers an author from the original article to write the PLS. However, the group welcomes other authors, such as patient authors, to join the writing team too (providing they meet the ICMJE authorship criteria). At the very least, the original author should review the PLS content before submission to check the writers have interpreted all information correctly.

Before you start writing, you may also send any pre-submission enquiries to Future Science Group.

2)     Submission

When writing your PLS, keep in mind that Future Science Group offers free writing guidelines for authors who request them. The group also offers a dedicated writing service for plain language summaries for authors who would like to hire the group’s expert writing team to help them meet the mark. Future Science Group’s writing team can help you:

  • Draw up a framework for the PLS based on the original publication
  • Obtain permissions from the original publisher where relevant
  • Write content using appropriate plain language
  • Include all relevant information
  • Convey key points clearly
  • Source graphics, illustrations, and other media.

Before submitting, Future Science Group also recommends that authors put their PLS content through a readability test. Currently, there aren’t any formal guidelines on appropriate literacy levels for PLS. However, you can use a readability score evaluation tool like the Flesch-Kincaid calculator to gauge readership level – Future Science Group recommends that you aim for a reading age of 12 years +. It’s also a good idea to ask a non-specialist colleague to read the PLS and check they understand all the information included.

Once you’ve written the PLS, you can submit it via the journal’s website. Remember to include all your PLS files and any required forms, such as author disclosure and open access forms.

3)     Peer Review

Next, Future Science Group will put your submission through its peer-review process. During this double-blind procedure, subject area specialists and plain language experts will examine your PLS and decide whether it’s suitable for publication in the relevant journal. The peer-review process ensures that the PLS accurately reflects the original content and that a lay audience can understand all information included.

Future Science Group is encouraging patient reviewers to get involved in this process – contact the group to learn more.

4)     Revision

If your submission is successful, the reviewers and editorial team will offer feedback and comments that you can use to redraft or amend the PLS. This feedback will cover both the content and plans for the layout of the final version.

5)     Production

Once Future Science Group has approved the final version of your PLS, the journal production team will format your summary using the group’s PLS template. They will also collaborate with you to finalise the layout and any media inclusions like graphics and illustrations. Though the group uses a template, the production team encourages authors to include non-traditional graphics to convey data where necessary.

6)     Publication

Future Science Group will publish the PLS as an open-access resource in an online journal and may include the summary in a print journal, too. The group will also tag and assign the PLS with a digital object identifier (DOI). This number makes the PLS fully citable and easy to find on databases. The group will also publish the PLS under a CC BY-ND license, which means readers are free to read and share the PLS if they cite it.

7)     Post-Publication

Future Science Group will spread the word about the PLS by announcing its publication on the group’s social media channels and sharing the publication with relevant patient organisations.

Writing Plain Language Summaries

Future Science Group welcomes enquiries from authors who would like to create PLS versions of any review or research article, whether originally published by the group or by an alternative publisher. The group’s mission is to offer accessible summaries of as many articles as possible.

Find out more about how to publish plain language summaries.

About Future Science Group

As a scholarly, academic publisher, Future Science Group publishes a vast range of print and digital resources for scientific and medical communities. The group’s publications highlight key developments in virtually all medical sectors, from oncology to nanomedicine and regenerative medicines.

Future Science Group publishes both high-level, technical information and peer-reviewed PLS that are suitable for non-specialist readers in all 34 of its journals, which readers can find on the Future Medicine and Future Science websites. While Future Medicine is home to journals that cover biosciences and clinical and translational medicine, Future Science holds the journals that delve into applied science and intellectual property issues in research and development.

Publications aside, Future Science Group also hosts several events, creative services, digital hubs, and publishing solutions. Many of the journals partner with the group’s digital hubs, which started as eCommunities and now represent cornerstones of the group. Meanwhile, the group’s events provide scientific communities with platforms that they can use to partake in meaningful, outcome-led discussions that support and enhance medical progression.

Brands under the Future Science Group umbrella include FSG Med Ed, 3DMedLIVE, Real World Evidence Live, Future Medicine, Future Science, 3DMedNet, BioTechniques, Bioanalysis Zone, the Evidence Base, the Infectious Diseases Hub, Neuro Central, Oncology Central, RegMedNet, and the Video Journal of Biomedicine.

Future Science Group’s overarching mission is to provide the platform that professional communities use to collaborate, innovate, and share information on scientific and medical developments. The group may have grown into a leading publisher, but it has always retained its customer-centric approach and philanthropic initiatives, both of which stem from its original identity as an independent publisher.

Show More