By Steve Casey, Managing Partner
Have you ever seen a spider web that is only one single strand? Unlike the robust web constructs we often marvel at, a single strand web can be very hard to see. The single strand web is the perfect metaphor for following a traditional approach to publishing scientific articles in today’s environment.
Virtually all industry-sponsored scientific communications are now being published in digital form on the Internet. But scientific communicators are only now scratching the surface of how to amplify those online publications. The pandemic has shown the need to better understand how to amplify scientific communications. It is estimated (based on Google analytics), there are ~56 billion web pages on the Internet.1 That means every published scientific manuscript holds an incredibly small fraction of space on the Internet. However, thanks to modern software engineers and code writers, we have tools that can search for exactly what we want…or can they?
Unfortunately, search engines cannot do it all for us. As most of us have found out at some point or another, search engines such as Google or PubMed can’t always find what we are looking for or uncover all the information due to how the search engines look for information. Search engines use highly sophisticated algorithms, but they are all based on what the user determines is the best term to use to produce the information being sought. In scientific publishing, this becomes problematic as we want people to be able to easily find our cutting-edge science, but simple search terms don’t always match up.
In the old analogue publishing world, scientific information was published to a peer-reviewed journal which was then distributed to the subscribers. Subscription-based publishing could almost be thought of as publishing along that one strand of a web. The article strand was only accessible through purchase or borrowing of the printed journal. In today’s online-based publishing, scientific communicators are still publishing articles as “one strand” whether in a pay wall journal or an open-access journal. However, publishing online offers numerous possibilities and avenues to create access to an article that were not available in the traditional print setting. By incorporating a few new steps early into the development and submission of a manuscript, it is possible to use internet tools and expertise to develop a robust web of access for the article. This access allows researchers and readers to find the information easier and faster than ever before.
Developing access is the key objective of what we call publication search optimization (PSO), one of the three pillars of Audience Amplification. PSO is an effort that starts with the development of the manuscript. As mentioned, by taking certain steps such as keyword inclusion and proper meta tagging when published, an article can be easily identified by search engines. Although this calls for extra work during development, it is offers tremendous opportunities to increase access after publication (at Omni-HC, we include PSO steps as part of our regular manuscript effort).
When done properly, PSO will result in better search rankings for both general search engines (e.g., Google and Yahoo) and specialized search engines (e.g., PubMed). This creates a greater opportunity for expanded access to potential readers, which in turn, increases readership. Recently, Omni-HC assisted a client with an oncology review publication incorporating Audience Amplification techniques and was able to generate significant growth in the readership over other publications in the same peer-reviewed journal. At last check, the publication had garnered more readers and downloads of the article than more than half of all other publications from that journal since the journal began keeping track.
Every scientific communicator should have the option to undertake Audience Amplification after publication, if desired. However, without taking the proper PSO steps in the development stage of the manuscript, Audience Amplification opportunities are not as wide ranging nor as effective. Omni-HC experts can guide you through the process. Contact Omni-HC if you are interested in learning more about Audience Amplification.
 The size of the World Wide Web (The Internet), accessed at www.worldwidewebsize.com 3 Nov 2020
by Steve Casey, Managing Partner
Leading up to an American Urology Association (AUA) meeting in the mid-1990s, my colleagues and I had been hearing about a new product for erectile dysfunction (ED) coming out from Pfizer. Since this was a competitive product, we were closely monitoring the information and data coming out of the studies and learned this new agent was going to change the ED landscape.
During a plenary session at this meeting, data from the trials of the ED product was released. I recall going up the longest escalator I had even seen at the same moment that the session ended, and waves of health care providers came streaming onto the down escalators. Even in those early days of cell phones, there were numerous physicians making calls. I must have overheard 10 conversations where they were talking to stockbrokers and telling them to buy Pfizer. I remember being stupefied — didn’t they know about this project before this meeting? What I had forgotten was that the scientific community would not take note until they were given access to the data and reviewed all the information. This plenary session at the AUA was the first time they were able to access the data and information.
Ensuring access is a critical component of solid scientific exchange. As we navigate the sea of changes driven by the digitalization of scientific communications, it is critical to remember awareness and access of scientific data and information is critical to effective scientific exchange. The new tools that digitalization offers us can ensure productive ways to increase access and awareness for the targeted community. One avenue that should be considered at the earliest stages of publication development is the use of Open Access (OA).
OA is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. OA ensures that anyone can access and use these results.
Recently, researchers found that the proportion of OA papers published by 23 large drug companies, such as Pfizer and Roche, almost doubled between 2009 and 2016. OA publishing models and licenses vary widely. The researchers used two major types of OA publications, the gold route and the green route. Publishing via the gold OA is usually on a publisher’s site with a CC-BY license. This approach offers both free and immediate access to the article and allows the research to be shared and reused. However, publishing through the green route is usually separate from the publisher, does not require a CC-BY license, but usually requires waiting until the embargo period from the publisher is over. Unfortunately, gold routes may be restricted as most medical journals with a high impact factor (>15) do not currently permit pharmaceutical companies to publish under a CC-BY license.
Yegros-Yegros and van Leeuwen found in their research that there is a growing tendency towards the publication in OA by large biopharma companies. Their data shows a trend for gold OA publishing gaining momentum, especially when it comes to trial results, but the majority of publications are still going through the green OA route. Whether it is the green or gold route, OA can offer significant advantages to various publications and should be considered at the early phases of communication and publication planning. Some advantages that OA publishing can offer include:
Depending on the objectives of each publication, OA should be considered as an increasingly important and unique avenue to broaden the community understanding of the science. In fact, due to increasing university system traditional publication subscription cancellations and increased emphasis on open science, OA may be the best way to allow the entire scientific community to participate in the scientific discussion and cite your data. In the last year, the University of California System joined several others in cutting back on traditional publication subscriptions relegating researchers who produce close to 10% of scientific research access to only OA journals.
At Omni-HC, we routinely investigate OA opportunities while creating publication plans, as well as other ways to increase the awareness and access of your communications and publications to the entire community. To learn more about our capabilities, please visit our site @omni-hc.com or contact us for more detailed information about how we can enhance your communication or publication plans.
 SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.
 Yegros-Yegros A & van Leeuwen TN. Proc. 23rd Int. Conf. Sci. Tech. Indicators. Available at: https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/zt6kc (2019). Accessed 18 Sep 2020.
 Sherwood D. Opportunities and challenges in open access publishing of industry-sponsored research.
International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) Blog Post. Available at: https://thepublicationplan.com/2020/09/18/opportunities-and-challenges-in-open-access-publishing-of-industry-sponsored-research/. Accessed 18 Sep 2020.
By Steve Casey Managing Partner
My last blog post discussed how audiences were changing and the importance of communicating where your audience is. As communication options have proliferated, the medical journal remains the gold standard for the communication of scientific data and information. However, journals have changed, and their audience with it. In the past, the journal business model was to deliver scientific content to a subscribed audience. Originally, subscriptions were how most of the journal revenue was secured. Then, advertising became a way to increase revenues and offset the increasing subscription (audience) generation costs. The advent of journal advertising did not mean the audience could be forsaken, as the ability to generate higher revenues was entirely due to the size and quality of the subscribed audience. Now in this digital age, journals no longer need to focus on the subscription levels or the advertising to generate revenues and can make scientific information available to all at no cost. In addition, authors now have a new avenue to have manuscripts published in a peer-reviewed journal and available to all interested parties. "Open access” medical journals specialize in a non-subscription business model while others, such as traditional subscription-based journals (AKA “pay wall” journals), make open access available on demand. This new “open access” avenue is still gaining recognition and understanding especially with biopharma companies.
According to a review of the Directory of Open Access Journals Database1, in 2018 over 80,000 original scientific articles were published by member journals. Still not the major share of overall scientific articles published annually, but the open access movement is gaining steam. The 2018 number of original articles published in open access journals is up significantly from 19,000 in 2010. As 2020 progresses, we can assume that open access numbers will rise as COVID-19 has pushed researchers and organizations to use the open access channel to share pandemic information quickly and broadly. In addition, it is important to note the numbers from the DOAJ database do not count all open access journals or pay wall journals offering open access articles meaning there are an even higher number of open access original articles. The incredible growth in open access has vastly increased the medical community’s ability to freely review scientific data and information especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The increase in original articles published in open access journals may be a leading indicator that, when allowed to do so, authors are moving away from the traditional subscription-based journal publishing. But is it the best publishing approach for healthcare products companies? It depends: when setting up a publication plan, each publication has its own set of specific objectives. Those objectives should be used to help determine the best pathway to follow -- traditional subscription or open access. Some reasons to use open access include: increased scientific exchange due to potentially broader audience, easier access for all readers, better control over identifier creation, and vastly superior feedback, both in real time and enduring. For these reasons, I believe open access could become the preferred method of publishing for healthcare product companies. The volume and quality of metrics that can be derived from open access can provide an early indication if the publication objectives are being met. Unlike the journal impact factor, which rarely aligns with an article’s impact or the citation count (which is not apparent until post-publication) the alternative metrics that can be derived from most articles published open access can actually speak to the investment made in time, energy, and money. In my next blog I hope to shed some more light on different strategic approaches for using open access in scientific publication.
by Steve Casey - Managing Partner
When I was growing up, all the kids in the neighborhood had paper routes. Every day after school I carried 64 newspapers to 64 separate houses who subscribed to the paper. There were many times when a resident was waiting for me to hand the paper directly to them. As a teenager, I recall waiting with all my classmates for the latest issue of Sports Illustrated to be delivered. Similarly, I remember my dad, sitting down the night he received the New England Journal of Medicine and reading it cover to cover. In the current lexicon, we would call that a “highly engaged audience”.
Back in the old print medical journal days, attracting and engaging readers were quite different. The best we could do to reach our desired audience(s) was to publish or communicate via other means through targeted journals. All of our work to develop and communicate our information was dependent on the journal’s existing audience and the hope that they would read our article. There was no way of knowing of we were successful aside from checking with each individual HCP. Today’s publishing environment is much different. Today, the vast majority of medical journals have websites and distribute their content digitally, as well as in print form. The move to digital publication in healthcare communication is almost universal. Even the prestigious NEJM has more online than print subscribers. Research has also shown that the younger generation of HCPs prefer to read their scientific content in a digital format. The research also shows that there are a portion of older HCPs with a similar preference.
With this tremendous shift to digital distribution, it is important to remember the main objective of scientific exchange; dissemination of the scientific information to as many members of the desired audience as possible. In terms of the old print methodology and metrics, the digital environment obviously offers the greatest opportunity to impact a larger audience. However, if you are using the old print metrics, we are still looking at the journal and not the article. Our focus in scientific exchange is not the value of the journal, but the value of the article. No matter where the article is published, it is all about how many people have read the article. Fortunately, our new digital environment allows us to track and measure “engagement” (readership, viewership, etc) of the audience with the article. The value and depth of digital metrics in comparison to the old print metrics cannot be understated for enhanced scientific exchange.
As many of us have come to realize, today’s digital environment offers many new tools for publication planning and all types of scientific exchange. From open access, to author tools and article metrics, there are numerous ways to improve your scientific exchange and enhance the community’s understanding. At Omni Healthcare Communications, we have identified several different ways to take advantage of digital publishing and improve the effectiveness and productivity of your scientific exchange. In the coming weeks, we will be discussing ways in which current medical communications efforts can be enhanced, some of our unique Audience Amplification strategies and tactics, as well as the benefits of Audience Amplification for measuring your publication planning. Be sure not to miss the next installment and sign up to receive notification when our next posting occurs.
Omni-HC Blogs are written by members of the Omni-HC team.