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Editorial Snapshot: Aspiring to accessibility: plain language summaries in research

- C.C., Editor

In recent years, there have been many trends toward reform in academic publishing, such as the increasing popularity of open access, the call for improvements to the peer review system, and efforts to increase transparency. The common theme among these trends might be called “accessibility”. In keeping with this pattern, it was recently reported that Taylor & Francis has recently begun promoting “plain-language summaries of publications”, which are lay summaries of research.

The purpose behind this is to make research more accessible such as by conveying complex scientific ideas to a more diverse readership, including those such as peers in other fields or non-expert patients. Such plain language summaries could empower patients or their loved ones, for example, to engage more meaningfully with relevant scientific content.

Taylor & Francis in fact now provide a guide for how to write plain language summaries. It is noteworthy, however, that some research suggests that current criteria for plain language summaries may not be supported by high quality empirical evidence.

This suggests that while plain language summaries may present a useful new method for increasing accessibility to research, much work still remains to be done for establishing useful criteria for their formulation. Despite the remaining challenges, changes are on the horizon, and it seems the future of science may be more open than ever before.

Click here for the Japanese version.

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