Emerging content formats in scholarly publishing

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Prabhakar Bisen

Image: Straive

Advancements in digital technologies have played a vital role in modernising the entire scholarly publication process, writes Prabhakar Bisen

The future belongs to alternative content formats such as videos, podcasts, posters, infographics, and plain-language summaries.

The majority of users today use smartphones and tablets to access and search for information.

Healthcare providers, publishers, and pharmaceutical companies are all embracing alternative content formats to provide users with content customised in the preferred format and platform.

It’s time to embrace video into publishing

Video is everywhere these days, and scholarly publishing platforms are no different. While it is still to gather momentum with majority of publishers, there are a handful of established video publishers with big operations. Select societies, generally the medical sciences focused ones, have also embraced the video format. Needless to say, the success of virtual conferences is a good example of how the scholarly community is embracing the video platform. With conferences conducted online and being well documented with recordings automatically available, accessing conference content is now easier than ever.

According to industry experts, it is improbable that videos will ever be able to replace scientific books or student lectures. It will, however, serve as an additional medium for easy and quick knowledge sharing between researchers and private sector professionals.

Podcast - to reach a wider audience

Podcasting, by every measure, is one of the fastest-growing publishing platforms today. According to Edison Research’s annual Infinite Dial Report, online audio listening has doubled over the last decade to reach nearly 70 per cent of the US population. Keeping that in perspective, an increasing number of academics are now using podcasts to share and showcase their research. Engaging the scientific community through podcasting is a sure-shot way to widen the audience. So long as a researcher can talk about their research, add relevant context and comments wherever possible, podcasts can also help non-academic audiences understand the ideas presented, and also relate to them.

Infographics driving content

It can be quite stressful for a reader to go through pages and pages of content. Considering that majority of us are visual learners, an infographic can help engage new readers, and also help retain your current audience. Interestingly, reports indicate that infographics are more liked and shared on social media than any other type of content. An infographic can help spark interest, convey information briefly, and lead the audience to seek further information making it a more effective and innovative means of communication.

Lay summaries of research – competitive advantage

Today, researchers need to maximise their competitiveness while applying for grants. The lay summary is the first and possibly the only part of a grant application that a busy reviewer will read. Therefore, it is imperative that a lay summary is well written, compelling, and validates the significance of the research. Researchers worldwide publish millions of articles annually, and there are chances that published research is lost in this sea of information.

Complementing other forms of clinical study disclosure such as scientific publications and registry postings, lay summaries help provide greater transparency of clinical study results, encouraging trust, partnership, and patient participation all through the clinical trial phase.

A key challenge while writing for a wider audience is figuring out how to pitch the language, content, and style of the research material to make it more informative and appealing to those with varying levels of scientific knowledge. Several journals and organisations depend on internal editors to ensure that their plain-language summaries are appropriate for their targeted audiences. Furthermore, the increasing availability of information on the Internet in a growing number of languages necessitates the creation of multilingual summarisation techniques that can be applied to documents in multiple languages.

Better engagement with interactive content

Customers today prefer to view product images, watch videos, and engage with different forms of interactive content. Long-form text-heavy types of content – like e-books and whitepapers – have been losing ground, relatively speaking, in recent years.

Graphics and images come in handy to attract the interest of anyone surfing the web to click on them and possibly leaving a reaction, thereby increasing the engagement. Making e-books and whitepapers interactive makes it more of a viable choice. A slick design to break up all the information, animated charts, and catchy illustrations can help make a document highly readable and inviting.

Digital transformation - key to survival

Making content easily discoverable is vital to create an impact. Embracing digital transformation is key to survival in the current scenario. The publishing industry is contending with the availability of free content, declining readership, and switching to various content delivery platforms. Forward-looking organisations must embrace the digital revolution to meet changing customer needs. New and more effective content formats, like infographics and video summaries can help researchers, particularly those working in multidisciplinary fields, discover more relevant studies.

Given how these newer formats are making a substantial difference in addressing real-life impact, it is fair to assume that a paradigm shift in science communication is likely to happen soon.

Prabhakar Bisen is chief operating officer at Straive (erstwhile SPi Global)