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Lay summaries could help public understand health research

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Publishing a lay summary alongside every research article could be the answer to assisting in the wider understanding of health-related information, according to the findings of Patients Participate!, a new citizen science project in the UK.

Commissioned by JISC and carried out by the Association of Medical Research Charities, the British Library and UKOLN, Patients Participate! asked patients, the public, medical research charities and the research community, ‘How can we work together in making sense of scientific literature, to truly open up research findings for everyone who is interested?’

The answer from patients was that they want easy-to-understand, evidence-based information relating to biomedical and health research.

‘JISC believes that publicly-funded research should be made available for everyone and be easy to find,’ commented Alastair Dunning, digitisation programme manager at JISC. ‘We have funded this work to show how making access to scientific literature enables citizen-patients to participate in the research process, therefore providing mutual understanding and better links between scientists, medic, patients and the general public.’

Liz Lyon, director of UKOLN at the University of Bath, added, ‘The Patients Participate! project has demonstrated the potential value of lay summaries to make research more accessible to a wider audience. There is certainly an appetite for this information and we see the new How-to Guide for researchers as a positive step in helping academics and researchers to communicate their findings and to bridge the understanding gap.’