Science outreach: plain-language summaries for all research papers

1) Scientists do really interesting things.

2) Scientists have a responsibility to disseminate their results.

3) Scientists do not publish in an accessible format.

This is a really, really big problem.

Scientific research is largely funded by public money, and it can be argued that scientists have a responsibility to make their work accessible to the public (and scientists are particularly well suited for outreach activities!).  The main platform for disseminating research results is the peer-reviewed journal paper and this is not ideal.  Let’s be honest – these kinds of publications are often very specialized, full of jargon, and unreadable to most (even other scientists).  Many papers are also behind pay-walls, making them even less accessible to people outside of certain institutions.

Earlier this week I attended a scientific conference (the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada) and as part of this conference I was invited to speak in a symposium that was about social media in science.  It was a great session and some of my favourite social media mentors were also speaking at the symposium, including Adrian Thyssemacromite, the Bug Geek, and Biodiversity in Focus.   As I was preparing that talk the week before, I was also madly finishing a grant application, and in that application I was require to write a plain-language summary of my proposed research.  The granting agency uses this ‘summary for public release’ as a way to communicate research to the public.  Taxpayers fund the research and they might want to know where their money is going; the granting agency has found one way to communicate this information in a clever and effective manner.

…………………………..Eureka!

Here is the proposal:  Every scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal must be accompanied by a short, plain-language summary of the work.

This summary would be placed on-line, free for everyone to read.  It would be concise, clear, free of jargon, and highlight why the work was done, how it was done, and what was discovered.

Here are some examples of how these plain-language summaries could be used:

1. Media: Media offices at Universities are constantly interested in promoting fantastic work by their Professors.  This work, however, is often not accessible and it can be a lengthy process to put together a press release (how easy is it to track down a researcher?).  A plain-language summary written by the researcher would be readable, clear, accessible, and an easy way to start the process of promoting research activities occurring at Universities.

2. Blogging: I am a regular blogger, and always happy to promote the research occurring within my laboratory, the laboratories of colleagues, or just discussing interesting scientific papers that I have read.  If I had plain-language summaries to access, it would make the process that much easier, and help facilitate timely communication with the public about recently published work.  Other science bloggers could also pick up on these summaries for their own writing.

3. Publishers & Editors:  As an editor-in-chief for a scientific journal, I sometimes look for ways to promote great papers, and promote the journal to a larger audience.  If I was able to peruse the summaries for public release,  this would make the process much easier.  Publishers could also take text from these summaries, put together a press release or blog post, and also promote research results from their journals based on particularly interesting papers and findings.

4. For Everyone: In my experience, people outside my area of expertise are always keen to hear about research activities.    It’s sometimes a challenge for me to explain my research results, and if I was always doing plain-language summaries, this would get easier.    The audience for research results can be as big as you can imagine: high school students, friends, family, colleagues, Departmental chairs, graduate students, journalists, libraries, etc…  Finally,  the Bug Geek has a great post about the challenges of talking science to 10-year olds:  it is hard to do, but important.  We need practice.  These summaries will help.

The procedure for getting plain language summaries could be quite simple.  When an author submits the final revisions on a scientific publication, they would be required to write a short plain-language summary.  I would like to think that publishers would be willing to incorporate this (simple) step into the on-line systems for manuscript processing, and be willing to post these, as open-access, on their websites, possibly paired with Abstracts.   These summaries would not diminish the value of the actual peer-reviewed papers – it would probably help increase readership since these summaries would help people find the work they are actually looking for, and give them a doorway into the scientific literature.

Let’s make this happen.  

It will be an effective way to do science outreach.

 Please comment, share the idea, and let’s see this idea grow.  

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53 thoughts on “Science outreach: plain-language summaries for all research papers

  1. What a GREAT idea… I’m a blogger and in French. Quite often I see interesting work that I would like to share with my readers. But the double task is just too much for the time I can spend on a blog post. I then only (sadly) Tweet it… So many people would benefit from your proposal if the original paper is ALSO freely available. Many thanks!

  2. This has so much going for it – the primary idea that comes to mind is that science journalists will have less excuses to muck things up, and we bloggers will be able to more effectively share the work that scientists are producing. I really, really hope this takes off!

  3. You say “When an author submits the final revisions on a scientific publication, they would be required to write a short plain-language summary.”

    How is the author going to produce a plain-language summary? Great idea but it involves expertise, training, and skills that most people don’t have. Telling people to produce that type of summary won’t actually get them to produce it. They may try, but without the tools, they won’t succeed. The same way people can’t practice medicine or law or dentistry or engineering without some training–even if you tell them to do so. It’s puzzling that people assume clear communication is an innate skill that everyone has. All you have to do is tell them to use it.

  4. John – good point. Yes, it should be part of the training, from early on in UG education all the way through to PhD and beyond. I’d like to think our ‘science communication’ courses aim to hone these skills. However, these kinds of courses may not be available at all institutions, they are seldom required courses in Academic programs, nor were they available when many researchers did their training….so many ‘older’ researchers may have less training on this kind of writing as compared to those coming through the system now.

    I think we are starting to see a shift and a recognition about the importance of effective communication to a broad audience (social media tools are facilitating this). I was certainly being a bit provocative and ‘extreme’ with my statement, and do recognize that such a requirement could not happen overnight. However, getting it into the ‘regular business’ of publishing papers, over time, would be great and also force the issue re: training in this kind of communication.

    Again, thanks for the comment -much appreciated.

  5. Wow what a great idea. In a former life I proof read scientific papers. I would edit a certain scientist’s writing, spending hours breaking whole pages into paragraphs, paragraphs into sentences. When I handed back his paper he would ignore ALL my edits. He would tell me that is how scientists write and that is how they want to read papers.

    So funding agencies need to require plain English executive summaries for each and every project they fund. If scientists can write in plain English, then they need to take some training.

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  7. Resources for writing science communications in Plain Language:

    [1] “Explaining Science in Plain English” by meteorologist Nicolle Morock at http://www.whatever-weather.com/blog/2011/05/explaining-science-in-plain-english/

    [2] “Should technical science journals have plain language translation?”, Washington Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/should-technical-science-journals-have-plain-language-translation/2011/06/22/AGhiY8fH_blog.html

    [3] Articles by Dr. Alan Betts that challenge scientists to write two versions of their research, one version for their fellow scientists and a Plain English version for the public:

    (a) “A Proposal for Communicating Science” at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/should-technical-science-journals-have-plain-language-translation/2011/06/22/AGhiY8fH_blog.html, with full PDF download at http://alanbetts.com/workspace/uploads/bams-communicatingscience-betts-1314451254.pdf

    (b) “Communicating Climate Science” at http://alanbetts.com/research/paper/communicating-climate-science/#abstract, with full PDF download at http://alanbetts.com/workspace/uploads/akb-communicatingclimatescience-e-1308152209.pdf

    [4] “Making the Public Aware of the Science” by Skyler Goldman, Florida Institute of Technology, Student Contributor, at http://blog.ametsoc.org/uncategorized/making-the-public-aware-of-the-science/

    [5] “All Plain-English Summary posts at GlacierChange.org” at http://glacierchange.org/category/plain-english-summaries/

    GlacierChange.org’s format for Plain English summary: (a) A “tweetable” summary of 140 characters, and (b) 500-word summary.

  8. I really like this idea. My only concern would be that some scientists might use the plain language summary to overinflate the importance of their work. Instead of asking for a plain language summary along with the final revision of a paper, requiring a plain language summary with the initial submission and subjecting it to peer review might help guard against inflated plain language claims.

  9. I learned about this great post because of another post by Joe Troxler at the Society for New Communications Research linked in group – for which I thank him. This is a great idea and ties into work we are doing to develop tools to get all specialized writing into common language that will effectively communicate ideas great and small across silos (departments, disciplines. etc.). The work we have been doing has been mainly to overcome silos in organizations (eg between Marketing and Sales or Product Engineering and Marketing) or between organizations and their customers, but we have also looked at a small number of scientific articles, papers to see how the tools fit and they seem promising. As a result of this work, we could add to your list of benefits of having Plain Language Summaries: increasing the likelihood that findings in one field will be identified as solutions in other fields. Only 5% of US patents are used, for example, despite there being many more uses possible, but problems and solutions remain unmatched. If Plain Language Summaries using Meaning Mapping (one of our tools) were done, that would be a more systematic matching process. Another possibility is to use a certain format for the summaries which would make them more likely to be matched to similar research. And as you saw, plain language doesnt mean overly simplified and talking down. It means understandable and clear and likely to be understood as intended. Could we have a chat about this? I ask publicly to invite a number of readers to respond. We could then discuss online with a lot of typing, or in a gotomeeting I could set up so we could converse. I’d be glad to show the examples we started with and then answer questions so scientists could take over. One last insight: we have found that the summaries could be written by the readers and then submitted in the form: ‘This is what I took away from the paper, article,etc. Is this what you meant?’ We are testing this with students.
    If anyone would like to actually do more on the summaries, lets talk.

  10. Before discovering this website, I thought I had invented the idea of presenting all new knowledge in an accessible format. I am working on a book to spell out how to do this. Do you have specific guidelines for presentation that covers the summaries and the remainder of the publications (concepts, methods, data, conclusions)? Yes, let’s talk!

  11. William – not sure if you are responding to me or to Chris but I’ll answer anyway. I just posted a comment on Chris’s follow up blog post where he gives it a try. I included a link to a sample of our tool for that same example. Its just a start. Take a look.

  12. I would like to see what you have developed, but I can’t find it in the blog – can you direct me to a specific posting? I can also send you an one-page overview of my proposal if you provide me an e-mail address.

  13. William & Michael- thank you both for your thoughtful ideas and willingness to contribute, in terms of comments on this post, and in ways to continue to the discussion. Fundamentally, there are many different approaches towards making primary research more accessible – the mapping idea is really interesting, and will probably work well for some disciplines. Let’s keep the discussion moving forward. I will find some time today to look int detail at the meaning-map and connect later about this! THANKS!

  14. Chris, thanks for starting this discussion and for your clarity in doing it. I hope I can help. I agree that the simple language summary is one possible solution here and there are others. We could set up a place to talk online; there are many ways to do this and exchange thoughts and documents, etc. Yammer is one, Prezi is another and there are others. Is there a place used by scientists for discussion, idea and document sharing? Should be. Sorry not to just include my email here but doing so will open you to tons of spam. Find it on my LinkedIn profile or under Techtel.com.

  15. Excellent post – thanks for sharing. As a PR specialist I often work with researchers and scientists on complex stories – when I tried to drill down to plain language summaries I was sometimes accused (gasp) of dumbing down great work. Nothing could be further from the truth -my job was to make sure we could connect with a variety of audiences who cared but could use some jargon free information. Thx again

  16. Thanks Robyn – sometimes when jargon is removed the writing is perceived as being ‘dumbed down’ – but I’m with you – the pay-off is HUGE if writing can be more accessible – the broadest audience possible should be the goal!

  17. Good points on jargon. By definition, jargon (as opposed to fluff, or hype) is words and concepts that are specific to the field and so wont be understood readily by those outside the field. So it has to either go or be defined. The bigger issue that we have found is that meaning to the audience comes from recognition in terms they already know. That’s why analogies and examples work well. First of all, get the basic idea across then add detail as appropriate for the purpose you are trying to achieve. I’ve talked to a surgeon who noted that what he says to a patient or family member is different from what he says to the surgical team.

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  19. Thanks for the link – I downloaded the flow diagram. Here is a reference to an alternative – perhaps you have heard of it. A piece of freeware called
    Bullfighter is available on the Internet, It will attach itself as an add-on to Microsoft Word, and scan and assess any document as to its readability. The more “bull” in the document (long words, long sentences, long paragraphs, etc.) the poorer the score. To improve a score, go throught the document and use shorter words,shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, etc.), and in the process the document becomes more readable. I have tried it, and with good results

  20. William – I use Bullfighter to get a fast ‘proof’ there is something wrong when I read something and know its bad either because of jargon or long, convoluted sentences, etc. But fixing those things are just a start. There are two – at least – objectives for scientists: 1. communicating what you mean so it is correctly reconstructed in the mind of the receiver; and 2. having that receiver think or act on it as you intended so that it has the desired impact. Getting your meaning across is effective for a merely communication objective. Getting your intent accomplished is effective for a broader objective, for example, save whales, increase biodiversity, support research, or for students to develop a sense of wonder and curiosity.
    I think scientists have to not only make sure others understand what they are saying, but also that others support and/or use their research and its results. Impact or outcome is the objective, not just getting a concept from one mind to another. Scientists should realize that this is the same for all communication. Seems to me that most of the strategies for better communicating that are taught are to help get the meaning from you to another person, but don’t do much to make it relevant and helpful to that person. That’s another issue. But scientists, unlike PR people who communicate, often have relevant and interesting things to say, which puts them way out front in the so what dept. Anyone want to pursue this? Argue with me? Add to it? Change it? I’m ready.

  21. I see the two going hand in hand. It’s impossible to have any real and lasting effect without it being effectively communicated. That being said, within a particular discipline and field of study, writing to “each other” (i.e., with jargon, technical details) is often acceptable and perhaps necessary to move a discipline forward in a focused and specific manner. I am perhaps not being clear – what I mean to say is that specialists working in specialized area may not need to write in a ‘plain-language’ way to see action or follow-up on their ideas. This does not mean their work shouldn’t be accessible to a broad audience, but rather this more plain-language style of writing may not be necessary to see a discipline advance. Fundamentally, my point is that “having that receiver think or act on it as you intended so that it has the desired impact” is context-dependent. -if the receivers are highly specialized and need/want/accept jargon and technical details, that is OK. If, however, the research is of a style where it is hoped that a much broader audience can act on an idea, then the science communication must be tailored to meet that.

    I’m not sure I’m making much sense, this morning! :)

    This discussion, however, is heaps of fun, and making me think about the broader implications of plain-language summaries.

  22. Chris, that makes perfect sense. Specialists (in same specialty) certainly must use the special language that exists to communicate, their ‘jargon’ is meaningful to both because, as you point out, they both have the same context so the meaning that is communicated is very likely the same meaning that is received. For anyone else, even scientists in another specialty, the communication must have the jargon removed or replaced with words and concepts that match that of the receivers context to recreate the sent meaning. I think we are ready for a possibly helpful diagram (I usually lightly call this a PhD, but in this august company, I hesitate to do so …) that would show the concepts we have clarified here. I’ll do one up and post it here for discussion, improvement and communication. I think this is fun too. Perhaps there are few of us?

  23. Scientists: Rewrite an academic summary in plain English.

    This is a wonderful debate on scientific writing style. While it concentrates on writing plain English summaries, it raises the whole question of how scientists and academics write. Most people responding to this discussion support plain English but understandably don’t want it to dumb-down good research. In particular, they worry about use of scientific language’s specialist terms. In designing our editing software, StyleWriter, we looked at the issue of scientific writing especially the need to use specialist jargon.

    John Blois commented: How is the author going to produce a plain-language summary? Great idea but it involves expertise, training, and skills that most people don’t have. Telling people to produce that type of summary won’t actually get them to produce it. They may try, but without the tools, they won’t succeed.

    So here’s a challenge for scientists. I’ve quoted below an example of a scientific paper’s summary published on the internet. Can scientists rewrite this summary in plain English?

    Email me your plain English redrafts to info@editorsoftware.com over the weekend. Early next week I’ll publish a summary produced by a journalist working on a scientific journal (don’t look it up before you write your plain English summary). I’ll also point out where the journalist was not using plain English and show a true plain English alternative.

    Also ask your scientific colleagues who have not been part of the discussion, to take the challenge to edit the passage for publication as a scientific research paper summary. I will analyze the responses with the StyleWriter software.

    Here is the scientific summary to rewrite:

    Auditory evoked potentials are informative of intact cortical functions of comatose patients. The integrity of auditory functions evaluated using mismatch negativity paradigms has been associated with their chances of survival. However, because auditory discrimination is assessed at various delays after coma onset, it is still unclear whether this impairment depends on the time of the recording. We hypothesized that impairment in auditory discrimination capabilities is indicative of coma progression, rather than of the comatose state itself and that rudimentary auditory discrimination remains intact during acute stages of coma. We studied 30 post-anoxic comatose patients resuscitated from cardiac arrest and five healthy, age-matched controls. Using a mismatch negativity paradigm, we performed two electroencephalography recordings with a standard 19-channel clinical montage: the first within 24 h after coma onset and under mild therapeutic hypothermia, and the second after 1 day and under normothermic conditions. We analysed electroencephalography responses based on a multivariate decoding algorithm that automatically quantifies neural discrimination at the single patient level. Results showed high average decoding accuracy in discriminating sounds both for control subjects and comatose patients. Importantly, accurate decoding was largely independent of patients’ chance of survival. However, the progression of auditory discrimination between the first and second recordings was informative of a patient’s chance of survival. A deterioration of auditory discrimination was observed in all non-survivors (equivalent to 100% positive predictive value for survivors). We show, for the first time, evidence of intact auditory processing even in comatose patients who do not survive and that progression of sound discrimination over time is informative of a patient’s chance of survival. Tracking auditory discrimination in comatose patients could provide new insight to the chance of awakening in a quantitative and automatic fashion during early stages of coma.

    http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/11/12/brain.aws264.short

    Nick Wright
    Editor Software
    Email: info@editorsoftware.com

  24. I like this idea, and if journals insist, scientists would get up to speed quickly. I edit a journal where this could be easily done, but …… it took me no time at all to find the abstract below in Physical Review letters. Plain English? Good luck. The verbs seem to be in English, but little else. Just how would you explain how the public’s money was spent on this (and of course thousands of others) study? I think in some disciplines, we are way beyond translations to non-specialists.

    Atomic and electronic structure of the BaTiO3(001) (\sqrt 5 \times \sqrt 5)R26.6\circ surface reconstruction

    This contribution presents a study of the atomic and electronic structure of the (5 ×5)R26.6 surface reconstruction on BaTiO3 (001) formed by annealing in ultra high vacuum (UHV) at 1300 K. Through density functional theory (DFT) calculations in concert with thermodynamic analysis, we assess the stability of several BaTiO3 surface reconstructions and construct a phase diagram as a function of the chemical potential of the constituent elements. Using both experimental scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and scanning tunneling spectroscopy (STS) measurements, we were able to further narrow down the candidate structures, and conclude that the surface is either TiO2-Ti3/5, TiO2-Ti4/5, or some combination, where Ti adatoms occupy hollow sites of the TiO2 surface. DFT indicates that the defect states close to the valence band are from Ti adatom 3d orbitals ( 1.4 eV below the conduction band edge) in agreement with STS measurements showing defect states 1.56 0.11 eV below the conduction band minimum (1.03 0.09 eV below EF). STM measurements show electronic contrast between empty and filled states images. The calculated local density of states at the surface shows that Ti 3d states below and above EF explain the difference in electronic contrast in the experimental STM images by the presence of electronically distinctive arrangements of Ti adatoms. This work provides and interesting contrast with the related oxide SrTiO3, for which the (001) surface (5 ×5)R26.6 reconstruction is reported to be the TiO2 surface with Sr adatoms.

  25. J. Prescott – This is a good example for our discussion. As you observed, there are abstracts where it is impossible to convey its meaning to an audience if non specialists on the topic. They simply would not know what the author is talking about, nor what it means. Its missing information necessary to do that. Here’s how I wrote about it, using the rules of Kelly Meaning Mapping:
    So how would an abstract such as this be made into a Clear Language Summary:

    Audience: General Non Science people interested in what value was produced for money spent on the research. What do they know and not know?
    Purpose: Allow the audience to see the value of the research and the money that was spent on it in terms they understand. To do so in a way that will actually work (outcome achieved) and be efficiently done.
    Approach:
    Use Kelly Meaning Mapping to examine the abstract:
    What is is about?
    This is about research that was done to determine the structure of a certain … material.
    We found out what that structure was and how it was different from another material.
    Why is information needed? (Nothing here to answer this)
    How was it done? Lots of ‘how-to’ is given, but absent why it was done, there is no way to determine the value of the findings.

    Bottom line: the abstract is missing key information on what was done and why it’s important (or at least where it fits in some bigger picture) and has too much detail on how it was done.

    Observation: detail on how it was done is clearly critical information to communicate to other audiences, such as peers for review, but is irrelevent and meaningless to the general audience, so leave it out.

    The reason that the ‘WHY its important’ is necessary to include in any attempt to communicate with an audience of non specialists is to connect it to something of interest to that audience. You have to get their interest aroused before effective communication takes place leading to the intended outcome (e,g, continued funding.)

    Note that the principles here apply no matter what state the abstract or summary is in. There are more steps and principles to be applied to make a good Clear Summary (or whatever its called) but they are not applicable in this instance because so much that is missing must first be found before proceeding.
    Anyway, thats the way I see it. What do you think of the approach so far.
    Note that I think the process must actually work, that is 1. that the audience actually understands the meaning intended and then thinks or does what was intended by the scientist or sponsor, and 2. that the process is efficient and doable by most scientists.

  26. I set a challenge to rewrite a research paper introduction on recovery rates from a coma. I didn’t get any takers. Below, I reproduce the original text, a summary by a professional scientific journalists and a pure, plain English redraft.

    Can you at least comment on the redrafts and if there is any problem with the plain English summary.

    Original Document
    Auditory evoked potentials are informative of intact cortical functions of comatose patients. The integrity of auditory functions evaluated using mismatch negativity paradigms has been associated with their chances of survival. However, because auditory discrimination is assessed at various delays after coma onset, it is still unclear whether this impairment depends on the time of the recording. We hypothesized that impairment in auditory discrimination capabilities is indicative of coma progression, rather than of the comatose state itself and that rudimentary auditory discrimination remains intact during acute stages of coma. We studied 30 post-anoxic comatose patients resuscitated from cardiac arrest and five healthy, age-matched controls. Using a mismatch negativity paradigm, we performed two electroencephalography recordings with a standard 19-channel clinical montage: the first within 24 h after coma onset and under mild therapeutic hypothermia, and the second after 1 day and under normothermic conditions. We analysed electroencephalography responses based on a multivariate decoding algorithm that automatically quantifies neural discrimination at the single patient level. Results showed high average decoding accuracy in discriminating sounds both for control subjects and comatose patients. Importantly, accurate decoding was largely independent of patients’ chance of survival. However, the progression of auditory discrimination between the first and second recordings was informative of a patient’s chance of survival. A deterioration of auditory discrimination was observed in all non-survivors (equivalent to 100% positive predictive value for survivors). We show, for the first time, evidence of intact auditory processing even in comatose patients who do not survive and that progression of sound discrimination over time is informative of a patient’s chance of survival. Tracking auditory discrimination in comatose patients could provide new insight to the chance of awakening in a quantitative and automatic fashion during early stages of coma.

    http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/11/12/brain.aws264.sh

    Journalism
    A coma patient’s chances of surviving and waking up could be predicted by changes in the brain’s ability to discriminate sounds. Recovery from coma has been linked to auditory function before, but it wasn’t clear whether function depended on the time of assessment. Whereas previous studies tested patients several days or weeks after comas set in, a new study looks at the critical phase during the first 48 hours. At early stages, comatose brains can still distinguish between different sound patterns. How this ability progresses over time can predict whether a coma patient will survive and ultimately awaken.
    98 words

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/346636/description/Auditory_test_predicts_coma_awakening

    Plain English
    The brain’s ability to discriminate sounds can predict a coma patient’s chance of waking up. While previous studies have found the patient’s hearing is important, this study looks at the critical first 48 hours of the coma. In these 48 hours, the better a comatose brains can distinguish between different sound patterns, the more likely the patient will wake from the coma.
    62 words

    Nick Wright
    Designer of StyleWriter – plain English editing software

  27. Nick – thanks for this – sorry I didn’t catch it earlier – I will be happy to comment (but probably next week…) and perhaps others who are following this post will comment also!

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  31. Check out LayImpact.com. It’s currently invite only as it’s just getting off the ground. This is precisely what the site is trying to accomplish – provide lay descriptions and discussion about the impact of scientific discovery on broader community, including people interested in commercialization.

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  33. great post and awesome comments as well, a topic that is clearly resonating. At York University (Toronto, Canada) we have had a program of writing faculty peer reviewed articles in clear language and publishing in a branded series of ResearchSnapshot (www.researchimpact.ca/researchsearch). We have published on our process at

    http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10315/18163/Phipps%20et%20al%20Clr%20Lang%20Summaries%20SRC%202012.pdf?sequence=1

    importantly we hire and train students to do the writing. We don’t train faculty to write in anything other than their own scholarly styles. It certainly doesn’t mean faculty can’t learn this skill, just that they have few incentives to do so.

    David Phipps
    @researchimpact

    • David – great comment and thanks for the link. Your point is a good one – without training (or incentives) it will be difficult to get faculty to write summaries – hiring a student is an interesting idea. I know some institutions / research centres do want to see such summaries (e.g., to help with press releases, etc) but without the support structure for writing these summaries, the quality may be highly variable and the authors may not always hit the right audience.

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