Now more than ever before, life science researchers are expected to not only conduct reliable, high-quality research, but also to communicate it transparently. The time of scientists, and by that also medical investigators, as privileged individuals in ivory towers is long gone. Research focusing on medical innovation and human therapeutics is under extensive public scrutiny. The general public is keen on keeping abreast of the newest medical industry developments. In parallel, more and more patient groups are forming, where interested individuals can learn more about a specific disease and (new) treatment possibilities. The logical outcome of this raised awareness of the life science and medical sector is a call to transparent and accessible communication of research data.
To address this growing need in transparency, recent years have seen a massive evolution of medical communications. The numbers of fully open-access journals and preprint servers are increasing, novel data is being shared via more versatile platforms (social media, podcasts, infographics) and more and more patient-oriented, layman-friendly content is available.
Increasing numbers of life science journals have been requesting article authors to provide plain language summaries, to enable non-specialists gain insight into the most important findings and implications of each article. This trend of focusing on the patient interests has gone further in recent years, where patients are not just recipients of information but are also encouraged to actively participate in guiding innovation within the medical industry. Since patients are the ones with first-hand experience of the disease and available treatments, they are best equipped to inform different stakeholders (caregivers, clinical research sponsors, funders and investigators) of the real-world value of a specific research direction. Therefore, many regulatory bodies, funding agencies, publishers and journals are advocating for or even requiring patient-led medical research and patient co-authorship on publications resulting from the said research.