A Publication Steering Committee (PSC) is an integral part of the publication planning process and recommended as a part of Good Publication Practice (GPP3) guidelines to maintain ethical and transparent publication practices. Although the format of the PSC meeting varies greatly across therapeutic areas, these meetings have traditionally been held in-person to ensure lively discussion and provide an opportunity for long-term relationship building with key opinion leaders. With the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, PSC meetings have moved to a virtual format, and some have expressed concern over the potential for reduced discussion and feedback with a fully virtual PSC meeting. In our ‘Ask the Experts’ workshop session at the 2021 annual meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), we outlined five key areas where publication teams can take advantage of the virtual meeting environment to enhance their PSC meetings.
- PSC Structure: Where traditional PSC meetings were often time-intensive due to the large cost of travel for numerous attendees, virtual meetings should be shorter in length and can be more freely broken up across multiple days or weeks. There is a growing set of online tools to help schedule large online meetings with attendees from multiple time zones. Frequent ‘coffee breaks’ can help break up longer sessions and allow attendees to address to home responsibilities while still participating in the online discussion.
- Attendee Interaction: Large online meetings are still new for many people and there are concerns that virtual meetings will have less group discussion compared with a live meeting. To address this, the role of the moderator is critical. Attendees need to fully understand the speaking rules and what is expected during each session. Encouraging interaction through the use of online tools, such as live polling and prioritization exercises, can also help loosen up the crowd. It is often helpful to have a second moderator focused on the online chat to address any questions and bring any important items up for live discussion.
- Enhanced Content: Clearly presenting your clinical trial data and existing publications is critical to ensure your PSC attendees are well informed and able to provide optimal feedback and advice on your publication plan. Virtual meetings allow for the use of animations, infographics, and interactive prework materials that can help bring your data to life and facilitate discussion both during and prior to the PSC meeting.
- Attendees: Virtual PSC meetings are both cost- and time-efficient compared with an in-person meeting. This efficiency allows for a greater opportunity to engage multiple stakeholders and expand your PSC attendee pool. For larger PSC meetings, virtual breakout rooms allow for a more focused discussion, which can be brought back to the larger group.
- Post-Meeting Engagement: Virtual platforms offer numerous ways to continue to engage stakeholders over the long term. Secure online web portals can be bookmarked by PSC members and leveraged as a tool to continue discussion and push out publication announcements throughout the year.
By taking advantage of the tools and opportunities that a virtual environment allows, virtual PSC meetings can continue to add value to the publication planning process. Virtual meeting platforms and interactive tools can help structure and enhance discussion during these meetings.