Lay Summaries and Public Benefit Statements are valuable parts of DataLoch applications. They present an informative overview of the key purposes and potential real-world impacts for first-time readers and non-specialists. These sections are vital for proposal reviewers, ultimately influencing the chances of a data-access application being successful.
Therefore, applicants have to present summaries that are genuinely meaningful to those who are reading their proposals for the first time. To support this goal, DataLoch’s Public Reference Group offers the following advice to applicants based on their reviewing experiences.
1. Imagine an individual from your target audience
If you were talking to a member of the public, what are the most important things that they would need to know? Focus on these in your written summaries.
2. The 5 Ws and an H
Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Consider these fundamental questions and you will cover everything that is required. “Why is your research important (and for whom)?” is arguably the most important question you need to answer.
3. Use clear language
Could an average 13-15 year old understand the writing? You should aim for a Flesch reading ease score (which can be assessed in Word) of about 60 or above. If your score is too low, then shorten your sentences!
If jargon or acronyms really cannot be avoided, then use them sparingly, use the full name at first, and/or briefly explain their meanings, otherwise the message becomes difficult to follow.
4. Writing voice
Write in the active voice, rather than passive, and therefore include “I”, “We”, or “You” as appropriate. For example, instead of saying “Data will be analysed to understand…” say “We will analyse the data to understand…”
5. Public or patient involvement
Part of our review process is an assessment of public value. Highlighting how patients or the public have already informed your proposal or broader research is vitally important.
6. Critical friends
If possible, ask someone beyond research and innovation to have a read through your draft. Can they provide a top-level explanation of what you are doing from just the Lay Summary and Public Benefit Statement?
Writing for non-specialists is a challenging task, but one that is made easier by considering the above advice. We in the Public Reference Group look forward to reading your proposals and supporting excellent research that will make a genuine difference to the health and wellbeing of the region.