The Editorial Graphics team at JAMA Network produces original editorial, medical, and scientific illustrations for 12 journals including the weekly publication Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Inspired by author-generated graphical abstracts regularly published in other prominent journals, JAMA editors tasked our team to explore the possibility of publishing visual representations of research articles within the journal to accompany and augment the typical text-based abstract.As our team researched and considered various strategies for efficiently producing visual research summaries for a fast-paced weekly publication with short deadlines, the concept of the “visual abstract” began to circulate on social media. Annals of Surgery published the first visual abstract on social media in July 2016 and carried out a study over the next 6 months that showed an increase in article dissemination when accompanied by a visual abstract versus text-only posts. However, we observed that these early visual abstracts could be improved with further consideration of visual hierarchy, storytelling, and consistency of language that could be provided by trained medical illustrators.We then focused our efforts into using our visual storytelling expertise to best apply the social media visual abstract concept across a branded network of journals. Our priorities included: creating a design template that contained a standardized level of content detail that could be easily applied to any randomized clinical trial (RCT); following existing JAMA color, font, and design branding guidelines; and maintaining an overall academic appearance.  JAMA has now published over 70 visual abstracts since July 2018 for social media as visual summaries of RCTs and hopes to expand across JAMA Network. Analytics tracking RCTs with and without visual abstracts published over the same time period in 2018 indicated that RCTs with visual abstracts had nearly twice as many views  and higher Altmetric scores.

Karen Bucher

Karen Bucher is a Manager and Senior Medical Illustrator in the Editorial Graphics Department for the weekly peer-reviewed publication Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the specialty publications of JAMA Network. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Biomedical Visualization (BVIS) graduate program and currently serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Association of Medical Illustrators. After earning her BA in studio art from Indiana University, Karen graduated from the Johns Hopkins University’s Art as Applied to Medicine graduate program.

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