EFSA Case Study

Case Study: Turning EFSA’s complex scientific outputs into Plain Language Summaries to engage stakeholders


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an agency of the European Union, delivers independent and transparent scientific advice to stakeholders within the food chain ‘to protect European consumers from food related risks.’ A key element of EFSA’s mission is to promote coherence in EU risk communication. All EFSA scientific outputs are published open access in the EFSA Journal. 

Following a successful tender process, in early 2023, SciencePOD began working with the EFSA Journal to turn selected EFSA scientific reports and opinions into Plain Language Summaries (PLS). The goal is to make EFSA scientific outputs and advice accessible for informed non-technical audiences. PLS are an effective tool to communicate the significance of scientific research evidence to wide audiences in clear, jargon-free language. The PLS are available on the EFSA Journal Wiley Online Library and on the EFSA website. 


The EFSA Journal team wanted to communicate key messages in EFSA research clearly, concisely and in a timely manner to a wider and sometimes non-technical audience. This was a challenging objective as the scientific opinions and reports published in EFSA Journal are comprehensive outputs. They include detailed scientific and technical data and information as well as multiple appendices. A scientific opinion or report published in EFSA Journal can run over 150 pages and include 50,000 to 100,000 words. 

Moreover, the target stakeholders and audiences for these publications are varied. They include: 

  • Risk managers and policy makers 
  • Academia and scientific community 
  • Farmers and primary producers 
  • Distributors and organisations involved in preparing, distribution and serving food such as wholesalers, retailers, hotels, restaurants and caterers (HORECA) 
  • Non-governmental groups and advocacy groups, including media 
  • Consumer organisations and the public 

With this in mind, the EFSA Journal team concluded that Plain Language Summaries (PLS) are an appropriate and effective communications approach to achieve objectives and serve the needs of varied audiences. To create the PLS, EFSA needed a partner specialised in the creation of clear, concise and engaging content who also had the capability to produce the PLS for publication simultaneously with the scientific opinions or reports. Importantly, this partner also had to demonstrate the necessary subject matter expertise to handle a variety of topics and complex, in-depth scientific data and information.  


Following a tender process, EFSA selected and appointed SciencePOD as the official supplier for Plain Language Summaries (PLS). In addition to SciencePOD’s ability to create accurate and engaging content, SciencePOD’s cloud-based content creation workflow platform and readily available network of content creators with subject matter expertise, ensured that PLS could be produced concurrently and be ready to publish alongside comprehensive scientific outputs published by EFSA’s scientific officers in the EFSA Journal 

In advance of content creation, SciencePOD proposed an EFSA project dedicated team, including a Project Manager, writers, editors, graphic designers and proofreaders. The proposed team belongs to SciencePOD’s global network of expert, pre-vetted content creators. EFSA approved the team allocated to the PLS creation. 

The team works from original research outputs published in the EFSA Journal, these can range from 50,000 to 100,000 words, and are condensed into 1,000- to 1,500-word Plain Language Summaries. Working with the EFSA Journal team, SciencePOD designed templates for three different types of PLS: 

  • Text only PLS  
  • Graphical PLS (represents concepts and data visually) 
  • Complex PLS (includes both text and a graphic)  

In addition, SciencePOD also produces 250-word lay summaries aimed at the public. 

PLS templates facilitate standardisation in the final summaries: 

  • They present scientific information and key messages in a predictable, logical order and in easy-to-understand language  
  • The PLS are free of jargon and avoid using abbreviations  
  • When scientific or technical terms feature in the document, they are explained in a glossary  
  • EFSA branding is integrated into the templates 
99% Reduction in word count EFSA case study


SciencePOD established a transparent production workflow for each type of PLS to ensure that each piece is completed within the required timeline and to the highest quality. EFSA scientific officers and communications staff review all PLS for scientific accuracy. This production process includes detailed briefing documents, online meetings with scientific officers (where necessary), a quality checklist, and a defined step-by-step workflow. 

The  SciencePOD platform mediates these production workflows; it supports team allocation and collaboration and oversight of the PLS creation process. Through the platform, EFSA can review the status of PLS production in real time. The SciencePOD platform also includes a distribution option; PLS can be shared with audiences interested in food and agricultural science through a distribution list of 7,000 science journalists registered on AlphaGalileo – a news broker service.  

To capture learnings and efficiency opportunities, SciencePOD operates a continuous improvement policy and works with the EFSA Journal team to amend and improve the PLS production process.  


With the help of SciencePOD’s dedicated plain language summary team, EFSA can focus energies on the production of their comprehensive publications. 

“Drafting PLS is a very resource-intensive activity for EFSA due among others to the need for a high level of scientific accuracy. We avail of SciencePOD’s expertise and technology to enable us to cover a much wider range of our topics.” 

The EFSA PLS are available through the Wiley online library, they are published open access, alongside scientific opinions and reports in the EFSA Journal, and as a separate file on the EFSA website. PLS examples can be seen here:  

BPA Complex PLS 

Inorganic Arsenic Complex PLS 

JIACRA Simplified Summary 

In June 2023, EFSA organised a Focus Group on Plain Language Summaries and surveyed participants from EFSA stakeholder organisations. An impressive 100% of survey participants reported being ‘satisfied’ with the PLS:  

“Working with SciencePOD has increased the reach of EFSA’s scientific assessments to a much wider range of our stakeholders. Our plain language summaries have a more consistent look and style that brings greater predictability and recognition for our audiences. In a recent focus group, EFSA stakeholders expressed a very high level of satisfaction with EFSA’s PLSs and more than 85% of participants had used the PLS in their work.” 

Feedback from this focus group was incorporated through SciencePOD’s continuous improvement practice, resulting in a more streamlined production process for text and for the graphical elements of the PLS.  

SciencePOD is delighted to be working with the EFSA Journal team and we look forward to continued collaboration and jointly investigating opportunities for new types of PLS production processes, such as use of AI summarisation tools.  

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EFSA case study

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