Author + information
- Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD∗ ( and )
- Douglas Mann, MD
- ↵∗Address for Correspondence:
Dr. Valentin Fuster, The Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, New York 10029. OR Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), Madrid, Spain.
Passing over the other arts in silence, I shall speak briefly of that which concerns the health of mankind; indeed, of all the arts the genius of man has discovered [the scientific arts are] by far the most beneficial and of prime necessity, although difficult and laborious.
—Andreas Vesalius (1)
Vesalius, a 15th-century anatomist whose illustrative heart graces the American College of Cardiology’s seal, often wrote about the challenge of understanding and drawing the complex human body. As one of the fathers of modern medical illustration, he has helped us visualize internal anatomy without the necessity of public dissections, but he also noted that the process of scientific communication through the visual arts is both “difficult and laborious” (1). Within the JACC journals, we embraced this concept >5 years ago, when JACC began publishing Central Illustrations with every original research and review paper. Subsequently, the JACC sister journals have begun publishing Central Illustrations with each of their papers, and Visual Abstracts now appear within JACC: Basic to Translational Science for their original research.
When we launched the concept of the Central Illustration in 2014, we thought it would be a fairly straightforward process to communicate and create a figure that encapsulated the central message or the most important finding(s) from the paper in a simple but highly graphical presentation. However, we learned—especially in the beginning—that many authors truly struggled with the concept, and then the Editors had to take a hands-on approach. Thus, we thought it might be helpful to provide some guiding principles.
• To start, know what message your illustration should convey. In the beginning, authors often wanted to convey the study design, along with multiple findings and take-home messages from their analysis. This approach can cause confusion and excess that does not inform the reader. Clarity of a message can be as important as the message itself.
• Consider how that message can best be conveyed in a clear-cut, graphical manner. Even simple graphs or Kaplan-Meier curves are acceptable, as long as they can capture the entire message of the paper.
• Avoid using too much text, as the intention is to convey the message graphically.
• Avoid incorporating secondary messages.
• Simplicity is superior.
Since I (V.F.) became the Editor-in-Chief of JACC, we have stressed that our main objective is to communicate cardiovascular science through a means of simplicity and insightfulness (Figures 1 and 2, as examples). Central Illustrations present one of the means by which the authors can participate in this type of communication through the main message of their paper.
JACC: Basic to Translational Science has taken a slightly different approach for their original research papers through Visual Abstracts, which are well-received by the translational science community. A Visual Abstract is a single, concise, pictorial summary of the methodology and the main findings of the article, with the goal of briefly summarizing how the authors performed the analysis and capturing the study’s major findings (Figure 3). Simply stated, the Visual Abstract = methods + results. A good visual abstract should be able to be understood easily by someone who is not in the field, as well as someone who does not have training in basic science. Thus, they are different from the Central Illustrations, specifically because they include the methodology. As a result of this difference, a Central Illustration is typically referenced at the end of the Results section and/or the beginning of the Discussion section of the paper, which summarizes the major findings and/or importance of the paper. The Visual Abstract is typically referenced at the beginning of the paper, because it includes information about how the study was performed.
Even though a Visual Abstract includes the methodology, that does not mean that it requires an overly complex presentation. Here are some guiding principles for creating a successful Visual Abstract.
• A simple Visual Abstract is better than a complex visual abstract.
• Avoid using bar graphs or graphs to summarize the data; rather, use up or down arrows.
• Avoid using a great deal of text in the Visual Abstract. The idea is to convey your findings visually.
• Complex signal transduction pathways in the Visual Abstract do not reproduce well in the thumbnail version of the Visual Abstract and should be avoided.
• It is acceptable to incorporate a few photographs in the Visual Abstract (Figure 4).
In conclusion, both Central Illustrations and Visual Abstracts are meant to serve as graphical entry points into the paper, with the intent of grabbing the interest of the reader so they will be inclined to read the manuscript. The authors who publish in the JACC family of journals have spent a lot of time, energy and money on their research. The editors and editorial staff of the JACC family want to help authors disseminate their important findings worldwide to as many people as possible. Having a compelling central illustration and Visual Abstract is the fastest way to get people to read your paper. Moreover, as we know, busy cardiovascular clinicians and researchers have limited time to read the cardiovascular literature. We created these visual learning tool concepts in order to summarize the major take-home messages of the paper for the reader in a simple manner that can be easily understood. The success of these graphical presentations has been highlighted in their prolific use during presentations at scientific meetings, as well as their success on social media, wherein a link back to the paper is provided.
- 2019 American College of Cardiology Foundation
- O'Malley C.D.