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How Will FDA’s new precisionFDA Science 2.0 Collaboration Platform Protect Data?

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

As reported in MassDevice.com

FDA launches precisionFDA to harness the power of scientific collaboration

FDA VoiceBy: Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S. and Elaine Johanson

Imagine a world where doctors have at their fingertips the information that allows them to individualize a diagnosis, treatment or even a cure for a person based on their genes. That’s what President Obama envisioned when he announced his Precision Medicine Initiative earlier this year. Today, with the launch of FDA’s precisionFDA web platform, we’re a step closer to achieving that vision.

PrecisionFDA is an online, cloud-based, portal that will allow scientists from industry, academia, government and other partners to come together to foster innovation and develop the science behind a method of “reading” DNA known as next-generation sequencing (or NGS). Next Generation Sequencing allows scientists to compile a vast amount of data on a person’s exact order or sequence of DNA. Recognizing that each person’s DNA is slightly different, scientists can look for meaningful differences in DNA that can be used to suggest a person’s risk of disease, possible response to treatment and assess their current state of health. Ultimately, what we learn about these differences could be used to design a treatment tailored to a specific individual.

The precisionFDA platform is a part of this larger effort and through its use we want to help scientists work toward the most accurate and meaningful discoveries. precisionFDA users will have access to a number of important tools to help them do this. These tools include reference genomes, such as “Genome in the Bottle,” a reference sample of DNA for validating human genome sequences developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Users will also be able to compare their results to previously validated reference results as well as share their results with other users, track changes and obtain feedback.

Over the coming months we will engage users in improving the usability, openness and transparency of precisionFDA. One way we’ll achieve that is by placing the code for the precisionFDA portal on the world’s largest open source software repository, GitHub, so the community can further enhance precisionFDA’s features.Through such collaboration we hope to improve the quality and accuracy of genomic tests – work that will ultimately benefit patients.

precisionFDA leverages our experience establishing openFDA, an online community that provides easy access to our public datasets. Since its launch in 2014, openFDA has already resulted in many novel ways to use, integrate and analyze FDA safety information. We’re confident that employing such a collaborative approach to DNA data will yield important advances in our understanding of this fast-growing scientific field, information that will ultimately be used to develop new diagnostics, treatments and even cures for patients.

fda-voice-taha-kass-1x1Taha A. Kass-Hout, M.D., M.S., is FDA’s Chief Health Informatics Officer and Director of FDA’s Office of Health Informatics. Elaine Johanson is the precisionFDA Project Manager.

 

The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of MassDevice.com or its employees.

So What Are the Other Successes With Such Open Science 2.0 Collaborative Networks?

In the following post there are highlighted examples of these Open Scientific Networks and, as long as

  • transparancy
  • equal contributions (lack of heirarchy)

exists these networks can flourish and add interesting discourse.  Scientists are already relying on these networks to collaborate and share however resistance by certain members of an “elite” can still exist.  Social media platforms are now democratizing this new science2.0 effort.  In addition the efforts of multiple biocurators (who mainly work for love of science) have organized the plethora of data (both genomic, proteomic, and literature) in order to provide ease of access and analysis.

Science and Curation: The New Practice of Web 2.0

Curation: an Essential Practice to Manage “Open Science”

The web 2.0 gave birth to new practices motivated by the will to have broader and faster cooperation in a more free and transparent environment. We have entered the era of an “open” movement: “open data”, “open software”, etc. In science, expressions like “open access” (to scientific publications and research results) and “open science” are used more and more often.

Curation and Scientific and Technical Culture: Creating Hybrid Networks

Another area, where there are most likely fewer barriers, is scientific and technical culture. This broad term involves different actors such as associations, companies, universities’ communication departments, CCSTI (French centers for scientific, technical and industrial culture), journalists, etc. A number of these actors do not limit their work to popularizing the scientific data; they also consider they have an authentic mission of “culturing” science. The curation practice thus offers a better organization and visibility to the information. The sought-after benefits will be different from one actor to the next.

Scientific Curation Fostering Expert Networks and Open Innovation: Lessons from Clive Thompson and others

  • Using Curation and Science 2.0 to build Trusted, Expert Networks of Scientists and Clinicians

Given the aforementioned problems of:

        I.            the complex and rapid deluge of scientific information

      II.            the need for a collaborative, open environment to produce transformative innovation

    III.            need for alternative ways to disseminate scientific findings

CURATION MAY OFFER SOLUTIONS

        I.            Curation exists beyond the review: curation decreases time for assessment of current trends adding multiple insights, analyses WITH an underlying METHODOLOGY (discussed below) while NOT acting as mere reiteration, regurgitation

 

      II.            Curation providing insights from WHOLE scientific community on multiple WEB 2.0 platforms

 

    III.            Curation makes use of new computational and Web-based tools to provide interoperability of data, reporting of findings (shown in Examples below)

 

Therefore a discussion is given on methodologies, definitions of best practices, and tools developed to assist the content curation community in this endeavor

which has created a need for more context-driven scientific search and discourse.

However another issue would be Individual Bias if these networks are closed and protocols need to be devised to reduce bias from individual investigators, clinicians.  This is where CONSENSUS built from OPEN ACCESS DISCOURSE would be beneficial as discussed in the following post:

Risk of Bias in Translational Science

As per the article

Risk of bias in translational medicine may take one of three forms:

  1. a systematic error of methodology as it pertains to measurement or sampling (e.g., selection bias),
  2. a systematic defect of design that leads to estimates of experimental and control groups, and of effect sizes that substantially deviate from true values (e.g., information bias), and
  3. a systematic distortion of the analytical process, which results in a misrepresentation of the data with consequential errors of inference (e.g., inferential bias).

This post highlights many important points related to bias but in summarry there can be methodologies and protocols devised to eliminate such bias.  Risk of bias can seriously adulterate the internal and the external validity of a clinical study, and, unless it is identified and systematically evaluated, can seriously hamper the process of comparative effectiveness and efficacy research and analysis for practice. The Cochrane Group and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have independently developed instruments for assessing the meta-construct of risk of bias. The present article begins to discuss this dialectic.

  • Information dissemination to all stakeholders is key to increase their health literacy in order to ensure their full participation
  • threats to internal and external validity  represent specific aspects of systematic errors (i.e., bias)in design, methodology and analysis

So what about the safety and privacy of Data?

A while back I did a post and some interviews on how doctors in developing countries are using social networks to communicate with patients, either over established networks like Facebook or more private in-house networks.  In addition, these doctor-patient relationships in developing countries are remote, using the smartphone to communicate with rural patients who don’t have ready access to their physicians.

Located in the post Can Mobile Health Apps Improve Oral-Chemotherapy Adherence? The Benefit of Gamification.

I discuss some of these problems in the following paragraph and associated posts below:

Mobile Health Applications on Rise in Developing World: Worldwide Opportunity

According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) statistics, world-wide mobile phone use has expanded tremendously in the past 5 years, reaching almost 6 billion subscriptions. By the end of this year it is estimated that over 95% of the world’s population will have access to mobile phones/devices, including smartphones.

This presents a tremendous and cost-effective opportunity in developing countries, and especially rural areas, for physicians to reach patients using mHealth platforms.

How Social Media, Mobile Are Playing a Bigger Part in Healthcare

E-Medical Records Get A Mobile, Open-Sourced Overhaul By White House Health Design Challenge Winners

In Summary, although there are restrictions here in the US governing what information can be disseminated over social media networks, developing countries appear to have either defined the regulations as they are more dependent on these types of social networks given the difficulties in patient-physician access.

Therefore the question will be Who Will Protect The Data?

For some interesting discourse please see the following post

Atul Butte Talks on Big Data, Open Data and Clinical Trials

 

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Twitter is Becoming a Powerful Tool in Science and Medicine

 Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Updated 4/2016

Life-cycle of Science 2

A recent Science article (Who are the science stars of Twitter?; Sept. 19, 2014) reported the top 50 scientists followed on Twitter. However, the article tended to focus on the use of Twitter as a means to develop popularity, a sort of “Science Kardashian” as they coined it. So the writers at Science developed a “Kardashian Index (K-Index) to determine scientists following and popularity on Twitter.

Now as much buzz Kim Kardashian or a Perez Hilton get on social media, their purpose is solely for entertainment and publicity purposes, the Science sort of fell flat in that it focused mainly on the use of Twitter as a metric for either promotional or public outreach purposes. A notable scientist was mentioned in the article, using Twitter feed to gauge the receptiveness of his presentation. In addition, relying on Twitter for effective public discourse of science is problematic as:

  • Twitter feeds are rapidly updated and older feeds quickly get buried within the “Twittersphere” = LIMITED EXPOSURE TIMEFRAME
  • Short feeds may not provide the access to appropriate and understandable scientific information (The Science Communication Trap) which is explained in The Art of Communicating Science: traps, tips and tasks for the modern-day scientist. “The challenge of clearly communicating the intended scientific message to the public is not insurmountable but requires an understanding of what works and what does not work.” – from Heidi Roop, G.-Martinez-Mendez and K. Mills

However, as highlighted below, Twitter, and other social media platforms are being used in creative ways to enhance the research, medical, and bio investment collaborative, beyond a simple news-feed.  And the power of Twitter can be attributed to two simple features

  1. Ability to organize – through use of the hashtag (#) and handle (@), Twitter assists in the very important task of organizing, indexing, and ANNOTATING content and conversations. A very great article on Why the Hashtag in Probably the Most Powerful Tool on Twitter by Vanessa Doctor explains how hashtags and # search may be as popular as standard web-based browser search. Thorough annotation is crucial for any curation process, which are usually in the form of database tags or keywords. The use of # and @ allows curators to quickly find, index and relate disparate databases to link annotated information together. The discipline of scientific curation requires annotation to assist in the digital preservation, organization, indexing, and access of data and scientific & medical literature. For a description of scientific curation methodologies please see the following links:

Please read the following articles on CURATION

The Methodology of Curation for Scientific Research Findings

Power of Analogy: Curation in Music, Music Critique as a Curation and Curation of Medical Research Findings – A Comparison

Science and Curation: The New Practice of Web 2.0

  1. Information Analytics

Multiple analytic software packages have been made available to analyze information surrounding Twitter feeds, including Twitter feeds from #chat channels one can set up to cover a meeting, product launch etc.. Some of these tools include:

Twitter Analytics – measures metrics surrounding Tweets including retweets, impressions, engagement, follow rate, …

Twitter Analytics – Hashtags.org – determine most impactful # for your Tweets For example, meeting coverage of bioinvestment conferences or startup presentations using #startup generates automatic retweeting by Startup tweetbot @StartupTweetSF.

 

  1. Tweet Sentiment Analytics

Examples of Twitter Use

A. Scientific Meeting Coverage

In a paper entitled Twitter Use at a Family Medicine Conference: Analyzing #STFM13 authors Ranit Mishori, MD, Frendan Levy, MD, and Benjamin Donvan analyzed the public tweets from the 2013 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) conference bearing the meeting-specific hashtag #STFM13. Thirteen percent of conference attendees (181 users) used the #STFM13 to share their thoughts on the meeting (1,818 total tweets) showing a desire for social media interaction at conferences but suggesting growth potential in this area. As we have also seen, the heaviest volume of conference-tweets originated from a small number of Twitter users however most tweets were related to session content.

However, as the authors note, although it is easy to measure common metrics such as number of tweets and retweets, determining quality of engagement from tweets would be important for gauging the value of Twitter-based social-media coverage of medical conferences.

Thea authors compared their results with similar analytics generated by the HealthCare Hashtag Project, a project and database of medically-related hashtag use, coordinated and maintained by the company Symplur.  Symplur’s database includes medical and scientific conference Twitter coverage but also Twitter usuage related to patient care. In this case the database was used to compare meeting tweets and hashtag use with the 2012 STFM conference.

These are some of the published journal articles that have employed Symplur (www.symplur.com) data in their research of Twitter usage in medical conferences.

B. Twitter Usage for Patient Care and Engagement

Although the desire of patients to use and interact with their physicians over social media is increasing, along with increasing health-related social media platforms and applications, there are certain obstacles to patient-health provider social media interaction, including lack of regulatory framework as well as database and security issues. Some of the successes and issues of social media and healthcare are discussed in the post Can Mobile Health Apps Improve Oral-Chemotherapy Adherence? The Benefit of Gamification.

However there is also a concern if social media truly engages the patient and improves patient education. In a study of Twitter communications by breast cancer patients Tweeting about breast cancer, authors noticed Tweeting was a singular event. The majority of tweets did not promote any specific preventive behavior. The authors concluded “Twitter is being used mostly as a one-way communication tool.” (Using Twitter for breast cancer prevention: an analysis of breast cancer awareness month. Thackeray R1, Burton SH, Giraud-Carrier C, Rollins S, Draper CR. BMC Cancer. 2013;13:508).

In addition a new poll by Harris Interactive and HealthDay shows one third of patients want some mobile interaction with their physicians.

Some papers cited in Symplur’s HealthCare Hashtag Project database on patient use of Twitter include:

C. Twitter Use in Pharmacovigilance to Monitor Adverse Events

Pharmacovigilance is the systematic detection, reporting, collecting, and monitoring of adverse events pre- and post-market of a therapeutic intervention (drug, device, modality e.g.). In a Cutting Edge Information Study, 56% of pharma companies databases are an adverse event channel and more companies are turning to social media to track adverse events (in Pharmacovigilance Teams Turn to Technology for Adverse Event Reporting Needs). In addition there have been many reports (see Digital Drug Safety Surveillance: Monitoring Pharmaceutical Products in Twitter) that show patients are frequently tweeting about their adverse events.

There have been concerns with using Twitter and social media to monitor for adverse events. For example FDA funded a study where a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and other academic centers examined more than 60,000 tweets, of which 4,401 were manually categorized as resembling adverse events and compared with the FDA pharmacovigilance databases. Problems associated with such social media strategy were inability to obtain extra, needed information from patients and difficulty in separating the relevant Tweets from irrelevant chatter.  The UK has launched a similar program called WEB-RADR to determine if monitoring #drug_reaction could be useful for monitoring adverse events. Many researchers have found the adverse-event related tweets “noisy” due to varied language but had noticed many people do understand some principles of causation including when adverse event subsides after discontinuing the drug.

However Dr. Clark Freifeld, Ph.D., from Boston University and founder of the startup Epidemico, feels his company has the algorithms that can separate out the true adverse events from the junk. According to their web site, their algorithm has high accuracy when compared to the FDA database. Dr. Freifeld admits that Twitter use for pharmacovigilance purposes is probably a starting point for further follow-up, as each patient needs to fill out the four-page forms required for data entry into the FDA database.

D. Use of Twitter in Big Data Analytics

Published on Aug 28, 2012

http://blogs.ischool.berkeley.edu/i29…

Course: Information 290. Analyzing Big Data with Twitter
School of Information
UC Berkeley

Lecture 1: August 23, 2012

Course description:
How to store, process, analyze and make sense of Big Data is of increasing interest and importance to technology companies, a wide range of industries, and academic institutions. In this course, UC Berkeley professors and Twitter engineers will lecture on the most cutting-edge algorithms and software tools for data analytics as applied to Twitter microblog data. Topics will include applied natural language processing algorithms such as sentiment analysis, large scale anomaly detection, real-time search, information diffusion and outbreak detection, trend detection in social streams, recommendation algorithms, and advanced frameworks for distributed computing. Social science perspectives on analyzing social media will also be covered.

This is a hands-on project course in which students are expected to form teams to complete intensive programming and analytics projects using the real-world example of Twitter data and code bases. Engineers from Twitter will help advise student projects, and students will have the option of presenting their final project presentations to an audience of engineers at the headquarters of Twitter in San Francisco (in addition to on campus). Project topics include building on existing infrastructure tools, building Twitter apps, and analyzing Twitter data. Access to data will be provided.

Other posts on this site on USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND TWITTER IN HEALTHCARE and Conference Coverage include:

Methodology for Conference Coverage using Social Media: 2014 MassBio Annual Meeting 4/3 – 4/4 2014, Royal Sonesta Hotel, Cambridge, MA

Strategy for Event Joint Promotion: 14th ANNUAL BIOTECH IN EUROPE FORUM For Global Partnering & Investment 9/30 – 10/1/2014 • Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

REAL TIME Cancer Conference Coverage: A Novel Methodology for Authentic Reporting on Presentations and Discussions launched via Twitter.com @ The 2nd ANNUAL Sachs Cancer Bio Partnering & Investment Forum in Drug Development, 19th March 2014 • New York Academy of Sciences • USA

PCCI’s 7th Annual Roundtable “Crowdfunding for Life Sciences: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters?” May 12 2014 Embassy Suites Hotel, Chesterbrook PA 6:00-9:30 PM

CRISPR-Cas9 Discovery and Development of Programmable Genome Engineering – Gabbay Award Lectures in Biotechnology and Medicine – Hosted by Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, 10/27/14 3:30PM Brandeis University, Gerstenzang 121

Tweeting on 14th ANNUAL BIOTECH IN EUROPE FORUM For Global Partnering & Investment 9/30 – 10/1/2014 • Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/press-coverage/

Statistical Analysis of Tweet Feeds from the 14th ANNUAL BIOTECH IN EUROPE FORUM For Global Partnering & Investment 9/30 – 10/1/2014 • Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

1st Pitch Life Science- Philadelphia- What VCs Really Think of your Pitch

What VCs Think about Your Pitch? Panel Summary of 1st Pitch Life Science Philly

How Social Media, Mobile Are Playing a Bigger Part in Healthcare

Can Mobile Health Apps Improve Oral-Chemotherapy Adherence? The Benefit of Gamification.

Medical Applications and FDA regulation of Sensor-enabled Mobile Devices: Apple and the Digital Health Devices Market

E-Medical Records Get A Mobile, Open-Sourced Overhaul By White House Health Design Challenge Winners

Read Full Post »


Scientific Curation Fostering Expert Networks and Open Innovation: Lessons from Clive Thompson

Life-cycle of Science 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curators and Writer: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D. with input from Curators Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Dr. Justin D. Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Dr. Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

(this discussion is in a three part series including:

Using Scientific Content Curation as a Method for Validation and Biocuration

Using Scientific Content Curation as a Method for Open Innovation)

 

Every month I get my Wired Magazine (yes in hard print, I still like to turn pages manually plus I don’t mind if I get grease or wing sauce on my magazine rather than on my e-reader) but I always love reading articles written by Clive Thompson. He has a certain flair for understanding the techno world we live in and the human/technology interaction, writing about interesting ways in which we almost inadvertently integrate new technologies into our day-to-day living, generating new entrepreneurship, new value.   He also writes extensively about tech and entrepreneurship.

October 2013 Wired article by Clive Thompson, entitled “How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas: Thinking Out Loud”, describes how the voluminous writings, postings, tweets, and sharing on social media is fostering connections between people and ideas which, previously, had not existed. The article was generated from Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than you Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better.Tom Peters also commented about the article in his blog (see here).

Clive gives a wonderful example of Ory Okolloh, a young Kenyan-born law student who, after becoming frustrated with the lack of coverage of problems back home, started a blog about Kenyan politics. Her blog not only got interest from movie producers who were documenting female bloggers but also gained the interest of fellow Kenyans who, during the upheaval after the 2007 Kenyan elections, helped Ory to develop a Google map for reporting of violence (http://www.ushahidi.com/, which eventually became a global organization using open-source technology to affect crises-management. There are a multitude of examples how networks and the conversations within these circles are fostering new ideas. As Clive states in the article:

 

Our ideas are PRODUCTS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT.

They are influenced by the conversations around us.

However the article got me thinking of how Science 2.0 and the internet is changing how scientists contribute, share, and make connections to produce new and transformative ideas.

But HOW MUCH Knowledge is OUT THERE?

 

Clive’s article listed some amazing facts about the mountains of posts, tweets, words etc. out on the internet EVERY DAY, all of which exemplifies the problem:

  • 154.6 billion EMAILS per DAY
  • 400 million TWEETS per DAY
  • 1 million BLOG POSTS (including this one) per DAY
  • 2 million COMMENTS on WordPress per DAY
  • 16 million WORDS on Facebook per DAY
  • TOTAL 52 TRILLION WORDS per DAY

As he estimates this would be 520 million books per DAY (book with average 100,000 words).

A LOT of INFO. But as he suggests it is not the volume but how we create and share this information which is critical as the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon noted “Ninety percent of everything is crap” AKA Sturgeon’s Law.

 

Internet live stats show how congested the internet is each day (http://www.internetlivestats.com/). Needless to say Clive’s numbers are a bit off. As of the writing of this article:

 

  • 2.9 billion internet users
  • 981 million websites (only 25,000 hacked today)
  • 128 billion emails
  • 385 million Tweets
  • > 2.7 million BLOG posts today (including this one)

 

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of the Scientific Internet (The Wild West?)

 

So how many science blogs are out there? Well back in 2008 “grrlscientistasked this question and turned up a total of 19,881 blogs however most were “pseudoscience” blogs, not written by Ph.D or MD level scientists. A deeper search on Technorati using the search term “scientist PhD” turned up about 2,000 written by trained scientists.

So granted, there is a lot of

goodbadugly

 

              ….. when it comes to scientific information on the internet!

 

 

 

 

 

I had recently re-posted, on this site, a great example of how bad science and medicine can get propagated throughout the internet:

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2014/06/17/the-gonzalez-protocol-worse-than-useless-for-pancreatic-cancer/

 

and in a Nature Report:Stem cells: Taking a stand against pseudoscience

http://www.nature.com/news/stem-cells-taking-a-stand-against-pseudoscience-1.15408

Drs.Elena Cattaneo and Gilberto Corbellini document their long, hard fight against false and invalidated medical claims made by some “clinicians” about the utility and medical benefits of certain stem-cell therapies, sacrificing their time to debunk medical pseudoscience.

 

Using Curation and Science 2.0 to build Trusted, Expert Networks of Scientists and Clinicians

 

Establishing networks of trusted colleagues has been a cornerstone of the scientific discourse for centuries. For example, in the mid-1640s, the Royal Society began as:

 

“a meeting of natural philosophers to discuss promoting knowledge of the

natural world through observation and experiment”, i.e. science.

The Society met weekly to witness experiments and discuss what we

would now call scientific topics. The first Curator of Experiments

was Robert Hooke.”

 

from The History of the Royal Society

 

Royal Society CoatofArms

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.

(photo credit: Royal Society)

(Although one wonders why they met “in-cognito”)

Indeed as discussed in “Science 2.0/Brainstorming” by the originators of OpenWetWare, an open-source science-notebook software designed to foster open-innovation, the new search and aggregation tools are making it easier to find, contribute, and share information to interested individuals. This paradigm is the basis for the shift from Science 1.0 to Science 2.0. Science 2.0 is attempting to remedy current drawbacks which are hindering rapid and open scientific collaboration and discourse including:

  • Slow time frame of current publishing methods: reviews can take years to fashion leading to outdated material
  • Level of information dissemination is currently one dimensional: peer-review, highly polished work, conferences
  • Current publishing does not encourage open feedback and review
  • Published articles edited for print do not take advantage of new web-based features including tagging, search-engine features, interactive multimedia, no hyperlinks
  • Published data and methodology incomplete
  • Published data not available in formats which can be readably accessible across platforms: gene lists are now mandated to be supplied as files however other data does not have to be supplied in file format

(put in here a brief blurb of summary of problems and why curation could help)

 

Curation in the Sciences: View from Scientific Content Curators Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Dr. Justin D. Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Dr. Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Curation is an active filtering of the web’s  and peer reviewed literature found by such means – immense amount of relevant and irrelevant content. As a result content may be disruptive. However, in doing good curation, one does more than simply assign value by presentation of creative work in any category. Great curators comment and share experience across content, authors and themes. Great curators may see patterns others don’t, or may challenge or debate complex and apparently conflicting points of view.  Answers to specifically focused questions comes from the hard work of many in laboratory settings creatively establishing answers to definitive questions, each a part of the larger knowledge-base of reference. There are those rare “Einstein’s” who imagine a whole universe, unlike the three blind men of the Sufi tale.  One held the tail, the other the trunk, the other the ear, and they all said this is an elephant!
In my reading, I learn that the optimal ratio of curation to creation may be as high as 90% curation to 10% creation. Creating content is expensive. Curation, by comparison, is much less expensive.

– Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Curation is Uniquely Distinguished by the Historical Exploratory Ties that Bind –Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

The explosion of information by numerous media, hardcopy and electronic, written and video, has created difficulties tracking topics and tying together relevant but separated discoveries, ideas, and potential applications. Some methods to help assimilate diverse sources of knowledge include a content expert preparing a textbook summary, a panel of experts leading a discussion or think tank, and conventions moderating presentations by researchers. Each of those methods has value and an audience, but they also have limitations, particularly with respect to timeliness and pushing the edge. In the electronic data age, there is a need for further innovation, to make synthesis, stimulating associations, synergy and contrasts available to audiences in a more timely and less formal manner. Hence the birth of curation. Key components of curation include expert identification of data, ideas and innovations of interest, expert interpretation of the original research results, integration with context, digesting, highlighting, correlating and presenting in novel light.

Justin D Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC from The Voice of Content Consultant on The  Methodology of Curation in Cardiovascular Original Research: Cases in Methodology Design for Content Co-Curation The Art of Scientific & Medical Curation

 

In Power of Analogy: Curation in Music, Music Critique as a Curation and Curation of Medical Research Findings – A Comparison, Drs. Larry Bernstein and Aviva Lev-Ari likens the medical and scientific curation process to curation of musical works into a thematic program:

 

Work of Original Music Curation and Performance:

 

Music Review and Critique as a Curation

Work of Original Expression what is the methodology of Curation in the context of Medical Research Findings Exposition of Synthesis and Interpretation of the significance of the results to Clinical Care

… leading to new, curated, and collaborative works by networks of experts to generate (in this case) ebooks on most significant trends and interpretations of scientific knowledge as relates to medical practice.

 

In Summary: How Scientific Content Curation Can Help

 

Given the aforementioned problems of:

        I.            the complex and rapid deluge of scientific information

      II.            the need for a collaborative, open environment to produce transformative innovation

    III.            need for alternative ways to disseminate scientific findings

CURATION MAY OFFER SOLUTIONS

        I.            Curation exists beyond the review: curation decreases time for assessment of current trends adding multiple insights, analyses WITH an underlying METHODOLOGY (discussed below) while NOT acting as mere reiteration, regurgitation

 

      II.            Curation providing insights from WHOLE scientific community on multiple WEB 2.0 platforms

 

    III.            Curation makes use of new computational and Web-based tools to provide interoperability of data, reporting of findings (shown in Examples below)

 

Therefore a discussion is given on methodologies, definitions of best practices, and tools developed to assist the content curation community in this endeavor.

Methodology in Scientific Content Curation as Envisioned by Aviva lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

At Leaders in Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence, site owner and chief editor Aviva lev-Ari, PhD, RN has been developing a strategy “for the facilitation of Global access to Biomedical knowledge rather than the access to sheer search results on Scientific subject matters in the Life Sciences and Medicine”. According to Aviva, “for the methodology to attain this complex goal it is to be dealing with popularization of ORIGINAL Scientific Research via Content Curation of Scientific Research Results by Experts, Authors, Writers using the critical thinking process of expert interpretation of the original research results.” The following post:

Cardiovascular Original Research: Cases in Methodology Design for Content Curation and Co-Curation

 

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/07/29/cardiovascular-original-research-cases-in-methodology-design-for-content-curation-and-co-curation/

demonstrate two examples how content co-curation attempts to achieve this aim and develop networks of scientist and clinician curators to aid in the active discussion of scientific and medical findings, and use scientific content curation as a means for critique offering a “new architecture for knowledge”. Indeed, popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or even scientific search engines such as NCBI’s PubMed and the OVID search engine rely on keywords and Boolean algorithms …

which has created a need for more context-driven scientific search and discourse.

In Science and Curation: the New Practice of Web 2.0, Célya Gruson-Daniel (@HackYourPhd) states:

To address this need, human intermediaries, empowered by the participatory wave of web 2.0, naturally started narrowing down the information and providing an angle of analysis and some context. They are bloggers, regular Internet users or community managers – a new type of profession dedicated to the web 2.0. A new use of the web has emerged, through which the information, once produced, is collectively spread and filtered by Internet users who create hierarchies of information.

.. where Célya considers curation an essential practice to manage open science and this new style of research.

As mentioned above in her article, Dr. Lev-Ari represents two examples of how content curation expanded thought, discussion, and eventually new ideas.

  1. Curator edifies content through analytic process = NEW form of writing and organizations leading to new interconnections of ideas = NEW INSIGHTS

i)        Evidence: curation methodology leading to new insights for biomarkers

 

  1. Same as #1 but multiple players (experts) each bringing unique insights, perspectives, skills yielding new research = NEW LINE of CRITICAL THINKING

ii)      Evidence: co-curation methodology among cardiovascular experts leading to cardiovascular series ebooks

Life-cycle of Science 2

The Life Cycle of Science 2.0. Due to Web 2.0, new paradigms of scientific collaboration are rapidly emerging.  Originally, scientific discovery were performed by individual laboratories or “scientific silos” where the main method of communication was peer-reviewed publication, meeting presentation, and ultimately news outlets and multimedia. In this digital era, data was organized for literature search and biocurated databases. In an era of social media, Web 2.0, a group of scientifically and medically trained “curators” organize the piles of data of digitally generated data and fit data into an organizational structure which can be shared, communicated, and analyzed in a holistic approach, launching new ideas due to changes in organization structure of data and data analytics.

 

The result, in this case, is a collaborative written work above the scope of the review. Currently review articles are written by experts in the field and summarize the state of a research are. However, using collaborative, trusted networks of experts, the result is a real-time synopsis and analysis of the field with the goal in mind to

INCREASE THE SCIENTIFIC CURRENCY.

For detailed description of methodology please see Cardiovascular Original Research: Cases in Methodology Design for Content Co-Curation The Art of Scientific & Medical Curation

 

In her paper, Curating e-Science Data, Maureen Pennock, from The British Library, emphasized the importance of using a diligent, validated, and reproducible, and cost-effective methodology for curation by e-science communities over the ‘Grid:

“The digital data deluge will have profound repercussions for the infrastructure of research and beyond. Data from a wide variety of new and existing sources will need to be annotated with metadata, then archived and curated so that both the data and the programmes used to transform the data can be reproduced for use in the future. The data represent a new foundation for new research, science, knowledge and discovery”

— JISC Senior Management Briefing Paper, The Data Deluge (2004)

 

As she states proper data and content curation is important for:

  • Post-analysis
  • Data and research result reuse for new research
  • Validation
  • Preservation of data in newer formats to prolong life-cycle of research results

However she laments the lack of

  • Funding for such efforts
  • Training
  • Organizational support
  • Monitoring
  • Established procedures

 

Tatiana Aders wrote a nice article based on an interview with Microsoft’s Robert Scoble, where he emphasized the need for curation in a world where “Twitter is the replacement of the Associated Press Wire Machine” and new technologic platforms are knocking out old platforms at a rapid pace. In addition he notes that curation is also a social art form where primary concerns are to understand an audience and a niche.

Indeed, part of the reason the need for curation is unmet, as writes Mark Carrigan, is the lack of appreciation by academics of the utility of tools such as Pinterest, Storify, and Pearl Trees to effectively communicate and build collaborative networks.

And teacher Nancy White, in her article Understanding Content Curation on her blog Innovations in Education, shows examples of how curation in an educational tool for students and teachers by demonstrating students need to CONTEXTUALIZE what the collect to add enhanced value, using higher mental processes such as:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

curating-tableA GREAT table about the differences between Collecting and Curating by Nancy White at http://d20innovation.d20blogs.org/2012/07/07/understanding-content-curation/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Massachusetts Medical School has aggregated some useful curation tools at http://esciencelibrary.umassmed.edu/data_curation

Although many tools are related to biocuration and building databases but the common idea is curating data with indexing, analyses, and contextual value to provide for an audience to generate NETWORKS OF NEW IDEAS.

See here for a curation of how networks fosters knowledge, by Erika Harrison on ScoopIt

(http://www.scoop.it/t/mobilizing-knowledge-through-complex-networks)

 

“Nowadays, any organization should employ network scientists/analysts who are able to map and analyze complex systems that are of importance to the organization (e.g. the organization itself, its activities, a country’s economic activities, transportation networks, research networks).”

Andrea Carafa insight from World Economic Forum New Champions 2012 “Power of Networks

 

Creating Content Curation Communities: Breaking Down the Silos!

 

An article by Dr. Dana Rotman “Facilitating Scientific Collaborations Through Content Curation Communities” highlights how scientific information resources, traditionally created and maintained by paid professionals, are being crowdsourced to professionals and nonprofessionals in which she termed “content curation communities”, consisting of professionals and nonprofessional volunteers who create, curate, and maintain the various scientific database tools we use such as Encyclopedia of Life, ChemSpider (for Slideshare see here), biowikipedia etc. Although very useful and openly available, these projects create their own challenges such as

  • information integration (various types of data and formats)
  • social integration (marginalized by scientific communities, no funding, no recognition)

The authors set forth some ways to overcome these challenges of the content curation community including:

  1. standardization in practices
  2. visualization to document contributions
  3. emphasizing role of information professionals in content curation communities
  4. maintaining quality control to increase respectability
  5. recognizing participation to professional communities
  6. proposing funding/national meeting – Data Intensive Collaboration in Science and Engineering Workshop

A few great presentations and papers from the 2012 DICOSE meeting are found below

Judith M. Brown, Robert Biddle, Stevenson Gossage, Jeff Wilson & Steven Greenspan. Collaboratively Analyzing Large Data Sets using Multitouch Surfaces. (PDF) NotesForBrown

 

Bill Howe, Cecilia Aragon, David Beck, Jeffrey P. Gardner, Ed Lazowska, Tanya McEwen. Supporting Data-Intensive Collaboration via Campus eScience Centers. (PDF) NotesForHowe

 

Kerk F. Kee & Larry D. Browning. Challenges of Scientist-Developers and Adopters of Existing Cyberinfrastructure Tools for Data-Intensive Collaboration, Computational Simulation, and Interdisciplinary Projects in Early e-Science in the U.S.. (PDF) NotesForKee

 

Ben Li. The mirages of big data. (PDF) NotesForLiReflectionsByBen

 

Betsy Rolland & Charlotte P. Lee. Post-Doctoral Researchers’ Use of Preexisting Data in Cancer Epidemiology Research. (PDF) NoteForRolland

 

Dana Rotman, Jennifer Preece, Derek Hansen & Kezia Procita. Facilitating scientific collaboration through content curation communities. (PDF) NotesForRotman

 

Nicholas M. Weber & Karen S. Baker. System Slack in Cyberinfrastructure Development: Mind the Gaps. (PDF) NotesForWeber

Indeed, the movement of Science 2.0 from Science 1.0 had originated because these “silos” had frustrated many scientists, resulting in changes in the area of publishing (Open Access) but also communication of protocols (online protocol sites and notebooks like OpenWetWare and BioProtocols Online) and data and material registries (CGAP and tumor banks). Some examples are given below.

Open Science Case Studies in Curation

1. Open Science Project from Digital Curation Center

This project looked at what motivates researchers to work in an open manner with regard to their data, results and protocols, and whether advantages are delivered by working in this way.

The case studies consider the benefits and barriers to using ‘open science’ methods, and were carried out between November 2009 and April 2010 and published in the report Open to All? Case studies of openness in research. The Appendices to the main report (pdf) include a literature review, a framework for characterizing openness, a list of examples, and the interview schedule and topics. Some of the case study participants kindly agreed to us publishing the transcripts. This zip archive contains transcripts of interviews with researchers in astronomy, bioinformatics, chemistry, and language technology.

 

see: Pennock, M. (2006). “Curating e-Science Data”. DCC Briefing Papers: Introduction to Curation. Edinburgh: Digital Curation Centre. Handle: 1842/3330. Available online: http://www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/briefing-papers/introduction-curation– See more at: http://www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/briefing-papers/introduction-curation/curating-e-science-data#sthash.RdkPNi9F.dpuf

 

2.      cBIO -cBio’s biological data curation group developed and operates using a methodology called CIMS, the Curation Information Management System. CIMS is a comprehensive curation and quality control process that efficiently extracts information from publications.

 

3. NIH Topic Maps – This website provides a database and web-based interface for searching and discovering the types of research awarded by the NIH. The database uses automated, computer generated categories from a statistical analysis known as topic modeling.

 

4. SciKnowMine (USC)- We propose to create a framework to support biocuration called SciKnowMine (after ‘Scientific Knowledge Mine’), cyberinfrastructure that supports biocuration through the automated mining of text, images, and other amenable media at the scale of the entire literature.

 

  1. OpenWetWareOpenWetWare is an effort to promote the sharing of information, know-how, and wisdom among researchers and groups who are working in biology & biological engineering. Learn more about us.   If you would like edit access, would be interested in helping out, or want your lab website hosted on OpenWetWare, pleasejoin us. OpenWetWare is managed by the BioBricks Foundation. They also have a wiki about Science 2.0.

6. LabTrove: a lightweight, web based, laboratory “blog” as a route towards a marked up record of work in a bioscience research laboratory. Authors in PLOS One article, from University of Southampton, report the development of an open, scientific lab notebook using a blogging strategy to share information.

7. OpenScience ProjectThe OpenScience project is dedicated to writing and releasing free and Open Source scientific software. We are a group of scientists, mathematicians and engineers who want to encourage a collaborative environment in which science can be pursued by anyone who is inspired to discover something new about the natural world.

8. Open Science Grid is a multi-disciplinary partnership to federate local, regional, community and national cyberinfrastructures to meet the needs of research and academic communities at all scales.

 

9. Some ongoing biomedical knowledge (curation) projects at ISI

IICurate
This project is concerned with developing a curation and documentation system for information integration in collaboration with the II Group at ISI as part of the BIRN.

BioScholar
It’s primary purpose is to provide software for experimental biomedical scientists that would permit a single scientific worker (at the level of a graduate student or postdoctoral worker) to design, construct and manage a shared knowledge repository for a research group derived on a local store of PDF files. This project is funded by NIGMS from 2008-2012 ( RO1-GM083871).

10. Tools useful for scientific content curation

 

Research Analytic and Curation Tools from University of Queensland

 

Thomson Reuters information curation services for pharma industry

 

Microblogs as a way to communicate information about HPV infection among clinicians and patients; use of Chinese microblog SinaWeibo as a communication tool

 

VIVO for scientific communities– In order to connect this information about research activities across institutions and make it available to others, taking into account smaller players in the research landscape and addressing their need for specific information (for example, by proving non-conventional research objects), the open source software VIVO that provides research information as linked open data (LOD) is used in many countries.  So-called VIVO harvesters collect research information that is freely available on the web, and convert the data collected in conformity with LOD standards. The VIVO ontology builds on prevalent LOD namespaces and, depending on the needs of the specialist community concerned, can be expanded.

 

 

11. Examples of scientific curation in different areas of Science/Pharma/Biotech/Education

 

From Science 2.0 to Pharma 3.0 Q&A with Hervé Basset

http://digimind.com/blog/experts/pharma-3-0/

Hervé Basset, specialist librarian in the pharmaceutical industry and owner of the blog “Science Intelligence“, to talk about the inspiration behind his recent book  entitled “From Science 2.0 to Pharma 3.0″, published by Chandos Publishing and available on Amazon and how health care companies need a social media strategy to communicate and convince the health-care consumer, not just the practicioner.

 

Thomson Reuters and NuMedii Launch Ground-Breaking Initiative to Identify Drugs for Repurposing. Companies leverage content, Big Data analytics and expertise to improve success of drug discovery

 

Content Curation as a Context for Teaching and Learning in Science

 

#OZeLIVE Feb2014

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty-ugUA4az0

Creative Commons license

 

DigCCur: A graduate level program initiated by University of North Carolina to instruct the future digital curators in science and other subjects

 

Syracuse University offering a program in eScience and digital curation

 

Curation Tips from TED talks and tech experts

Steven Rosenbaum from Curation Nation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpncJd1v1k4

 

Pawan Deshpande form Curata on how content curation communities evolve and what makes a good content curation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QENhIU9YZyA

 

How the Internet of Things is Promoting the Curation Effort

Update by Stephen J. Williams, PhD 3/01/19

Up till now, curation efforts like wikis (Wikipedia, Wikimedicine, Wormbase, GenBank, etc.) have been supported by a largely voluntary army of citizens, scientists, and data enthusiasts.  I am sure all have seen the requests for donations to help keep Wikipedia and its other related projects up and running.  One of the obscure sister projects of Wikipedia, Wikidata, wants to curate and represent all information in such a way in which both machines, computers, and humans can converse in.  About an army of 4 million have Wiki entries and maintain these databases.

Enter the Age of the Personal Digital Assistants (Hellooo Alexa!)

In a March 2019 WIRED article “Encyclopedia Automata: Where Alexa Gets Its Information”  senior WIRED writer Tom Simonite reports on the need for new types of data structure as well as how curated databases are so important for the new fields of AI as well as enabling personal digital assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant decipher meaning of the user.

As Mr. Simonite noted, many of our libraries of knowledge are encoded in an “ancient technology largely opaque to machines-prose.”   Search engines like Google do not have a problem with a question asked in prose as they just have to find relevant links to pages. Yet this is a problem for Google Assistant, for instance, as machines can’t quickly extract meaning from the internet’s mess of “predicates, complements, sentences, and paragraphs. It requires a guide.”

Enter Wikidata.  According to founder Denny Vrandecic,

Language depends on knowing a lot of common sense, which computers don’t have access to

A wikidata entry (of which there are about 60 million) codes every concept and item with a numeric code, the QID code number. These codes are integrated with tags (like tags you use on Twitter as handles or tags in WordPress used for Search Engine Optimization) so computers can identify patterns of recognition between these codes.

Now human entry into these databases are critical as we add new facts and in particular meaning to each of these items.  Else, machines have problems deciphering our meaning like Apple’s Siri, where they had complained of dumb algorithms to interpret requests.

The knowledge of future machines could be shaped by you and me, not just tech companies and PhDs.

But this effort needs money

Wikimedia’s executive director, Katherine Maher, had prodded and cajoled these megacorporations for tapping the free resources of Wiki’s.  In response, Amazon and Facebook had donated millions for the Wikimedia projects.  Google recently gave 3.1 million USD$ in donations.

 

Future postings on the relevance and application of scientific curation will include:

Using Scientific Content Curation as a Method for Validation and Biocuration

 

Using Scientific Content Curation as a Method for Open Innovation

 

Other posts on this site related to Content Curation and Methodology include:

The growing importance of content curation

Data Curation is for Big Data what Data Integration is for Small Data

6 Steps to More Effective Content Curation

Stem Cells and Cardiac Repair: Content Curation & Scientific Reporting

Cancer Research: Curations and Reporting

Cardiovascular Diseases and Pharmacological Therapy: Curations

Cardiovascular Original Research: Cases in Methodology Design for Content Co-Curation The Art of Scientific & Medical Curation

Exploring the Impact of Content Curation on Business Goals in 2013

Power of Analogy: Curation in Music, Music Critique as a Curation and Curation of Medical Research Findings – A Comparison

conceived: NEW Definition for Co-Curation in Medical Research

The Young Surgeon and The Retired Pathologist: On Science, Medicine and HealthCare Policy – The Best Writers Among the WRITERS

Reconstructed Science Communication for Open Access Online Scientific Curation

 

 

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PCCI’s 7th Annual Roundtable “Crowdfunding for Life Sciences: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters?”

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

http://www.rxpcci.com/meetings.htm

Monday, May 12 2014 Embassy Suites Hotel, Chesterbrook PA 6:00 -9:30 PM

Pharmaceutical Consulting Consortium International Inc. presents their 7th annual Roundtable on Crowdfunding for the Life Sciences and how this funding mechanism applies to early stage life science companies and changes the funding landscape. The conference will examine the types of crowdfunding out there and attempts to answer many questions including:

  • Which one is right for which new companies at which stage of the funding process?
  • And how will choosing the right or wrong one influence follow-on funders and funding rounds?
  • Will the advent of crowdfunding speed up the investment process?
  • Will it really bridge the yawning “valley of death”?

The panel is made up of notables and practitioners who will be called upon to deal with the pros and cons of crowdfunding in real life and let them discuss how all this is likely to apply to life science entrepreneurs and investors.

The panel includes:

  1. Mark Roderick, Attorney Flaster/Greenberg PC (Moderator)
  2. Valerie Gaydos, President, Capital Growth (represents angel/venture community)
  3. Samuel Wertheimer, Chief Investment Officer, Poliwogg Darrick Mix
  4. Duane Morris, LLP (journalist who covers crowdfunding

Register by clicking on www.rxpcci.com and following directions The event will be webcast.

Leaders in Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence had recently launched a new, real-time based methodology for meeting coverage using social media as a platform to foster discussion and commentary.

This methodology is described in the following post REAL TIME Cancer Conference Coverage: A Novel Methodology for Authentic Reporting on Presentations and Discussions launched via Twitter.com @ The 2nd ANNUAL Sachs Cancer Bio Partnering & Investment Forum in Drug Development, 19th March 2014 • New York Academy of Sciences • USA

This new method was successfully used and curated at the 2nd Annual Sachs Cancer Bio Partnering &Investment Forum at the New York Academy of Sciences and will be featured at the forthcoming Sachs Global Conferences in 2014 and 2015.

Related articles on this site include:

conceived: NEW Definition for Co-Curation in Medical Research

Cancer Biology and Genomics for Disease Diagnosis, Volume One Pre-ePub Announcement

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as Biomarkers in Cancer Detection: • Alnion Ranked #1 in “Top 10 Israeli medical advances to watch in 2014”.

Investing and inventing: Is the Tango of Mars and Venus Still on

SACHS Associates, London – Planning Forthcoming Conferences: 2014 – 2015

 

 

 

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Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

Mark Levin’s business is biotechnology, so it’s no surprise he knew zilch about a tech company called LinkedIn as recently as two years ago. But these days Levin sounds like he can barely do his job without it.

“I’m not the most social media savvy person. I haven’t used a lot of these tools at all,” Levin says, referring to blogs and Twitter. “But I’ll never forget, the first message I got from LinkedIn was an e-mail from what looked like someone called link-a-din. I remember asking myself about Mr. Link-a-din. I was trying to figure out ‘who the hell is this person?’”

Levin, a founding partner of Boston-based Third Rock Ventures and one of the more prominent biotech venture capitalists in the U.S., was a LinkedIn Luddite two years ago. To some extent, he still looks like one: his profile contains no photo, no professional biography, and only tidbits of information posted about his employment history. But appearances can be deceiving. He says he has amassed more than 5,000 connections, and the number keeps growing daily. He says he spends at least a half an hour per day on the site, sifting through more than 100 incoming connection requests a week, and firing off dozens more requests to people he wants to get to know. LinkedIn’s algorithms have gotten to know his tendencies so well, the site is constantly suggesting new people in biotech and pharma companies that he might want to meet. He often does.

Mark Levin of Third Rock Ventures

Levin became so obsessive at one point this year that LinkedIn temporarily shut down his account, until he called the company and assured them he’s a real person using the site for business. Just during a 15-minute phone interview with me on Friday, Levin said he got three new connection requests. One was from an MD that caught his eye immediately.

“About 18 months ago or so, I realized that is an extraordinary way to be in contact with people,” Levin says. “Our biggest challenge is to find great people. We don’t know everybody. And you can find a lot of great people here.”

While many in the tech press mock LinkedIn as an oh-so-boring compiler of mere resumes, it has become the indispensable online hub for networking in life sciences—an industry where relationships make the world go round. LinkedIn has a relatively puny user base of 187 million members around the world, compared to Facebook’s 1 billion, and there’s no question people spend way more time engaging with Mark Zuckerberg’s social network. But it’s also true there’s no question which site matters more to the life sciences. LinkedIn is the singular site for finding people in biotech, whether they are biologists, chemists, toxicologists, admin assistants, business development people, finance pros, or CEOs. There were more than 513,000 people in the LinkedIn database who self-identify as members of the “biotechnology” or “pharmaceutical” industry when I searched on those keywords Friday afternoon.

For journalists like me, this is an everyday reporting tool with almost as much value as Twitter, and possibly more. Even though I only use the basic free version of the site, it’s become an awesome clearinghouse of sources that I call on for help with scoops and analysis. I can slice and dice my network of 2,900 contacts by industry, title, location and more. It’s become a treasure trove of personal e-mails for sources, which I never have to manually update when people leave for new jobs, as they often do. It’s even turned into a place where people read a lot of my stories and the resource where I sometimes find new stories to pursue. In fact, I got the idea for this story by noticing that Levin and I have more than 500 connections in common.

for different reasons, but he raves all the same. Nothing great in biotech can happen without a magical mix of an idea, technology, people, and money.

“Our No. 1 goal in life is to know the best people in the industry who are going to make a difference in our companies,” Levin says. “I don’t remember when it exactly became clear, but it was clear to me that a lot of people were using it to stay in touch. We’ve realized it’s an extraordinary recruiting tool. The more I’ve spent time there, the more aggressive I have gotten.”

Levin isn’t kidding about the emphasis on recruiting at Third Rock, which has a “recruiting partner” in Craig Greaves, a former recruiter at Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) and Cubist Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: CBST). Levin says all this connecting and re-connecting sometimes leads somewhere fruitful, sometimes not, just like with all other recruiting techniques.

But Levin and his partner at Third Rock aren’t just fiddling around making random contacts, they are being systematic about the connections they form. Once he forms a connection on LinkedIn, he said he sends the new contact a short follow-up note to see what’s new in their lives or careers. He then e-mails his fellow partners to see if any of them know the person. Third Rock uses a premium version of LinkedIn, which has an application that automatically downloads all of Levin’s new contacts into a central database so that all members of the firm can see the person’s profile, Greaves says.

Sometimes an in-person meeting gets scheduled to follow up right away to see if there might be some kind of potential for a match at a Third Rock company. Often Third Rock uses the site for targeted searches, like, say, for an antibody engineer, Greaves says. Other times, it’s just to get acquainted with people who aren’t looking for work now, but might be able to join a startup, consult, or form a valuable partnership with a Third Rock company sometime later, he says.

“We are laying the groundwork and building a network for the long term,” Greaves says.

No doubt, LinkedIn has its potential for misuse just like any other technology, and users need to think about how to use it properly. Back when the site was formed in 2003, people were urged to connect only with people they knew well, because otherwise people might think you were tainted if a shady operator ended up appearing in your network. I think that stigma has largely gone away, because a connection is perceived now as really just like trading business cards, and not an endorsement or recommendation. People have also long worried about whether bosses might be able to use it to spy on their workers, and suspect whether they were getting restless, looking for a new job. I used to leave my entire connections list accessible on the web for anyone who connected with me, until I started connecting with people I don’t really know, and realized some may have ulterior motives that might interfere with my ability to break news.

There are plenty of areas on the site that leave something to be desired. LinkedIn Groups have always struck me as spammy, so I’ve unsubscribed to most of them. The site can be annoying with its constant urges to “update your profile” or “add skills to your profile” or now to “endorse” various people in your network. The whole site appears to be trying really hard to keep people glued to it like Facebook, by constantly updating their status and checking other people’s employment status, which can be annoying and a waste of time.

But the most irritating thing about LinkedIn, to me anyway, is that even though it has achieved critical mass, many C-suite executives and venture capitalists still resist signing up. For example, when I searched on the 40 names of “young and proven” biotech venture capitalists listed in this column two weeks ago, only 24 of the 40 (60 percent) showed up in the LinkedIn database.

I find it baffling that so many senior people in the industry still resist taking advantage of this resource, and have to wonder if they have some better idea on how to network. There’s no getting around the importance of networking. Biotech is a geographically far-flung industry, with hundreds of companies and vendors, who all need to work together in trusting relationships to keep the whole enterprise afloat.

Industry conferences have always been, and still remain, the gold standard way of networking. But those events take time and money, and nobody can do it every day of the week. LinkedIn is becoming the indispensable resource that glues an entire industry together, and helps people make connections between people and ideas and opportunities that would otherwise never be made. While biotech could certainly use a few more groundbreaking advances to make the drug development process more efficient, one of the fastest-growing new tools for the industry is a free resource just a click away on the Web.

Luke Timmerman is the National Biotech Editor of Xconomy. E-mail him at

ltimmerman@xconomy.com 

SOURCE:

 

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