EyeonFDA Blog: Why FDA Needs to Be Clear About Social Media

Posted in Social Media

Mark Senak, author of the EyeonFDA blog and a life sciences/healthcare social media enthusiast, wrote a fantastic piece yesterday that provides cogent ideas and insights into the need for FDA to expeditiously craft guidance on the use of social media in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

Here are the facts. First, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, social media has fundamentally changed the way in which we interact with one another and ushered in a new era of communication. Unlike the old, so-called “broadcast communication method”—information is continuously streamed from a static source, websites, television, radio etc, to perspective customers and stakeholders—the new paradigm requires that communications must be personal, portable and participatory for effective messaging. Second, the primary source of information sought by most persons who use the Internet is healthcare and medical information. While much of the content is accurate, some is not; which may put persons seeking medical information at great risk. In other words, social media is not just about marketing and medical education; it is also about preserving public health.

The agency has historically been unable to issue guidance on new forms of communication. For example, FDA held its first public meeting in 1996 on Internet use by life sciences and healthcare companies. Sadly, the agency has yet to issue any official guidance on this topic. In late 2009, FDA held another public meeting and promised that draft guidance on the internet and social media would be forthcoming by the end of 2010. Unfortunately the guidance did not materialize in 2010 and it has been delayed twice in 2011. Recently, the agency publicly reaffirmed its commitment to issuing the guidance but without a specific timetable for its release. Consequently, it is anyone’s guess when or if the guidance will be released.

Unlike many, I do not believe that FDA guidance on the Internet and social media is absolutely necessary. However, I will admit that issuance of said guidance will provide drug and healthcare companies with some of the assurances that they need in order to actively use social media to engage patients, physicians and other stakeholders. For this reason alone, FDA ought to issue the guidance (which is never perfect and always a work in progress) and end the social media stalemate that currently exists. Failure to do so may have serious consequences on the public health of many Americans.

Hat tip to Mark!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

 

How to Improve Employment Opportunities for PhD-Trained LIfe Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I recently wrote an article that discusses nontraditional career options for PhD life scientists and ideas about how more jobs can be created for these individuals in the the life sciences industry.  The article entitled Nontraditional Career Options for PhD Life Scientists appeared in the May issue of Life Science Leader (LSL). I have been writing for LSL , a B2B publication for life sciences executives and scientists, since its launch two years ago.

Bit and pieces of the article have appeared in various blog posts that I have written over the past few years.  I hear that the article has been well received! 

Just sayin’….

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Reading!!!!!

Using Social Media Tools to Improve Information Flow At Scientific and Medical Meetings

Posted in Social Media

Science and medical conference season is in full swing and tens of thousands of persons are attending scientific and medical meeting all over the US. While social media is no longer a new “thing” only a few scientific and medical societies understand its power and ways in which it may be harnessed to improve the experiences of their members who attend their national meetings. 

At most of the scientific conferences that I attend (usually four to fiver per year), people still lug around and are tethered to printed program guides. Further there is no easily accessible electronic repository (aside from the conference website) or guide that conference attendees can use to optimize time management and see “everything” that they want to at the meeting. Unfortunately, most scientific and medical conferences are still being run the same way that they have been for the past 30 years despite improvements to internet access and bandwidth, the advent of social media and the recent explosion of mobile devices and apps.

Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, rather than publicly disseminating what is being reported at these meetings, conference attendees and the lay public must rely on carefully orchestrated press releases (chosen in advance by the organizing committees of the meetings) for information and late-breaking news from the events. This is so web 1.0 that it is almost laughable.

Until last week, I thought that I was the only person who felt this way about social media and medical and scientific congresses. Imagine my surprise when no fewer than three others social media enthusiasts including Mark Senak, author of the EyeonFDA blog, Brian Reid, author of the WCG Common Sense Blog and Sally Church, author of the Pharma Strategy Blog, last week authored posts on the topic! It is always refreshing to find like-minded individuals to confirm that you are not alone!

Unfortunately, many scientific and medical societies like to tightly control information flow, limit access to it and, not surprisingly, are quite suspicious of social media. This is because the use of social media decreases the ability of these societies and their journals to control their messaging and content dissemination. With this in mind, is it any wonder why American scientific and medical literacy is pretty much in the “toilet?”  While the lay public may not be able to understand peer-reviewed scientific and medical publications, they have grown accustomed to gathering information on Facebook, Twitter and most importantly blogs. Why not use these vehicles to better inform the public about scientific or medical breakthroughs that have been validated and generally regarded as authentic?

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. And if leveraged correctly, it can be an extremely effective educational tool. I think that it is time for scientific and medical societies to consider using social media at their annual meetings. A failure to do so may have negative consequences for future membership in these societies and also reduce their effectiveness as purveyors of timely and accurate scientific and medical information!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Erasing Your Digital Past: Reputation Management Tools

Posted in Social Media

I previously posted a piece about the growing need to manage the personal information about oneself on the Web. The amount of information that persons willingly (in many cases) provide about themselves without thinking is enormous. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that marketers, prospective employers, suitors and even criminals and stalkers can find information and use it whether or not the information correct or not. Unfortunately, the bad news is that once digital information makes it way onto the web, it is likely to remain there into perpetuity and in some cases can never be removed! According to an article in today’s NY Times:

“Snoops who take the time to troll further online may also find in blog posts or Facebook comments evidence of your political views, health challenges, office tribulations and party indiscretions, any of which could hurt your chances of admission to school, getting or keeping a job or landing a date. Many privacy experts worry that companies will use this data against users, perhaps to deny insurance coverage or assign a higher interest rate on a loan.”

Unfortunately, many web users are beginning to realize—the hard way—that providing personal information while building a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter profile may not have been such a great idea after all. To that end, reputation management or the ability to remove incorrect or unflattering information from the web has been transformed into a business opportunity for a number of new companies. In the past, the best way to determine the amount of personal information about a person on the web was to key a person’s name into a search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing.

For those of you who regularly “search yourselves” (it is a very smart thing to do), you know that it takes an inordinate amount of  time to follow each and every one of the links that come up on search results pages. Because of this, many people simply search the first two or three pages of each search. The bad news is that some of the most “juicy tidbits” about a person often do not appear on the first few search pages (mainly because they are not optimized for search) Not to worry, Spokeo.com—a personal information aggregation site that bills itself as “Not your grandma’s white pages”—can quickly find a person’s vital information including age, home value, marital status, phone number, photos and even a home address. 

After entering my name into the Spokeo’s search box (located on the company’s homepage) I pressed enter and viola the location of four persons who shared my name were retrieved. I selected the appropriate person (the one who lives in New Jersey), and as billed, the search results included my name, my address, home phone, the estimated value of my home and even my wife’s first name (she has a different last name)!  The dat were presented in a convenient Web 2.0-lkie profile box. The search that I conducted on me was free. However, for an additional fee I can get a full report from Spokeo that includes additional information about my age, e-mail address, income, hobbies, photos, videos, and even my lifestyle (?). 

While this is pretty shocking and creepy (especially if you don’t want people to find you), the unfortunate thing is that most of the information that the Spokeo search found was likely willingly provided by me while registering or signing up for things at various shopping and social media websites. To wit, there is a lot of information out there on the web about many unsuspecting persons and finding it can be easily accomplished using tools like Spokeo.

In my previous post, I mentioned Reputation.com, a start-up that offers a paid service to clients who want to expunge inaccurate or damaging information about them from the web. Like Reputation .com Abine offers a personal service  called Delete Me but takes the personal data search and privacy paradigm a step further. Abine charges $99 a year for quarterly reports detailing the information available about you online. Further, the company has developed a suite of  personal privacy software designed to “allow regular people to regain control over their personal information while continuing to browse, interact and shop online.”

Its main software product is a web browser add-on called Privacy Suite that according to a blurb on the Abine website “combines disparate privacy tools into a comprehensive privacy system. By putting all the controls in one place, the Abine plug-in makes it easier to control the amount of personal information being collected and stored about you online. Some features include:

  • Stopping tracking by hundreds of advertising networks and websites
  • Manage all cookies (regular & Flash) and trackers in one place.
  • Easily create distinct online accounts for different uses
  • Pre-fill registration forms with limited subsets of information
  • Shield your real info with disposable emails and phone numbers

So, if you don’t have the time or cannot afford the $400 per year to use Abine’s Delete Me service or its Privacy Suite, you can always try to manage your online reputation by yourself by routinely Googling yourself and manually removing all inappropriate or compromising information about you. Sometimes, you may have to negotiate (or pay) bloggers or data brokers—companies that buys data from other companies and then sells it to companies that collect it— to remove a post or a name from people database sites like 123people.com, MyLife.com, Spokeo, US Search, WhitePages and Peoplefinder.com. If a blogger or data broker refuses to comply with a removal request, one privacy consultant suggests “creating more good content about yourself, like starting a LinkedIn profile and a personal blog, to push down the bad to the third or fourth search results screen where few people bother to look. If the content is defamatory — both false and damaging — or otherwise illegal, hire a lawyer.”

Typically deleted information should drop out of search engine sites with a few weeks. If it doesn’t, you can request for it to be removed. For example, Google offers instructions to accomplish this, but Goggle rarely removed items or content that is not illegal unless the owner of the website where the material is published allows it. Also, despite your best efforts, it may not be possible, in some cases to completely expunge all offensive or damaging online information from the web; you will just have to learn to live with it! Having said that, it may be a good idea to think twice before your provide too much personal information while entering a contest to win a free iPad or free service, joining multiple online shopping site or creating a profile on a social networking site unless the company’s privacy policy is easy to read and understand. 

While most smaller online networking sites like BioCrowd will not sell or share a members personal information to online data brokers or marketing companies, some of the larger ones will allow third parties to access their databases for the right price!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (be careful out there)

 

Online Networking Sites Have Changed the Job Seeking Paradigm

Posted in Social Media

Before the advent of social media, the only way job candidates could communicate to a hiring manager why they—rather than other applicants—were the right fit for a job was through a face-to-face interview. Conventional wisdom suggests that a skilled candidate who can also demonstrate a legitimate enthusiasm for a position is generally the applicant who wins out. However, the online world, specifically the social web, has changed all that.

Numerous studies suggest that over 70% of hiring managers screen prospective job applicants by trolling social networking sites like BioCrowd, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While some hiring managers do this to make sure that a potential new hire hasn’t done anything untoward or unseemly, the plethora of blogs, forums, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds enable them to get to know job applicants better than ever before. In some cases, a well-crafted and carefully managed Facebook or LinkedIn profile or blog can make the difference between a new job and unemployment.

This is not to say that jobseekers are required to have Facebook or LinkedIn page or Twitter feed to get hired. But, if executed correctly, they can help. That said, there are certain cardinal rules that must be followed to not run afoul of prospective new employers. These include:

  1. No swearing or use of foul language
  2. Do not post party or sexually-explicit photos
  3. Don’t say bad things about past employers or current co-workers
  4. Keep posts and status updates to a minimum and make sure that they are posted before or after working hours
  5. Avoid posting opinions about religion, sexual orientation and politics

Also, it is a good idea to Google yourself from time to time to see what the search results look like. Most employers routinely Google job applicants to acquire more information about prospective hires. As many social media gurus like to say “Google never forgets.”

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

 

The Job Search: Are Business Cards Necessary?

Posted in BioJobBuzz

What is the real purpose of a business card? Everyone knows that they ought to have one but do they really help to generate business or aid in a job search? According to the “experts”, a business card is an integral part of any corporate or personal marketing plan (that’s right it is okay to market yourself). Of course, you can’t expect a business card to tell the whole story about you or your company. That said, the real purpose of a business card is to present a professional image or impression so that people will remember who you are after they meet you.
It goes without saying that a business card can make or break a client’s first impression of you or your company. In fact, it is likely that this little card makes as much of an impression as your personal appearance, the clothes you wear or the blackberry model that you carry! With this in mind, I offer the following suggestions regarding creation of business cards for personal or corporate use.

Information On the Card

You MUST include your name, title, company name, address, phone number (or numbers, if you want to include your cell), e-mail and Web site. After all, if someone wants to contact you after receiving your card, you contact information better be on it!

Business Card Style

Choose a card style that’s appropriate for your business, industry or personal style.. When crafting a design, start with the style that best supports the business image you wish to project. To help you get started, here are five different card styles for you to consider:

Basic cards. A basic card is usually printed in black ink on plain white or cream stock.This is a good style to choose when utility is all you need. It’s a no-nonsense approach that can appeal to clients and prospects who would not be impressed by fancy design features-the people who want "just the facts, ma’am." The design is simple, and the information is clear and concise.

Picture cards. Having your face on your card-whether it’s a photograph, a drawing or a caricature-helps a contact remember you the next time he or she sees you. Images representing a product or service, or a benefit your business provides, can help you communicate your business better than dozens of words. A splash of color (rather than just black and white) is often helpful on a picture card, too.

Tactile cards. Some cards are distinguished not so much by how they look as by how they feel. They may use nonstandard materials, such as metal or wood, or have unusual shapes, edges, folds or embossing. Tactile cards tend to be considerably more expensive than regular cards because they use nonstandard production processes such as die cuts. But for some businesses, this more unusual card may be worth the price.

Multipurpose cards. A card can do more than promote your name and business-it can also serve as a discount coupon, an appointment reminder or some other function. It may also provide valuable information that the average person may need. For example, a hotel may include a map on the back of its card for any guests who are walking around the local area. A card of any type can be made multipurpose by adding any of these types of features.

Outside-the-box cards. A wildly original, fanciful or extravagant presentation can draw extra attention. Creativity knows no bounds-except the amount of money you wish to spend. Some examples are cards made of chocolate or that folded out into a miniature box to keep small items in.

Printing the Cards

Once you’ve settled on a basic idea for your business card, it’s time to head to the printer. There are four primary considerations when ordering business cards:

Weight. Most business cards are printed on 80-pound cover stock.

Finish. Of the three available-smooth, linen and laid-the smooth finish is the most popular.

Color. Right now, two-color cards predominate. If you’re selecting from a catalog, there are between five and 15 standard colors to choose from. If you have another ink color in mind, your printer can show you a Pantone Matching System book, which includes every shade under the sun.

Quantity. It generally pays to print more cards rather than fewer, because the printer’s cost is primarily in the setup.

Using Your Business Cards

After you have made all of the above mentioned decisions and identified a printer who will print the cards as cheaply as possible, your next task is to give your card to as many people as you can! A good way to promote business card usage is to leave the original box that your cards came in, in a highly visible location. Nobody likes spending money for nothing!

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pharma Edges Closer to Using Social Media for Non-Promotional Purposes

Posted in Social Media

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and MedTrust Online, an online oncology information site announced the development of CancerTrials App, the first free geo-locating oncology clinical trials application for the Apple iPhone and iPad platforms.

According to a press release, oncologists can easily find and share information about experimental therapies in clinical trials with their patients. CancerTrials App provides a quick search menu based on 12 common cancers and more advanced features that refine searches based on criteria such as gender, age, trial status and more. Once relevant clinical trials are found, results can be mapped relative to the location of the iPhone or iPad running the application. These features should help oncologists connect patients to appropriate regional and local clinical trials for which they may be eligible. Obviously, the app will help to bolster clinical trial enrollment in the oncology space.

While not a full blow geo-based social media platform like FourSquare,the Cancer Trials app is a step in the right direction and demonstrates the power of mobile medical applications and the potential of social media to improve clinical drug development. 

CancerTrials App for the iPhone and iPad is the first release of the application that connects to MedTrust Online’s proprietary databases of oncology information. Other apps for RIM’s BlackBerry and Google’s Android operating systems will be released over the next several months.

Hat tip to GSK which has boldly gone where no other pharma company has gone before!

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!

 

Mining Prescription Drug User Data

Posted in Career Advice

I suspect that a majority of BioJobBlog readers have at one time or another been prescribed a drug to treat a particular medical condition or ailment. Like most of you, I assumed that my prescription information and history was private and that only healthcare professionals were privy to it. However, after reading an article in this Sunday’s NY Times, I learned how wrong I was! Much to my dismay,  I learned that prescription information including the name and dosage of a drug, the name and address of the physician who prescribed as well as a patient’s address and social security number is a commodity that is regularly bought and sold usually with a patients’ knowledge or permission. And apparently, this practice is perfectly legal as long as patient’s names are removed or encrypted before the information is sold, typically to drug manufacturers.

Unfortunately, privacy experts and information technology specialists contend that it isn’t difficult to match names, addresses, and social security numbers to reconstruct information that had supposedly been rendered anonymous. To make matters worse, until very recently, federal patient privacy and data security rules were loosely enforced and frequently abused by medical marketers, advertisers, drug manufacturers and retail pharmacies. Finally, re-identifying a patient’s prescription drug information and history provides drug makers with a powerful tool to target and market drugs to specific patient populations.

Tracking prescriptions and mining prescription data is not new—it has been big business for many decades. The major players in the drug mining business are companies like IMS Health, Verispan and CVS Caremark. Also, large discount pharmacy retailers like Walgreens and Target engage in this practice and they all sell their prescription information data to interested parties. Prescription drug data-mining companies say that their services are valuable and warranted because gathering and analyzing information from tens of thousands of patients helps drug manufacturers to identify trends and potential safety and tolerability issues with prescription drugs. Nevertheless, despite assertions that prescription drug data are anonymous when it is sold, class action and private lawsuits alleging this not to be the case have been filed against some of the major players including Walgreens, IMS Health and CVS Caremark. While this is troubling, loopholes in the current prescription drug data mining regulations allow pharmacy companies like Walgreens and others to accept money from drug manufacturers to mail advice and reminders to customers to take their medications without first obtaining their permission. The loopholes also allow drug makers to send customers’ promotional information and materials about drugs other than the ones that they are already taking.

Under the Obama Administration’s $19 billion healthcare stimulus package, selling prescription drug data to drug makers will still be allowed (only if patient’s names are removed). Also, subsidized marketing by drug makers will be allowed to continue but companies will no longer be able to promote drugs other than those the customer already buys. While the new legislation allows data mining and the sale of prescription drug information to continue, its primary goal is to tighten and insure patient privacy so that personal prescription drug history and information can no longer be used to exploit the buying habits and behaviors of individual American consumers.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

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Search Engines for Life Scientists

Posted in BioBusiness

Over the past few years, a number of search engines designed for the life sciences have appeared. I thought it might be informative for BioJobBlog readers to list some of the more popular ones and how they are used. I want to warn you in advance that this is not a comprehensive list. That said, if I’ve inadvertently omitted your favorite search engine, please feel free contact me or simply list it in the comments section for this post.

Scirus

Searches over 450 million scientific items, and allows researchers to search for not only journal content but also scientists’ homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional repository and website information. This site is owned and managed by Elsevier.

Novoseek

Search engine for biomedical literature in medline, grants and full text publications that will help you to: 1) retrieve meaningful documents related to your search, 2) narrow your search to find results in the relevant scientific journals and 3) identify the most relevant biomedical concepts for your query.

Mednar

Mednar is a free, publicly available medical research run by Deep Web Technologies.

Valdo 

A search engine that caters to all branches of life sciences. VADLO allows users to search within five categories: Protocols, Online Tools, Seminars, Databases and Software.

Life Sciences Search Engine

A customized search engine developed for the benefit of researchers in life science.

ScienceHack

A unique video search engine for science videos.

Intute

Formerly known as BIOME, Intute is a health and life sciences search engine for disease research.

BioScience Website

BioScience Website’s mission is to organize the world’s biological science information and make it universally accessible and useful by utilizing the skyrocketing success of the World Wide Web.

BioNotebook 

A biology search engine run by the Pasteur Institute.

NextBio 

A search engine that enables life science researchers to search, discover, and share knowledge locked within public and proprietary data.

BioPages

Australian web portal and life sciences search engine.

Science Bucket

Specialized search engine that filters biology sites.

GoPubMed

Knowledge-based search engine for biomedical texts. It allows users to identify experts in the biomedical field.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Searching!!!!!!!!

 

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How to Become a Medical Science Liaison

Posted in BioJobBuzz

The medical  science  liaison  (MSL) professional focuses on providing scientific and educational  support  and collaboration between healthcare stakeholders like physicians, patients and and  bipharmaceutical companies.

 According to Dr. Samuel Dyer, CEO of MSL WORLD the MSL role has evolved from originally being a support to sales reps to the forefront of pharmaceutical companies serving as the primary contact with KOLs, prescribers, and other Health Care Providers. 

PhDs have faced tremendous entry barriers to the MSL career for two major reasons. First, most PhDs lack clinical (or patient care) experience that are inherent in PharmD and MD training programs. Most PhD research projects deal with cells and mice — considered preclinical by industry standards. Second, and perhaps more insidious, is the perception that "PhDs lack people skills". People conjure stereotypes of scientists in white lab coats as eccentric, antisocial or lacking in social graces. Unfortunately, this perception also exists within biopharma, and PhDs aiming for alternative careers beyond the bench have to be prepared to "explain themselves".

PhDs who want to become a MSL can maximize their chances of breaking into this highly competitive career by doing the following:

Understand the mindset of MSL hiring managers

The biggest complaint I’ve heard over the years of coaching and mentoring aspiring MSLs is "they want MSL experience, but I can’t get that unless I become a MSL". I’ve heard this so many times that I titled my MSL career book, "All MSLs Started with No MSL Experience!"  This catch-22 situation has evolved because many entry level MSL candidates don’t possess many of the basic skill sets that hiring managers are looking for. Consequently, hiring managers prefer experienced MSL candidates because they can be reasonably assured that person understands the “ins” and “outs” of what it takes to be an MSL.

Invest in tools, resources, and coaching
Perform due diligence and read everything you can about the MSL role. This six -figure career niche is extremely small, which makes the job market fiercely competitive. There is a dearth of "free" MSL resources because service providers in this niche make their living by focusing on the biopharma clients with big budgets.

Become a master networker

Networking is your only option to get into the minds of hiring managers or learn what you need to know if you can’t or aren’t willing to invest in tools, resources, or coaching related to the MSL career. You can start with your school’s career center or the local postdoc association and see what resources may be available related to an MSL career.

Scientific complexity is increasing in treatment options as biologics are entering markets long dominated by small molecules. This is matched with cross-sector collaboration complexity, as biopharmaceutical companies navigate regulatory and public scrutiny. The MSL profession is only 40 years old, but the MSL role is becoming one of the "rising stars" of biopharma’s career offerings. Look for the life sciences industry to hire increasing numbers of MSLs as more biotechnology products enter the market.

To learn more about the MSL career pathway please check out Jane’s new book, "All MSLs Started with No MSL Experience! The Guide to Becoming a Medical Science Liaison" or visit the MSL Jobs website to look for employment opportunities or visit the MSL Jobs website to look for employment opportunities.

 

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