Medicine 2.0: Mixing up research and Web 2.0

In part two of our Medicine 2.0 series, we talked about the five important aspects of Medicine 2.0. In this interview, Dr. Gunther Eysenbach, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, talks about the specific ways in which Web 2.0 could change the medical and research industry.

Read on for the third in the Medicine 2.0 interview series with Dr. Eysenbach.

What influences do Web 2.0 and social networking have on the medical/research industry?

I couldn’t list all the influences Web 2.0 has on the medical and research industry, I wouldn’t know where to begin to end – the list is exhaustive. I recommend that those in the medical and research industry pick up the excellent book “Wikinomics” by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. While reading it, ask yourself how mass collaboration changes the processes and paradigms in the medical and research sector.

The paradigm changes include:

  • The way research-oriented companies innovate by “crowdsourcing”
  • The way health professionals interact with patients/consumers
  • How health promotion and prevention is done (through social networks of consumers)
  • How research data is collected, shared and evaluated
  • How researchers and professionals can get recommendations for pertinent literature in their field
  • How business processes in health care are designed

How do scientists and researchers use Medicine 2.0?

Medicine and biomedical research are an incredibly information- and data-rich environment. Social networking and collaborative filtering tools allow us to cope with the onslaught of information. In today’s environment, access to information is no longer the main problem – the bigger issue is to identify relevant and credible information in that sea of information.

The “apomediation” processes afforded by digital Web 2.0 media can play a crucial role in information filtering. Social bookmarking tools like CiteULike, Connotea, and WebCite are prime examples for how Web 2.0 tools can be used by scientists to sift through the information jungle.

Secondly, new science 2.0 platforms for data sharing and collaboration (for example, caBIG) and Web 2.0 inspired approaches (such as post-publication open peer-review) are emerging, and blogs and wikis are (at least in theory) important venues for scholars to publish hypotheses, opinions and analyses outside of the traditional journal publishing system.

What are the potential challenges you see?

Again, all this constitutes a profound paradigm change, with many unresolved issues and problems. For example, who gets the credit when more than one person has imputed his ideas/opinions? The “paradox” is that these wonderful technologies are sometimes underused within the research community due to the perceived lack of “recognition” and “citability” of online material and anything that is “informally” published outside of the traditional journal publishing system although there initiatives to try to overcome these problems, such as WebCite, an archiving system for web references.

On a broader societal level, promotion and tenure committees will need to profoundly change how they evaluate contributions to the research community.

Stay tuned for the last in the Medicine 2.0 series of interviews with Dr. Eysenbach in which he discusses the how entrepreneurs can use Medicine 2.0.

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