Finding and characterizing Rising Stars

The importance of emerging opinion leaders

Life Science companies are constantly seeking new ways to alleviate pressures and find new opportunities to grow. To stay innovative and successful in today’s competitive and highly regulated landscape, maintaining a consistent focus on increasing value across the product life cycle has never been more critical. To increase value of products in development and on the market, companies greatly rely on external expertise from individuals commonly referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Rising stars are emerging KOLs that outshine their peers in many ways, showing great potential for the future.

Given the intense competition to work with top KOLs, it is becoming increasingly important to establish strong professional relationships with current and emerging KOLs as early as possible in targeted research fields. Significant value may come from a proactive approach, allocating key expertise early on and establishing professional relations which are allowed to grow over time. This way, companies can facilitate the development of rising stars, empower them to learn from industry interactions and to mature in their profession, preparing them for future purposes.

A new study on rising stars

Monocl has recently performed a 6-month study together with the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The study aimed to identify best-practice related to the development of rising stars and to identify characteristics of great industrial importance. The study featured an extensive survey and deep interviews with over 70 industry professionals working with emerging and established KOLs. The outcome has been used, among others, to enhance our cloud-based analytics platform Monocl EGO. The study is presented in full in a separate white paper and selected results are summarized in brief here. Contact us if you are interested in receiving the full white paper for free.

Study demonstrates large gap between desired and currently applied rising star characteristics

A number of aspects are important to consider related to identification and prioritization of rising stars. Corporate identification and evaluation of new rising stars are still heavily focused on publications and metrics derived from published literature (citations, h-values, journal impact etc.). As publishing is the typical initial step for researchers to increase visibility and obtain recognition in the research community, company professionals commonly use publication data as a “first cut” when identifying and evaluating rising stars (and KOLs). Once this initial screening has been performed, additional databases (e.g. clinical trial databases, online communities, social networks and news) are occasionally taken into account for a more in depth analysis of individual experts. Although, this is done with a far less systematic and coherent approach often due to source heterogeneity and availability.

When comparing the survey results of desired rising star characteristics with the information sources and methods used today, it is clear that the current publication-centered approach is insufficient.

The most frequently used sources for identifying rising stars are publication databases, followed by personal networks, co-worker networks as well as KOL consultants. Guidelines, review boards and advisory boards were also highlighted by respondents as important sources of information.

Respondents ranked a total of seven parameters as highly important characteristics for rising stars: international collaborations; conference speaker; KOL collaborations; being active at renowned institutions; papers in prestigious journals; increasing publication trend and industry collaborations.

Need for a robust data-driven approach moving forward

Important traditional publication-based metrics still dominate the decision making process, whether they are derived internally or using external consultants. Moving forward, this simplistic publication approach will no longer be viable for companies intending to stay competitive. As shown, a range of non-traditional rising star characteristics are considered to be highly important when choosing with whom to collaborate. Some of the most highly coveted characteristics are high profile international collaborations, collaborations with established KOLs, speaking at relevant conferences as well as having industry collaborations.

A robust data-driven approach is required to facilitate the highly complex evaluation process that results from multiple heterogeneous information sources. If successful, this would ensure a much more systematic and transparent approach, which is pointed out as a main concern throughout the study. The time has come to enter a new information era, in which important decisions on emerging and established KOLs continuously are based on both traditional and as well as new metrics.