It’s Time To Expand Your Universe Of Experts!
In the olden days, about a decade or two ago, the most prominent key opinion leader (KOL) or medical expert was often considered the best all around. Why go with someone who has 15 publications in prominent journals when you can have somebody who has 150?
Today we know that different situations call for different thought leaders: academics who publish a lot might not be your best bet when it comes to hands-on advice on your clinical trial design; and the clinician with lots of trial experience might not be the perfect match to engage physicians at a conference or meeting.
Looking to engage experts we are faced with a new challenge: how do we identify those specialized thought-leaders among all of their well-qualified peers?
Current Data Guarantees Current Experts
Medical and scientific knowledge accumulates much faster than it ever has before: a 2018 article by Elsevier puts the doubling time of medical knowledge at a leisurely 50 years back in the 1950s, in 1980 it still was a manageable 7 years but speeding up to 3.5 years in 2010. By 2020 the projection is that medical knowledge will double every 73 days.
That breakneck speed of knowledge accumulation makes it impossible for experts to stay on top of broader fields and consequentially also means that there are simply more experts with ever more specialized knowledge and expertise.
To round out the picture, let’s take another short trip down memory lane: in a 2011 article in PharmaVoice an industry expert advises that a KOL database needs to be updated “at least every three to five years” because “a database that is 10 years old could be missing many new, crucial thought leaders.”. While keeping your database up to date is always solid advice, the timelines have dramatically changed since.
Even a six-month-old database is considered stale and outdated today given that rapid knowledge doubling time.
There is a silver lining, though: new technologies make it possible to collect, manage, search and structure that information almost in real time.
Step 1 for identifying the best experts for a specific task - e.g. advising on preclinical research, designing a clinical trial, or supporting a product launch - is to start with a large and constantly updated database that captures multiple datasets including critical information such as publication lists, clinical trial information, grants, industry collaborations and conference engagement.
Step 2 is to narrow down that universe of possibilities to find the best person for the role based on your customized search criteria.
Comprehensive Data Yields The Most Qualified Experts
This section brings us back to our claim above - the most prominent expert might not be the best expert for the specific role you are trying to fill.
Let’s take speaking engagements or poster presentations at conferences as an example. While an impressive publication list or many grants might give you an established expert with a long track record, they are likely very focused on research and will know little about treating patients. An expert with significant clinical trials experience might be a great choice if you need expert help with your trial design, but if you are looking for somebody who can engage local or regional practitioners neither of these experts likely is the right choice. Instead you are looking for a KOL who publishes less but sees patients, actively practices medicine and has a track record of speaking at specialized conferences. Being domain expert, practitioner and frequent speaker is a more relevant skill set for this particular job than being a proficient researcher.
Customizing your search to include or focus on speaking engagements might return a list of experts that, with standard searches, might not have made your top 10 or even top 100 list but are perfect for the job of engaging and educating practitioners.
Customized Searches Generate New And Faster Insights
While we are on the topic of conferences: data from poster abstracts are a very valuable resource when it comes to spotting new trends, technologies and approaches. Here is why:
Publication in peer-reviewed journals takes time, depending on the journal and topic it can be many months until a paper is reviewed, corrected and published. Poster presentation have to go through a review and approval process as well but timelines, especially for late breaking news, are much shorter. A new technique, a promising drug target, an interesting combination therapy approach very often make their first appearance at a poster session.
Stellar Researcher Doesn’t Mean Gifted Speaker
We have all been there: a highly anticipated talk by a well-known expert falls short because the stellar researcher isn’t much of a speaker. If you need an engaging speaker you will think twice about hiring that person.
So how do you find a domain expert who also has the ability to convey knowledge in an engaging way? Experts who are good speakers tend to get invited to speak at more conferences and therefore a track record of speaking engagements at multiple different conferences over a period of time is a fairly reliable proxy for being a good speaker.
More data, if properly managed and searched gives you better information about the experts you need work with to take that next crucial step in developing or launching your product.