How to Find Relevant Research in an Ocean of Data
With a million records added annually to PubMed it’s easy to get overwhelmed with new research. Not to mention the difficulty of evaluating the quality of research in smaller journals, not to mention preprints and emerging formats like indexed webinars. In this podcast, we speak with Tiago Barros, Managing Director of Faculty Opinions about the need for content curation to cut through the noise — and eventually provide patient benefit.
Following is an automated transcription provided by otter.ai. Please excuse inaccuracies.
Garth Sundem 00:00
Welcome to this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society Podcast series: “Elevate”. I’m your host, Garth Sundem, Communications Director at MAPS. And today we’re going to learn how to find the needle of relevant research in the haystack of PubMed, Google Scholar and all of the other data sources that are out there. Joining us is Tiago Barros, Managing Director of Faculty Opinions, which combines expert opinion with citation data to provide early indication of the most impactful research in biology and medicine. Faculty Opinions was recently acquired by MAPS Partner Circle Member H1, which is the sponsor of this episode. So, Tiago, welcome, and thank you for joining us.
Tiago Barros 00:48
Hi, Garth, thank you very much for having me.
Garth Sundem 00:51
I will admit that I’ve spent a decade on PubMed and Google Scholar, and I still struggle to find what I need. So, what is the answer of Faculty Opinions for helping us find the research we need?
Tiago Barros 01:07
That’s a great question, Garth. So, this is like PubMed and Google Scholar, they’re great in terms of giving us access to information, it’s easy to find articles and other types of literature for those services. But what they’re really not helping us with is with the curation and filtering of information, right? So, quite often, you know, you have different people with different levels of expertise, that they may be finding, trying to find information in a certain topic, but sometimes it’s just too overwhelming. You lead with PubMed. And just to put things in perspective, PubMed is adding about a million new publications a year to the, to the index. And so, it’s really quite an overwhelming mountain of literature that it’s at our disposal, but at the same time, then if there’s no services to help us curate and filter that literature, it just becomes a really big challenge for researchers. And also, you know, anyone else that is interested in those topics.
Garth Sundem 02:10
Well, it’s interesting, you know, I kind of equate this to I go on Amazon, and I can’t find a single book that I want to read. But I walk into my local bookstore, and their recommendations on the shelves from their employees. I want to read every one of them. Is that what you’re talking about? Like we need gatekeepers?
Tiago Barros 02:31
Yeah. No, that’s right. That’s, that’s an interesting analogy. So yeah, nobody’s interested in those 1 million papers. And I think being able to trust the opinion of experts that will point you in the right direction, and to the article that you should really not miss. I think it’s really important. And also I will stress here the the emphasis on on the experts, right? Because there are other services in which some other people may promote content may tell you, too, that you should read this content, but can you really trust those opinions? Are they really an expert on the fields? And do they actually know whether this is good or not? And that’s why I think, you know, services in which you combine the knowledge, the expertise of union leaders, with accessibility to lots of information, I think that’s when things really start helping researchers.
Garth Sundem 03:20
Well, right, because if it’s a gatekeeper, you have to trust your gatekeeper, I wouldn’t take recommendations from oh, I don’t know, book recommendations from my my 14 year old daughter. Well, actually, I probably would, but that’s a bad example. But so how do you get the right beekeepers?
Tiago Barros 03:38
Yeah, that’s. So, the way for example, that Faculty Opinions does this is in a way is similar to what happens in academia, in which you know, you have well established experts in the field that then invite all the collaborators, or are the experts in the field to improve with the coverage of the literature. So, it’s, it’s about, first, ensuring that these are not anonymous people on the internet, these are named experts that you can recognize and you know, where they’re from, what they work on, and so on. And also, then it’s also not self selected in the sense that, you know, you don’t really say I am an expert in this field, and I know what everyone should know about. It’s not that, it’s about having the peers nominate who the best candidate to provide that reviews, those reviews are and so if they accept the invitation, and then join the faculty and so that way, we preserve the integrity and the expertise of the group.
Garth Sundem 04:44
That’s interesting, because when I find PubMed results, the way I filter that for, you know, truth and legitimacy and impact is, you know, is it in one of the top 10 journals is it in In any NEJM, but I feel like by doing that I’m missing a lot of important information from some of the smaller journals. Is, is this a way to, you know, by having gatekeepers who actually can evaluate based on the content? Is this a way to create diversity of research that we’re reaching?
Tiago Barros 05:22
Yeah, absolutely. So I think, you know, there’s no doubt that prestigious journals, the leading journals that you think about, say, JAMA, Nature Cell, New England Journal of Medicine, you know, they publish a lot of great research, but it’s not all of it, right? We cannot rely on those few journals relying, publishing everything that you need to know about. So, this is when the gatekeepers, but I mean, in our perhaps the curators, or the experts will come and become useful, right? Because first, they have they know that a lot of great research is published elsewhere, there’s a lot of journals that because they don’t have the same visibility of those fields that we talked about, they may be neglected. So, people not may not be aware about what’s being published there. And so if we provide those experts with the tools to find those hidden gems, I think this is really when when services become really useful. So, in a way, the combination of these things is like to rely on the expertise of, of opinion leaders, but at the same time, provide them with the tools so that they can effectively scan the literature and find the best articles, regardless of whether it’s part of where they are published. And I think that’s really is the main issue here is that traditionally, or historically, there’s been this tendency to proxy the quality of the individual articles by the title, by the journal where they published, and that’s not really, you know, where we want to be, I think articles should be evaluated by their own merits by the quality of the study that they’re reporting on. And yes, so often, you know, the journal will give you an indication of that. But wouldn’t it be a lot better if you do have an expert saying, you know, don’t worry where it’s published, you know, the expert is saying that this is a good is a good post, and lately another very interesting thing that’s happening is, there’s been a lot of rapid growth of preprint.
Garth Sundem 07:25
Yeah, interesting. Yeah, let’s go to preprints, I’d love to check.
Tiago Barros 07:29
The preprints are interesting, because it’s not even. It’s like, the most, you know, simplest form of publication in a way that it’s the authors that putting their study out there, and it’s accessible to the community without triage without peer review, and whether it’s great to accelerate the communication of work, but then, then there’s really no triage. Right? Yeah. And so having, yes, actually, so having services that will look at those preprints and, and find, you know, the nuggets of high-quality research that they report on that I think is become very important. Just, you know, just give you a an idea, for example, with Faculty Opinions, we’re talking about 4000 different journals being recommended. And so right now, yeah. And so yeah, to the camp, you know, become quite large number exercise, right, we have million new articles indexed every year. And then you have, you know, 1000s 1000s of journals where they can be published, and then it comes out a really challenging task.
Garth Sundem 08:40
What’s got to be tricky for the journals, because, you know, they traditionally have been the curators right? Or their editorial board, or however, they bring that in. But now we have all of these, I don’t know other, these other content types that require the same sort of curation but doesn’t fall underneath their umbrella. You know, we’ve got preprints. And so we need to evolve in order to continue to help people find these new things in new ways. What do you see as some of the other trends in in how Medical Affairs professionals can find the research they need?
Tiago Barros 09:23
Yeah. Preprints is definitely something that I think will continue to grow. And I think their relevance and the importance to the community and when Medical Affairs I think will become more and more important, I have no doubt about that. I think you also hinted at another of the transformations and I think we are already starting to observe which is diversifying the formats in which research is communicated. So traditionally, we’ve been pretty stuck with articles and even large extensive PDFs of articles that in a replicate the same format that has been used for hundreds of years and and I think lately, we start seeing that becoming much more diverse. So, we’re talking about sharing datasets directly without, you know, being confined to the format of an article, for example. And another. Another format that I find particularly interesting is, for example, webinars. Again, up until now, webinars will be useful to communicate over the internet, especially now, during the pandemic, I think has been pretty useful. But it’s almost like the people that attended the webinar benefited from that, but then nobody else does, right, because it’s, it’s, it’s quite a restricted list. And then also, up until now, there wasn’t really the ability of reusing that webinar and citing that webinar, for example, and I think we’re seeing that changing. And so, I really think it’s really exciting to see these different formats that for as long as we create the platforms, and the technology to make those formats reusable and citable, so that we can attribute and acknowledge the people behind them, I think it’ll become much more richer and more diverse way of communicating science, which I think is really positive.
Garth Sundem 11:08
That’s interesting. I don’t want to take us into the weeds, but I know nothing about webinars to communicate scientific research. I mean, is it like a presentation you would see at ASCO or ACR, but people are doing these independently? And then the webinar exists? And that’s how they’re presenting the research? Not necessarily as a as a paper?
Tiago Barros 11:25
Yeah, in some ways, yes. It’s a way like the presentation itself, a webinar is no different from what it was before. But if you think about it, that content can be searched, you know, it can be transcribed can be, you know, you can assign a DOI to it. And so there’s a lot of things that we kind of only think about them in the, in the context of the article. But if you think about a webinar, as you know, having the same type of content and beyond that, the reason why it cannot be used in the same way.
Garth Sundem 11:55
Oh, cool. Well, everyone listening probably already knows that. But I didn’t know you could stick a DOI on a webinar. So that’s, that’s nice for me. So then, why does this matter? What is I mean, Medical Affairs at the end of Medical Affairs is is the patient and our goal at the end of the day is to provide patient benefit. So what is the eventual patient benefit of being able to point to this relevant research?
Tiago Barros 12:20
Yeah, I think many ways in which is relevant to the first one I would say is that, it’s going back to the problem of the overwhelming mountain of information that is out there. And that will distract people from the real breakthroughs that they should be paying attention to. Right. And so I think in general, it’s about because you have access to the opinion of experts that are pointing you in the right direction, that will have lots of positive effects. So, it will, because you now can rely on knowing that you are aware of the articles that you should know about that will, for example, ensure that you know that the experiments that is very relevant to your your work has already been the right so you don’t have to do it again. And you can already learn from the results of someone else that already does that.
Garth Sundem 13:15
On the evidence generation side for Medical Affairs, yeah. Just just really knowing what is what is current is going to make it so you don’t have to repeat it within your organization.
Tiago Barros 13:25
Exactly. So I would say that that kind of falls more into the helping Medical Affairs understand the science behind the new drug or the new treatment. That is that is being they’re working on. But even also, you know, just knowing what the cube in your linens are thinking about, right? So it’s not just about understanding the causes of the disease or the treatment and how it works, but actually understanding what individuals think about it. Right. And I think that is, if you think about Medical Affairs wanting to work closely with the key opinion leader in some project. And so knowing exactly what their opinion is on related studies, I think becomes incredibly valuable. And then and then I’ll say that even on the patient side, it becomes quite important because you know, sometimes having this distilled bits of of information about the research can help the patient as well that can stand in the mechanism behind the disease what how their treatment is going to work and how it’s going to benefit their life directly.
Garth Sundem 14:35
Alright, well, let’s leave it at that. Thanks, Tiago, for joining us today. One One thing that is needed as I went and checked out your very brand new website and you can try out Faculty Opinions for free yourself at facultyopinions.com. So, MAPS members, don’t forget to subscribe. And we hope you enjoyed this episode of the Medical Affairs Professional Society podcast series: “Elevate”.