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1.  WikiBuild: A New Application to Support Patient and Health Care Professional Involvement in the Development of Patient Support Tools 
Active patient and public involvement as partners in their own health care and in the development of health services is key to achieving a health care system that is responsive to patients’ needs and values. It promotes better use of the health care system, and improves health outcomes, quality of life and patient satisfaction. By involving patients and health care professionals as partners in the creation and updating of patient health support tools, wikis—highly accessible, interactive vehicles of communication—have the potential to empower users to implement these support tools in daily life. Acknowledging the potential of wikis, and recognizing that they capitalize on the free and open access to information, scientists, opinion leaders and patient advocates have suggested that wikis could help decision-making constituencies improve the delivery of health care. They might also decrease its cost and improve access to knowledge within developing countries. However, little is known about the efficacy of wikis in helping to attain these goals. There is also a need to know more about the intention of patients and health care workers to use wikis, in what circumstances and what factors will influence their use of wikis. In this issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Gupta et al describe how they developed and tested a new wiki-inspired application to improve asthma care. The researchers involved patients with asthma, primary care physicians, pulmonologists and certified asthma educators in the construction of an asthma action plan. Their paper—entitled “WikiBuild: a new online collaboration process for multistakeholder tool development and consensus building”—is the first description of a wiki-inspired technology built to involve patients and health care professionals in the development of a patient support tool. This innovative study has made important contributions toward how wikis could be generalized to involve multiple stakeholders in the development of other knowledge translation tools such as clinical practice guidelines or decision aids. More specifically, Gupta et al have uncovered potential action mechanisms toward increasing usage of these tools by patients and health care professionals. These are decreasing hierarchical influences, increasing usability and adapting a tool to local context. More research is now needed to determine if the use of the resulting wiki-developed plan will actually be higher than a plan developed using other methods. Furthermore, there is also a need to assess the intention of participants to continue using wiki-based processes on an ongoing basis. It is in this dynamic and continuous retroaction loop that the support tool users—both patients and health care professionals—can adapt and improve the product after its real-life shortcomings are revealed and as new evidence becomes available. As such, a wiki would be more than a simple patient support development tool, but could also become a dynamic and interactive repository and delivery tool that would facilitate ongoing and sustainable patient and professional engagement.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1961
PMCID: PMC3278100  PMID: 22155746
Medical informatics; patient-centered care; wikis; collaborative writing applications; knowledge translation; patient and public involvement
2.  Eurocan plus report: feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities 
Summary
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project, called for by the European Parliament, was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities in Europe. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people, the largest Europe–wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research.
Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
It is essential to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community is evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form), leading to the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventive strategies. Translational research ranges from bench–to–bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
The EUROCAN+PLUS Project recommends the creation of a small, permanent and independent European Cancer Initiative (ECI). This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The ECI should assume responsibility for stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes, becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ organizations, European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), putting into practice solutions aimed at alleviating barriers to collaboration and coordination of cancer research activities in the European Union, and dealing with legal and regulatory issues. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this entity should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co–operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe and (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level.
The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control in Europe, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
Executive Summary
Cancer is one of the biggest public health crises facing Europe in the 21st century—one for which Europe is currently not prepared nor preparing itself. Cancer is a major cause of death in Europe with two million casualties and three million new cases diagnosed annually, and the situation is set to worsen as the population ages.
These facts led the European Parliament, through the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission, to call for initiatives for better coordination of cancer research efforts in the European Union. The EUROCAN+PLUS Project was launched in October 2005 as a feasibility study for coordination of national cancer research activities. Over the course of the next two years, the Project process organized over 60 large meetings and countless smaller meetings that gathered in total over a thousand people. In this respect, the Project became the largest Europe-wide consultation ever conducted in the field of cancer research, implicating researchers, cancer centres and hospitals, administrators, healthcare professionals, funding agencies, industry, patients’ organizations and patients.
The Project first identified barriers impeding research and collaboration in research in Europe. Despite a strong tradition in biomedical science in Europe, fragmentation and lack of sustainability remain the formidable challenges for implementing innovative cancer research and cancer care improvement. There is an enormous duplication of research effort in the Member States, which wastes time, wastes money and severely limits the total intellectual concentration on the wide cancer problem. There is a striking lack of communication between some of the biggest actors on the European scene, and there are palpable tensions between funders and those researchers seeking funds.
In addition, there is a shortage of leadership, a multiplicity of institutions each focusing on its own agenda, sub–optimal contact with industry, inadequate training, non–existent career paths, low personnel mobility in research especially among clinicians and inefficient funding—all conspiring against efficient collaboration in cancer care and research. European cancer research today does not have a functional translational research continuum, that is the process that exploits biomedical research innovations and converts them into prevention methods, diagnostic tools and therapies. Moreover, epidemiological research is not integrated with other types of cancer research, and the implementation of the European Directives on Clinical Trials 1 and on Personal Data Protection 2 has further slowed the innovation process in Europe. Furthermore, large inequalities in health and research exist between the EU–15 and the New Member States.
The picture is not entirely bleak, however, as the European cancer research scene presents several strengths, such as excellent basic research and clinical research and innovative etiological research that should be better exploited.
When considering recommendations, several priority dimensions had to be retained. It is essential that proposals include actions and recommendations that can benefit all Member States of the European Union and not just States with the elite centres. It is also essential to have a broader patient orientation to help provide the knowledge to establish cancer control possibilities when we exhaust what can be achieved by the implementation of current knowledge. It is vital that the actions proposed can contribute to the Lisbon Strategy to make Europe more innovative and competitive in (cancer) research.
The Project participants identified six areas for which consensus solutions should be implemented in order to obtain better coordination of cancer research activities. The required solutions are as follows. The proactive management of innovation, detection, facilitation of collaborations and maintenance of healthy competition within the European cancer research community.The establishment of an exchange portal of information for health professionals, patients and policy makers.The provision of guidance for translational and clinical research including the establishment of a translational research platform involving comprehensive cancer centres and cancer research centres.The coordination of calls and financial management of cancer research projects.The construction of a ‘one–stop shop’ as a contact interface between the industry, small and medium enterprises, scientists and other stakeholders.The support of greater involvement of healthcare professionals in translational research and multidisciplinary training.
In the course of the EUROCAN+PLUS consultative process, several key collaborative projects emerged between the various groups and institutes engaged in the consultation. There was a collaboration network established with Europe’s leading Comprehensive Cancer Centres; funding was awarded for a closer collaboration of Owners of Cancer Registries in Europe (EUROCOURSE); there was funding received from FP7 for an extensive network of leading Biological Resource Centres in Europe (BBMRI); a Working Group identified the special needs of Central, Eastern and South–eastern Europe and proposed a remedy (‘Warsaw Declaration’), and the concept of developing a one–stop shop for dealing with academia and industry including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) was discussed in detail.
Several other dimensions currently lacking were identified. There is an absolute necessity to include the patients’ voice in the establishment of priority areas in cancer research at the present time. It was a salutary lesson when it was recognized that all that is known about the quality of life of the cancer patient comes from the experience of a tiny proportion of cancer patients included in a few clinical trials. The necessity to have dialogue between funders and scientists to establish the best mechanisms to meet the needs of the entire community was evident. A top priority should be the development of translational research (in its widest form) and the development of effective and innovative cancer treatments and preventative strategies in the European Union. Translational research ranges from bench-to-bedside innovative cancer therapies and extends to include bringing about changes in population behaviours when a risk factor is established.
Having taken note of the barriers and the solutions and having examined relevant examples of existing European organizations in the field, it was agreed during the General Assembly of 19 November 2007 that the EUROCAN+PLUS Project had to recommend the creation of a small, permanent and neutral ECI. This should be a model structure and was widely supported at both General Assemblies of the project. The proposal is based on the successful model of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), and its principal aims include providing a forum where researchers from all backgrounds and from all countries can meet with members of other specialities including patients, nurses, clinicians, funders and scientific administrators to develop priority programmes to make Europe more competitive in research and more focused on the cancer patient.
The ECI should assume responsibility for: stimulating innovative cancer research and facilitating processes;becoming the common voice of the cancer research community and serving as an interface between the cancer research community and European citizens, patients’ and organizations;European institutions, Member States, industry and small and medium enterprises;putting into practice the aforementioned solutions aimed at alleviating barriers and coordinating cancer research activities in the EU;dealing with legal and regulatory issues.
Solutions implemented through the ECI will lead to better coordination and collaboration throughout Europe, more efficient use of resources, an increase in Europe’s attractiveness to the biomedical industry and better quality of cancer research and education of health professionals.
The Project considered that European legal instruments currently available were inadequate for addressing many aspects of the barriers identified and for the implementation of effective, lasting solutions. Therefore, the legal environment that could shelter an idea like the ECI remains to be defined but should be done so as a priority. In this context, the initiative of the European Commission for a new legal entity for research infrastructure might be a step in this direction. The development of an effective ECI will require time, but this should be established immediately. As an initial step, coordination efforts should be directed towards the creation of a platform on translational research that could encompass: (1) coordination between basic, clinical and epidemiological research; (2) formal agreements of co-operation between comprehensive cancer centres and basic research laboratories throughout Europe; (3) networking between funding bodies at the European level. Another topic deserving immediate attention is the creation of a European database on cancer research projects and cancer research facilities.
Despite enormous progress in cancer control in Europe during the past two decades, there was an increase of 300,000 in the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed between 2004 and 2006. The European Parliament and its instruments have had a major influence in cancer control, notably in tobacco control and in the implementation of effective population–based screening. To make further progress there is a need for novelty and innovation in cancer research and prevention in Europe, and having a platform such as the ECI, where those involved in all aspects of cancer research can meet, discuss and interact, is a decisive development for Europe.
doi:10.3332/ecancer.2011.84
PMCID: PMC3234055  PMID: 22274749
3.  Use of a wiki as an interactive teaching tool in pathology residency education: Experience with a genomics, research, and informatics in pathology course 
Background:
The need for informatics and genomics training in pathology is critical, yet limited resources for such training are available. In this study we sought to critically test the hypothesis that the incorporation of a wiki (a collaborative writing and publication tool with roots in “Web 2.0”) in a combined informatics and genomics course could both (1) serve as an interactive, collaborative educational resource and reference and (2) actively engage trainees by requiring the creation and sharing of educational materials.
Materials and Methods:
A 2-week full-time course at our institution covering genomics, research, and pathology informatics (GRIP) was taught by 36 faculty to 18 second- and third-year pathology residents. The course content included didactic lectures and hands-on demonstrations of technology (e.g., whole-slide scanning, telepathology, and statistics software). Attendees were given pre- and posttests. Residents were trained to use wiki technology (MediaWiki) and requested to construct a wiki about the GRIP course by writing comprehensive online review articles on assigned lectures. To gauge effectiveness, pretest and posttest scores for our course were compared with scores from the previous 7 years from the predecessor course (limited to informatics) given at our institution that did not utilize wikis.
Results:
Residents constructed 59 peer-reviewed collaborative wiki articles. This group showed a 25% improvement (standard deviation 12%) in test scores, which was greater than the 16% delta recorded in the prior 7 years of our predecessor course (P = 0.006).
Conclusions:
Our use of wiki technology provided a wiki containing high-quality content that will form the basis of future pathology informatics and genomics courses and proved to be an effective teaching tool, as evidenced by the significant rise in our resident posttest scores. Data from this project provide support for the notion that active participation in content creation is an effective mechanism for mastery of content. Future residents taking this course will continue to build on this wiki, keeping content current, and thereby benefit from this collaborative teaching tool.
doi:10.4103/2153-3539.100366
PMCID: PMC3445302  PMID: 23024891
Education; pathology Informatics; resident training; Wiki
4.  Measuring the Impact of a Moving Target: Towards a Dynamic Framework for Evaluating Collaborative Adaptive Interactive Technologies 
Background
Website evaluation is a key issue for researchers, organizations, and others responsible for designing, maintaining, endorsing, approving, and/or assessing the use and impact of interventions designed to influence health and health services. Traditionally, these evaluations have included elements such as content credibility, interface usability, and overall design aesthetics. With the emergence of collaborative, adaptive, and interactive ("Web 2.0") technologies such as wikis and other forms of social networking applications, these metrics may no longer be sufficient to adequately assess the quality, use or impact of a health website. Collaborative, adaptive, interactive applications support different ways for people to interact with health information on the Web, including the potential for increased user participation in the design, creation, and maintenance of such sites.
Objective
We propose a framework that addresses how to evaluate collaborative, adaptive, and interactive applications.
Methods
In this paper, we conducted a comprehensive review of a variety of databases using terminology related to this area.
Results
We present a review of evaluation frameworks and also propose a framework that incorporates collaborative, adaptive, and interactive technologies, grounded in evaluation theory.
Conclusion
This framework can be applied by researchers who wish to compare Web-based interventions, non-profit organizations, and clinical groups who aim to provide health information and support about a particular health concern via the Web, and decisions about funding grants by agencies interested in the role of social networks and collaborative, adaptive, and interactive technologies technologies to improve health and the health system.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1058
PMCID: PMC2762807  PMID: 19632973
Evaluation; framework; Internet; eHealth; consumer health information
5.  Collaborative authoring: a case study of the use of a wiki as a tool to keep systematic reviews up to date 
Open Medicine  2011;5(4):e201-e208.
Background
Systematic reviews are recognized as the most effective means of summarizing research evidence. However, they are limited by the time and effort required to keep them up to date. Wikis present a unique opportunity to facilitate collaboration among many authors. The purpose of this study was to examine the use of a wiki as an online collaborative tool for the updating of a type of systematic review known as a scoping review.
Methods
An existing peer-reviewed scoping review on asynchronous telehealth was previously published on an open, publicly available wiki. Log file analysis, user questionnaires and content analysis were used to collect descriptive and evaluative data on the use of the site from 9 June 2009 to 10 April 2010. Blog postings from referring sites were also analyzed.
Results
During the 10-month study period, there were a total of 1222 visits to the site, 3996 page views and 875 unique visitors from around the globe. Five unique visitors (0.6% of the total number of visitors) submitted a total of 6 contributions to the site: 3 contributions were made to the article itself, and 3 to the discussion pages. None of the contributions enhanced the evidence base of the scoping review. The commentary about the project in the blogosphere was positive, tempered with some skepticism.
Interpretations
Despite the fact that wikis provide an easy-to-use, free and powerful means to edit information, fewer than 1% of visitors contributed content to the wiki. These results may be a function of limited interest in the topic area, the review methodology itself, lack of familiarity with the wiki, and the incentive structure of academic publishing. Controversial and timely topics in addition to incentives and organizational support for Web 2.0 impact metrics might motivate greater participation in online collaborative efforts to keep scientific knowledge up to date.
PMCID: PMC3345378  PMID: 22567076
6.  Facebook for Scientists: Requirements and Services for Optimizing How Scientific Collaborations Are Established 
Background
As biomedical research projects become increasingly interdisciplinary and complex, collaboration with appropriate individuals, teams, and institutions becomes ever more crucial to project success. While social networks are extremely important in determining how scientific collaborations are formed, social networking technologies have not yet been studied as a tool to help form scientific collaborations. Many currently emerging expertise locating systems include social networking technologies, but it is unclear whether they make the process of finding collaborators more efficient and effective.
Objective
This study was conducted to answer the following questions: (1) Which requirements should systems for finding collaborators in biomedical science fulfill? and (2) Which information technology services can address these requirements?
Methods
The background research phase encompassed a thorough review of the literature, affinity diagramming, contextual inquiry, and semistructured interviews. This phase yielded five themes suggestive of requirements for systems to support the formation of collaborations. In the next phase, the generative phase, we brainstormed and selected design ideas for formal concept validation with end users. Then, three related, well-validated ideas were selected for implementation and evaluation in a prototype.
Results
Five main themes of systems requirements emerged: (1) beyond expertise, successful collaborations require compatibility with respect to personality, work style, productivity, and many other factors (compatibility); (2) finding appropriate collaborators requires the ability to effectively search in domains other than your own using information that is comprehensive and descriptive (communication); (3) social networks are important for finding potential collaborators, assessing their suitability and compatibility, and establishing contact with them (intermediation); (4) information profiles must be complete, correct, up-to-date, and comprehensive and allow fine-grained control over access to information by different audiences (information quality and access); (5) keeping online profiles up-to-date should require little or no effort and be integrated into the scientist’s existing workflow (motivation). Based on the requirements, 16 design ideas underwent formal validation with end users. Of those, three were chosen to be implemented and evaluated in a system prototype, “Digital|Vita”: maintaining, formatting, and semi-automated updating of biographical information; searching for experts; and building and maintaining the social network and managing document flow.
Conclusions
In addition to quantitative and factual information about potential collaborators, social connectedness, personal and professional compatibility, and power differentials also influence whether collaborations are formed. Current systems only partially model these requirements. Services in Digital|Vita combine an existing workflow, maintaining and formatting biographical information, with collaboration-searching functions in a novel way. Several barriers to the adoption of systems such as Digital|Vita exist, such as potential adoption asymmetries between junior and senior researchers and the tension between public and private information. Developers and researchers may consider one or more of the services described in this paper for implementation in their own expertise locating systems.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1047
PMCID: PMC2553246  PMID: 18701421
Expertise locating systems; computer supported collaborative work; information systems; collaborators; research; social networks; translational research
7.  “A Good Personal Scientific Relationship”: Philip Morris Scientists and the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e238.
Background
This paper examines the efforts of consultants affiliated with Philip Morris (PM), the world's leading transnational tobacco corporation, to influence scientific research and training in Thailand via the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI). A leading Southeast Asian institute for environmental health science, the CRI is headed by Professor Dr. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn, the daughter of the King of Thailand, and it has assumed international significance via its designation as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre in December 2005.
Methods and Findings
This paper analyses previously confidential tobacco industry documents that were made publicly available following litigation in the United States. PM documents reveal that ostensibly independent overseas scientists, now identified as industry consultants, were able to gain access to the Thai scientific community. Most significantly, PM scientist Roger Walk has established close connections with the CRI. Documents indicate that Walk was able to use such links to influence the study and teaching of environmental toxicology in the institute and to develop relations with key officials and local scientists so as to advance the interests of PM within Thailand and across Asia. While sensitivities surrounding royal patronage of the CRI make public criticism extremely difficult, indications of ongoing involvement by tobacco industry consultants suggest the need for detailed scrutiny of such relationships.
Conclusions
The establishment of close links with the CRI advances industry strategies to influence scientific research and debate around tobacco and health, particularly regarding secondhand smoke, to link with academic institutions, and to build relationships with national elites. Such strategies assume particular significance in the national and regional contexts presented here amid the globalisation of the tobacco pandemic. From an international perspective, particular concern is raised by the CRI's recently awarded status as a WHO Collaborating Centre. Since the network of WHO Collaborating Centres rests on the principle of “using national institutions for international purposes,” the documents presented below suggest that more rigorous safeguards are required to ensure that such use advances public health goals rather than the objectives of transnational corporations.
Jeff Collin and Ross MacKenzie analyze tobacco industry documents and find that Philip Morris consultants were able to gain access to a Thai research institute that is a WHO Collaborating Centre.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year (one person every six seconds) and accounts for one in ten adult deaths worldwide. Globally, the use of tobacco is on the rise, especially in developing countries, which have become a major target for tobacco industry marketing. The tobacco industry has worked hard to try and influence public perceptions about the risks of smoking and the risk of inhaling secondhand smoke (passive smoking). The industry has used a variety of tactics to downplay the health hazards of smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke—two examples are publishing articles casting doubts about the health hazards of tobacco and funding research that is biased toward giving pro-industry results. Another tactic is for tobacco industry consultants to try and gain entry to universities and other academic centers to see if they can influence research and teaching activities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers were concerned that consultants from the tobacco company Philip Morris had gained access to an academic research center in Thailand called the Chulabhorn Research Institute (CRI). The CRI is an internationally renowned teaching institution for a variety of scientific disciplines, including environmental toxicology (the study of how chemicals in the environment, such as tobacco smoke, can affect human health), biomedicine, and biotechnology. The institute has secured funding from the Thai government, the Association of Southeast Nations and the United Nations Development Programme. In 2005 the institute's environmental toxicology unit was designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre. WHO Collaborating Centres are “institutions such as research institutes, parts of universities or academies, that are designated by the Director-General of the WHO to carry out activities in support of the WHO's programs” (http://www.who.int/collaboratingcentres/en/). The researchers were concerned that Philip Morris consultants had been able to develop relationships with the CRI to help advance the company's interests.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed previously confidential tobacco industry documents that were made publicly available online following litigation in the United States. They searched two online collections of industry documents—the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and Tobacco Documents Online—as well as the online collections operated by US-based tobacco companies. They found that consultants to Philip Morris were able to gain access to the scientific community in Thailand. A Philip Morris scientist named Roger Walk was able to establish close connections to the CRI, and he used these connections to influence research and teaching activities at the CRI on environmental toxicology. Walk was also able to build relationships with government officials and scientists in Thailand to help advance the interests of Philip Morris in the country and across Asia.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study provides evidence that the tobacco industry has established close links with a research institute in Thailand that collaborates with the WHO, and has been able to influence the institute's teaching curriculum and research. Such links are of great concern to the public health community, which is working hard to reduce deaths and disease due to tobacco. These links raise the possibility that the tobacco industry is managing to influence medical research and teaching at academic institutions. The WHO has stated that a firewall is in place between itself and the tobacco industry—but the study authors argue, based on their findings, that “this firewall is not impenetrable.” The study findings, they conclude, highlight a challenge posed to international tobacco control efforts, especially with respect to Article 5.3 of an international treaty called the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; Article 5.3 addresses the need to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. The authors say that better safeguards must be put in place to prevent tobacco companies from thwarting public health goals.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050238.
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library contains over 9.7 million documents created by tobacco companies
Tobacco Documents Online contains over 4 million tobacco industry documents
Over 900 WHO Collaborating Centres are at work in 99 Member States on many health disciplines
The WHO held an inquiry in 2000 into possible tobacco industry influence over the organization (and over other UN agencies), and has published its recommendations in response to this inquiry
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is an international treaty on controlling tobacco
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050238
PMCID: PMC2605886  PMID: 19108600
8.  Wikis and Collaborative Writing Applications in Health Care: A Scoping Review 
Background
Collaborative writing applications (eg, wikis and Google Documents) hold the potential to improve the use of evidence in both public health and health care. The rapid rise in their use has created the need for a systematic synthesis of the evidence of their impact as knowledge translation (KT) tools in the health care sector and for an inventory of the factors that affect their use.
Objective
Through the Levac six-stage methodology, a scoping review was undertaken to explore the depth and breadth of evidence about the effective, safe, and ethical use of wikis and collaborative writing applications (CWAs) in health care.
Methods
Multiple strategies were used to locate studies. Seven scientific databases and 6 grey literature sources were queried for articles on wikis and CWAs published between 2001 and September 16, 2011. In total, 4436 citations and 1921 grey literature items were screened. Two reviewers independently reviewed citations, selected eligible studies, and extracted data using a standardized form. We included any paper presenting qualitative or quantitative empirical evidence concerning health care and CWAs. We defined a CWA as any technology that enables the joint and simultaneous editing of a webpage or an online document by many end users. We performed qualitative content analysis to identify the factors that affect the use of CWAs using the Gagnon framework and their effects on health care using the Donabedian framework.
Results
Of the 111 studies included, 4 were experimental, 5 quasi-experimental, 5 observational, 52 case studies, 23 surveys about wiki use, and 22 descriptive studies about the quality of information in wikis. We classified them by theme: patterns of use of CWAs (n=26), quality of information in existing CWAs (n=25), and CWAs as KT tools (n=73). A high prevalence of CWA use (ie, more than 50%) is reported in 58% (7/12) of surveys conducted with health care professionals and students. However, we found only one longitudinal study showing that CWA use is increasing in health care. Moreover, contribution rates remain low and the quality of information contained in different CWAs needs improvement. We identified 48 barriers and 91 facilitators in 4 major themes (factors related to the CWA, users’ knowledge and attitude towards CWAs, human environment, and organizational environment). We also found 57 positive and 23 negative effects that we classified into processes and outcomes.
Conclusions
Although we found some experimental and quasi-experimental studies of the effectiveness and safety of CWAs as educational and KT interventions, the vast majority of included studies were observational case studies about CWAs being used by health professionals and patients. More primary research is needed to find ways to address the different barriers to their use and to make these applications more useful for different stakeholders.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2787
PMCID: PMC3929050  PMID: 24103318
collaborative writing applications; collaborative authoring; knowledge management; crowdsourcing; medical informatics; ehealth; Internet; Wiki; Wikipedia; Google Docs; Google Knol; Web 2.0; knowledge translation; evidence-based medicine; participatory med
9.  The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Health Care: A Systematic Overview 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000387.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report the findings of their systematic overview that assessed the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care.
Background
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital solutions to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Implementations of transformative eHealth technologies are underway globally, often at very considerable cost. In order to assess the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care, and to inform policy decisions on eHealth deployments, we undertook a systematic review of systematic reviews assessing the effectiveness and consequences of various eHealth technologies on the quality and safety of care.
Methods and Findings
We developed novel search strategies, conceptual maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions, and then systematically identified, scrutinised, and synthesised the systematic review literature. Major biomedical databases were searched to identify systematic reviews published between 1997 and 2010. Related theoretical, methodological, and technical material was also reviewed. We identified 53 systematic reviews that focused on assessing the impact of eHealth interventions on the quality and/or safety of health care and 55 supplementary systematic reviews providing relevant supportive information. This systematic review literature was found to be generally of substandard quality with regards to methodology, reporting, and utility. We thematically categorised eHealth technologies into three main areas: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. We found that despite support from policymakers, there was relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made in relation to these technologies. Whether the success of those relatively few solutions identified to improve quality and safety would continue if these were deployed beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed, has yet to be established. Importantly, best practice guidelines in effective development and deployment strategies are lacking.
Conclusions
There is a large gap between the postulated and empirically demonstrated benefits of eHealth technologies. In addition, there is a lack of robust research on the risks of implementing these technologies and their cost-effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated, despite being frequently promoted by policymakers and “techno-enthusiasts” as if this was a given. In the light of the paucity of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, it is vital that future eHealth technologies are evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle. Such evaluation should be characterised by careful attention to socio-technical factors to maximise the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital health care solutions, often referred to as eHealth—the use of information and communication technologies—to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Often accompanied by large costs, any large-scale expenditure on eHealth—such as electronic health records, picture archiving and communication systems, ePrescribing, associated computerized provider order entry systems, and computerized decision support systems—has tended to be justified on the grounds that these are efficient and cost-effective means for improving health care. In 2005, the World Health Assembly passed an eHealth resolution (WHA 58.28) that acknowledged, “eHealth is the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge and research,” and urged member states to develop and implement eHealth technologies. Since then, implementing eHealth technologies has become a main priority for many countries. For example, England has invested at least £12.8 billion in a National Programme for Information Technology for the National Health Service, and the Obama administration in the United States has committed to a US$38 billion eHealth investment in health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite the wide endorsement of and support for eHealth, the scientific basis of its benefits—which are repeatedly made and often uncritically accepted—remains to be firmly established. A robust evidence-based perspective on the advantages on eHealth could help to suggest priority areas that have the greatest potential for benefit to patients and also to inform international eHealth deliberations on costs. Therefore, in order to better inform the international community, the authors systematically reviewed the published systematic review literature on eHealth technologies and evaluated the impact of these technologies on the quality and safety of health care delivery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers divided eHealth technologies into three main categories: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. Then, implementing methods based on those developed by the Cochrane Collaboration and the NHS Service Delivery and Organisation Programme, the researchers used detailed search strategies and maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions to identify relevant systematic reviews (and related theoretical, methodological, and technical material) published between 1997 and 2010. Using these techniques, the researchers retrieved a total of 46,349 references from which they identified 108 reviews. The 53 reviews that the researchers finally selected (and critically reviewed) provided the main evidence base for assessing the impact of eHealth technologies in the three categories selected.
In their systematic review of systematic reviews, the researchers included electronic health records and picture archiving communications systems in their evaluation of category 1, computerized provider (or physician) order entry and e-prescribing in category 2, and all clinical information systems that, when used in the context of eHealth technologies, integrate clinical and demographic patient information to support clinician decision making in category 3.
The researchers found that many of the clinical claims made about the most commonly used eHealth technologies were not substantiated by empirical evidence. The evidence base in support of eHealth technologies was weak and inconsistent and importantly, there was insubstantial evidence to support the cost-effectiveness of these technologies. For example, the researchers only found limited evidence that some of the many presumed benefits could be realized; importantly, they also found some evidence that introducing these new technologies may on occasions also generate new risks such as prescribers becoming over-reliant on clinical decision support for e-prescribing, or overestimate its functionality, resulting in decreased practitioner performance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers found that despite the wide support for eHealth technologies and the frequently made claims by policy makers when constructing business cases to raise funds for large-scale eHealth projects, there is as yet relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made about eHealth technologies. In addition, even for the eHealth technology tools that have proven to be successful, there is little evidence to show that such tools would continue to be successful beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed. Therefore, in light of the lack of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, the authors say that future eHealth technologies should be evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle, and include socio-technical factors to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption in a given context. Furthermore, it is equally important that eHealth projects that have already been commissioned are subject to rigorous, multidisciplinary, and independent evaluation.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000387.
The authors' broader study is: Car J, Black A, Anandan C, Cresswell K, Pagliari C, McKinstry B, et al. (2008) The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Healthcare. Available at: http://www.haps.bham.ac.uk/publichealth/cfhep/001.shtml
More information is available on the World Health Assembly eHealth resolution
The World Health Organization provides information at the Global Observatory on eHealth, as well as a global insight into eHealth developments
The European Commission provides Information on eHealth in Europe and some examples of good eHealth practice
More information is provided on NHS Connecting for Health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000387
PMCID: PMC3022523  PMID: 21267058
10.  Engaging With a Wiki Related to Knowledge Translation: A Survey of WhatisKT Wiki Users 
Background
In 2008, WhatisKT wiki was launched as a collaborative platform for knowledge translation (KT) researchers and stakeholders to debate the use and definitions of KT-related terms. The wiki has definitions for over 110 terms from disciplines including health care, information technology, education, accounting, and business. WhatisKT wiki has over 115 registered users. Approximately 73,000 unique visitors have visited the wiki since 2008. Despite annual increases in visitors and regular maintenance of the wiki, no visitors have contributed content or started a discussion.
Objective
We surveyed wiki users to gain an understanding of the perceived value of the website, reasons for not engaging in the wiki, and suggestions to facilitate collaboration and improve the usability of the wiki.
Methods
We surveyed three cohorts: KT Canada members who were previously invited to join the wiki, registered wiki members, and unregistered visitors. The first two cohorts completed a Web-based survey that included the System Usability Scale (SUS) questionnaire to assess usability; additionally 3 participants were interviewed. Unregistered wiki visitors were surveyed with polls posted on the wiki. The study received ethics approval from the McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences Research Ethics Board.
Results
Twenty-three participants completed the Web-based and SUS surveys; 15 participants indicated that they would collaborate on the wiki. The mean SUS score of 67 (95% CI 56-77) indicated that the wiki could be considered for design improvements. Study participants indicated that the wiki could be improved by email notification regarding new terms, better grouping of terms, user friendly interface, and training for users interested in editing content.
Conclusions
The findings from this survey will be used to enhance the design and content of WhatisKT wiki. Further feedback from participants will be used to make the wiki an ideal collaboration platform for KT researchers interested in terminology.
doi:10.2196/jmir.3001
PMCID: PMC3906698  PMID: 24449712
knowledge translation; wiki; usability
11.  Collaborative Authoring of Biomedical Terminologies Using A Semantic Wiki 
To be broadly useful, biomedical terminologies need to capture the knowledge and expertise of multiple experts, research groups and end users. Consequently, the construction of such a terminology requires collaboration among multiple participants. This paper summarizes several terminology projects which employ a collaborative authoring mode in development, along with the various tools used by these projects to support collaboration, such as mailing list, issue tracking system, client-side GUI software and Wiki system. We then discuss the essential functional requirements for a collaborative authoring tool in the context of terminology development, and analyze the inherent features of Semantic Wiki that enable it to be a competent tool used in this type of effort. To demonstrate, we describe a prototype system of collaborative authoring for health care terminologies built upon the Semantic Wiki technology. Finally, we discuss the potential issues that might be associated with this open Semantic Wiki platform.
PMCID: PMC2815405  PMID: 20351856
12.  The Collaboratory for MS3D: A New Cyberinfrastructure for the Structural Elucidation of Biological Macromolecules and their Assemblies Using Mass Spectrometry-based Approaches 
Journal of proteome research  2008;7(11):4848-4857.
Modern biomedical research is evolving with the rapid growth of diverse data types, biophysical characterization methods, computational tools and extensive collaboration among researchers spanning various communities and having complementary backgrounds and expertise. Collaborating researchers are increasingly dependent on shared data and tools made available by other investigators with common interests, thus forming communities that transcend the traditional boundaries of the single research lab or institution. Barriers, however, remain to the formation of these virtual communities, usually due to the steep learning curve associated with becoming familiar with new tools, or with the difficulties associated with transferring data between tools. Recognizing the need for shared reference data and analysis tools, we are developing an integrated knowledge environment that supports productive interactions among researchers. Here we report on our current collaborative environment, which focuses on bringing together structural biologists working in the area of mass spectrometric based methods for the analysis of tertiary and quaternary macromolecular structures (MS3D) called the Collaboratory for MS3D (C-MS3D). C-MS3D is a web-portal designed to provide collaborators with a shared work environment that integrates data storage and management with data analysis tools. Files are stored and archived along with pertinent meta data in such a way as to allow file handling to be tracked (data provenance) and data files to be searched using keywords and modification dates. While at this time the portal is designed around a specific application, the shared work environment is a general approach to building collaborative work groups. The goal of which is to not only provide a common data sharing and archiving system but also to assist in the building of new collaborations and to spur the development of new tools and technologies.
doi:10.1021/pr800443f
PMCID: PMC2677910  PMID: 18817429
Collaboratory; data analysis tools; structural biology; mass spectrometry
13.  WhatisKT wiki: a case study of a platform for knowledge translation terms and definitions — descriptive analysis 
Background
More than a hundred terms, often with unclear definitions and varying emphases, are used by health research and practice communities across the world who are interested in getting the best possible evidence applied (e.g., knowledge translation, implementation science, diffusion of innovations, and technology transfer). This makes finding published evidence difficult and can result in reduced, misinterpreted, or challenging interactions among professionals. Open dialogue and interaction among various professionals is needed to achieve consolidation of vocabulary. We use case report methods to describe how we sought to build an online tool to present the range of terms and facilitate the dialogue process across groups and disciplines interested in harnessing research evidence for healthcare.
Methods
We used a wiki platform from Wikispaces to present the problem of terminology and make a case and opportunity for collaboration on usage. Wikis are web sites where communities of users can collaborate online to build content and discuss progress. We gathered terms related to getting research into practice, sought published definitions, and posted these on the wiki (WhatisKT http://whatiskt.wikispaces.com/). We built the wiki in mid-2008 and promoted it through various groups and publications. This report describes the content of the site, our promotion efforts, use of the site, and how the site was used for collaboration up to the end of 2011.
Results
The WhatisKT wiki site now includes more than 120 pages. Traffic to the site has increased substantially from an average of 200 monthly visits in 2008 to 1700 in 2011. Visitors from 143 countries viewed the wiki in 2011, compared with 12 countries in 2008. However, most use has been limited to short term accesses of about 40 seconds per visit, and discussion of consolidation and solidifying terminology is conspicuously absent.
Conclusions
Although considerable interest exists in the terms and definitions related to getting research into practice based on increasing numbers of accesses, use of the WhatisKT wiki site for anything beyond quick lookups was minimal. Additional efforts must be directed towards increasing the level of interaction among the members of the site to encourage collaboration on term use.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-13
PMCID: PMC3564745  PMID: 23347357
Diffusion of innovations; Research; Knowledge translation; Implementation science
14.  Education in Health Research Methodology: Use of a Wiki for Knowledge Translation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64922.
Introduction
A research-practice gap exists between what is known about conducting methodologically rigorous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and what is done. Evidence consistently shows that pediatric RCTs are susceptible to high risk of bias; therefore novel methods of influencing the design and conduct of trials are required. The objective of this study was to develop and pilot test a wiki designed to educate pediatric trialists and trainees in the principles involved in minimizing risk of bias in RCTs. The focus was on preliminary usability testing of the wiki.
Methods
The wiki was developed through adaptation of existing knowledge translation strategies and through tailoring the site to the identified needs of the end-users. The wiki was evaluated for usability and user preferences regarding the content and formatting. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 trialists and systematic reviewers, representing varying levels of experience with risk of bias or the conduct of trials. Data were analyzed using content analysis.
Results
Participants found the wiki to be well organized, easy to use, and straightforward to navigate. Suggestions for improvement tended to focus on clarification of the text or on esthetics, rather than on the content or format. Participants liked the additional features of the site that were supplementary to the text, such as the interactive examples, and the components that focused on practical applications, adding relevance to the theory presented. While the site could be used by both trialists and systematic reviewers, the lack of a clearly defined target audience caused some confusion among participants.
Conclusions
Participants were supportive of using a wiki as a novel educational tool. The results of this pilot test will be used to refine the risk of bias wiki, which holds promise as a knowledge translation intervention for education in medical research methodology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064922
PMCID: PMC3669055  PMID: 23741424
15.  Challenges of molecular nutrition research 6: the nutritional phenotype database to store, share and evaluate nutritional systems biology studies 
Genes & Nutrition  2010;5(3):189-203.
The challenge of modern nutrition and health research is to identify food-based strategies promoting life-long optimal health and well-being. This research is complex because it exploits a multitude of bioactive compounds acting on an extensive network of interacting processes. Whereas nutrition research can profit enormously from the revolution in ‘omics’ technologies, it has discipline-specific requirements for analytical and bioinformatic procedures. In addition to measurements of the parameters of interest (measures of health), extensive description of the subjects of study and foods or diets consumed is central for describing the nutritional phenotype. We propose and pursue an infrastructural activity of constructing the “Nutritional Phenotype database” (dbNP). When fully developed, dbNP will be a research and collaboration tool and a publicly available data and knowledge repository. Creation and implementation of the dbNP will maximize benefits to the research community by enabling integration and interrogation of data from multiple studies, from different research groups, different countries and different—omics levels. The dbNP is designed to facilitate storage of biologically relevant, pre-processed—omics data, as well as study descriptive and study participant phenotype data. It is also important to enable the combination of this information at different levels (e.g. to facilitate linkage of data describing participant phenotype, genotype and food intake with information on study design and—omics measurements, and to combine all of this with existing knowledge). The biological information stored in the database (i.e. genetics, transcriptomics, proteomics, biomarkers, metabolomics, functional assays, food intake and food composition) is tailored to nutrition research and embedded in an environment of standard procedures and protocols, annotations, modular data-basing, networking and integrated bioinformatics. The dbNP is an evolving enterprise, which is only sustainable if it is accepted and adopted by the wider nutrition and health research community as an open source, pre-competitive and publicly available resource where many partners both can contribute and profit from its developments. We introduce the Nutrigenomics Organisation (NuGO, http://www.nugo.org) as a membership association responsible for establishing and curating the dbNP. Within NuGO, all efforts related to dbNP (i.e. usage, coordination, integration, facilitation and maintenance) will be directed towards a sustainable and federated infrastructure.
doi:10.1007/s12263-010-0167-9
PMCID: PMC2935528  PMID: 21052526
Nutritional phenotype; Nutrigenomics; Database
16.  Challenges of molecular nutrition research 6: the nutritional phenotype database to store, share and evaluate nutritional systems biology studies 
Genes & Nutrition  2010;5(3):189-203.
The challenge of modern nutrition and health research is to identify food-based strategies promoting life-long optimal health and well-being. This research is complex because it exploits a multitude of bioactive compounds acting on an extensive network of interacting processes. Whereas nutrition research can profit enormously from the revolution in ‘omics’ technologies, it has discipline-specific requirements for analytical and bioinformatic procedures. In addition to measurements of the parameters of interest (measures of health), extensive description of the subjects of study and foods or diets consumed is central for describing the nutritional phenotype. We propose and pursue an infrastructural activity of constructing the “Nutritional Phenotype database” (dbNP). When fully developed, dbNP will be a research and collaboration tool and a publicly available data and knowledge repository. Creation and implementation of the dbNP will maximize benefits to the research community by enabling integration and interrogation of data from multiple studies, from different research groups, different countries and different—omics levels. The dbNP is designed to facilitate storage of biologically relevant, pre-processed—omics data, as well as study descriptive and study participant phenotype data. It is also important to enable the combination of this information at different levels (e.g. to facilitate linkage of data describing participant phenotype, genotype and food intake with information on study design and—omics measurements, and to combine all of this with existing knowledge). The biological information stored in the database (i.e. genetics, transcriptomics, proteomics, biomarkers, metabolomics, functional assays, food intake and food composition) is tailored to nutrition research and embedded in an environment of standard procedures and protocols, annotations, modular data-basing, networking and integrated bioinformatics. The dbNP is an evolving enterprise, which is only sustainable if it is accepted and adopted by the wider nutrition and health research community as an open source, pre-competitive and publicly available resource where many partners both can contribute and profit from its developments. We introduce the Nutrigenomics Organisation (NuGO, http://www.nugo.org) as a membership association responsible for establishing and curating the dbNP. Within NuGO, all efforts related to dbNP (i.e. usage, coordination, integration, facilitation and maintenance) will be directed towards a sustainable and federated infrastructure.
doi:10.1007/s12263-010-0167-9
PMCID: PMC2935528  PMID: 21052526
Nutritional phenotype; Nutrigenomics; Database
17.  Wikis and Collaborative Writing Applications in Health Care: A Scoping Review Protocol 
JMIR Research Protocols  2012;1(1):e1.
The rapid rise in the use of collaborative writing applications (eg, wikis, Google Documents, and Google Knol) has created the need for a systematic synthesis of the evidence of their impact as knowledge translation (KT) tools in the health care sector and for an inventory of the factors that affect their use. While researchers have conducted systematic reviews on a range of software-based information and communication technologies as well as other social media (eg, virtual communities of practice, virtual peer-to-peer communities, and electronic support groups), none have reviewed collaborative writing applications in the medical sector. The overarching goal of this project is to explore the depth and breadth of evidence for the use of collaborative writing applications in health care. Thus, the purposes of this scoping review will be to (1) map the literature on collaborative writing applications; (2) compare the applications’ features; (3) describe the evidence of each application’s positive and negative effects as a KT intervention in health care; (4) inventory and describe the barriers and facilitators that affect the applications’ use; and (5) produce an action plan and a research agenda. A six-stage framework for scoping reviews will be used: (1) identifying the research question; (2) identifying relevant studies within the selected databases (using the EPPI-Reviewer software to classify the studies); (3) selecting studies (an iterative process in which two reviewers search the literature, refine the search strategy, and review articles for inclusion); (4) charting the data (using EPPI-Reviewer’s data-charting form); (5) collating, summarizing, and reporting the results (performing a descriptive, numerical, and interpretive synthesis); and (6) consulting knowledge users during three planned meetings. Since this scoping review concerns the use of collaborative writing applications as KT interventions in health care, we will use the Knowledge to Action (KTA) framework to describe and compare the various studies and collaborative writing projects we find. In addition to guiding the use of collaborative writing applications in health care, this scoping review will advance the science of KT by testing tools that could be used to evaluate other social media. We also expect to identify areas that require further systematic reviews and primary research and to produce a highly relevant research agenda that explores and leverages the potential of collaborative writing software. To date, this is the first study to use the KTA framework to study the role collaborative writing applications in KT, and the first to involve three national and international institutional knowledge users as part of the research process.
doi:10.2196/resprot.1993
PMCID: PMC3626140  PMID: 23612481
18.  Guidelines, Editors, Pharma And The Biological Paradigm Shift 
Mens Sana Monographs  2007;5(1):27-30.
Private investment in biomedical research has increased over the last few decades. At most places it has been welcomed as the next best thing to technology itself. Much of the intellectual talent from academic institutions is getting absorbed in lucrative positions in industry. Applied research finds willing collaborators in venture capital funded industry, so a symbiotic growth is ensured for both.
There are significant costs involved too. As academia interacts with industry, major areas of conflict of interest especially applicable to biomedical research have arisen. They are related to disputes over patents and royalty, hostile encounters between academia and industry, as also between public and private enterprise, legal tangles, research misconduct of various types, antagonistic press and patient-advocate lobbies and a general atmosphere in which commercial interest get precedence over patient welfare.
Pharma image stinks because of a number of errors of omission and commission. A recent example is suppression of negative findings about Bayer's Trasylol (Aprotinin) and the marketing maneuvers of Eli Lilly's Xigris (rhAPC). Whenever there is a conflict between patient vulnerability and profit motives, pharma often tends to tilt towards the latter. Moreover there are documents that bring to light how companies frequently cross the line between patient welfare and profit seeking behaviour.
A voluntary moratorium over pharma spending to pamper drug prescribers is necessary. A code of conduct adopted recently by OPPI in India to limit pharma company expenses over junkets and trinkets is a welcome step.
Clinical practice guidelines (CPG) are considered important as they guide the diagnostic/therapeutic regimen of a large number of medical professionals and hospitals and provide recommendations on drugs, their dosages and criteria for selection. Along with clinical trials, they are another area of growing influence by the pharmaceutical industry. For example, in a relatively recent survey of 2002, it was found that about 60% of 192 authors of clinical practice guidelines reported they had financial connections with the companies whose drugs were under consideration. There is a strong case for making CPGs based not just on effectivity but cost effectivity. The various ramifications of this need to be spelt out. Work of bodies like the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) Collaboration and Guidelines Advisory Committee (GAC) are also worth a close look.
Even the actions of Foundations that work for disease amelioration have come under scrutiny. The process of setting up ‘Best Practices’ Guidelines for interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians has already begun and can have important consequences for patient care. Similarly, Good Publication Practice (GPP) for pharmaceutical companies have also been set up aimed at improving the behaviour of drug companies while reporting drug trials
The rapidly increasing trend toward influence and control by industry has become a concern for many. It is of such importance that the Association of American Medical Colleges has issued two relatively new documents - one, in 2001, on how to deal with individual conflicts of interest; and the other, in 2002, on how to deal with institutional conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical research. Academic Medical Centers (AMCs), as also medical education and research institutions at other places, have to adopt means that minimize their conflicts of interest.
Both medical associations and research journal editors are getting concerned with individual and institutional conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical research and documents are now available which address these issues. The 2001 ICMJE revision calls for full disclosure of the sponsor's role in research, as well as assurance that the investigators are independent of the sponsor, are fully accountable for the design and conduct of the trial, have independent access to all trial data and control all editorial and publication decisions. However the findings of a 2002 study suggest that academic institutions routinely participate in clinical research that does not adhere to ICMJE standards of accountability, access to data and control of publication.
There is an inevitable slant to produce not necessarily useful but marketable products which ensure the profitability of industry and research grants outflow to academia. Industry supports new, not traditional, therapies, irrespective of what is effective. Whatever traditional therapy is supported is most probably because the company concerned has a product with a big stake there, which has remained a ‘gold standard’ or which that player thinks has still some ‘juice’ left.
Industry sponsorship is mainly for potential medications, not for trying to determine whether there may be non-pharmacological interventions that may be equally good, if not better. In the paradigm shift towards biological psychiatry, the role of industry sponsorship is not overt but probably more pervasive than many have realised, or the right thinking may consider good, for the health of the branch in the long run.
An issue of major concern is protection of the interests of research subjects. Patients agree to become research subjects not only for personal medical benefit but, as an extension, to benefit the rest of the patient population and also advance medical research.
We all accept that industry profits have to be made, and investment in research and development by the pharma industry is massive. However, we must also accept there is a fundamental difference between marketing strategies for other entities and those for drugs.
The ultimate barometer is patient welfare and no drug that compromises it can stand the test of time. So, how does it make even commercial sense in the long term to market substandard products? The greatest mistake long-term players in industry may make is try to adopt the shady techniques of the upstart new entrant. Secrecy of marketing/sales tactics, of the process of manufacture, of other strategies and plans of business expansion, of strategies to tackle competition are fine business tactics. But it is critical that secrecy as a tactic not extend to reporting of research findings, especially those contrary to one's product.
Pharma has no option but to make a quality product, do comprehensive adverse reaction profiles, and market it only if it passes both tests.
Why does pharma adopt questionable tactics? The reasons are essentially two:
What with all the constraints, a drug comes to the pharmacy after huge investments. There are crippling overheads and infrastructure costs to be recovered. And there are massive profit margins to be maintained. If these were to be dependent only on genuine drug discoveries, that would be taking too great a risk.Industry players have to strike the right balance between profit making and credibility. In profit making, the marketing champions play their role. In credibility ratings, researchers and paid spokes-persons play their role. All is hunky dory till marketing is based on credibility. When there is nothing available to make for credibility, something is projected as one and marketing carried out, in the calculated hope that profits can accrue, since profit making must continue endlessly. That is what makes pharma adopt even questionable means to make profits.
Essentially, there are four types of drugs. First, drugs that work and have minimal side-effects; second, drugs which work but have serious side-effects; third, drugs that do not work and have minimal side-effects; and fourth, drugs which work minimally but have serious side-effects. It is the second and fourth types that create major hassles for industry. Often, industry may try to project the fourth type as the second to escape censure.
The major cat and mouse game being played by conscientious researchers is in exposing the third and fourth for what they are and not allowing industry to palm them off as the first and second type respectively. The other major game is in preventing the second type from being projected as the first. The third type are essentially harmless, so they attract censure all right and some merriment at the antics to market them. But they escape anything more than a light rap on the knuckles, except when they are projected as the first type.
What is necessary for industry captains and long-term players is to realise:
Their major propelling force can only be producing the first type. 2. They accept the second type only till they can lay their hands on the first. 3. The third type can be occasionally played around with to shore up profits, but never by projecting them as the first type. 4. The fourth type are the laggards, real threat to credibility and therefore do not deserve any market hype or promotion.
In finding out why most pharma indulges in questionable tactics, we are lead to some interesting solutions to prevent such tactics with the least amount of hassles for all concerned, even as both profits and credibility are kept intact.
doi:10.4103/0973-1229.32176
PMCID: PMC3192391  PMID: 22058616
Academia; Pharmaceutical Industry; Clinical Practice Guidelines; Best Practice Guidelines; Academic Medical Centers; Medical Associations; Research Journals; Clinical Research; Public Welfare; Pharma Image; Corporate Welfare; Biological Psychiatry; Law Suits Against Industry
19.  Discovering Beaten Paths in Collaborative Ontology-Engineering Projects using Markov Chains 
Biomedical taxonomies, thesauri and ontologies in the form of the International Classification of Diseases as a taxonomy or the National Cancer Institute Thesaurus as an OWL-based ontology, play a critical role in acquiring, representing and processing information about human health. With increasing adoption and relevance, biomedical ontologies have also significantly increased in size. For example, the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, which is currently under active development by the World Health Organization contains nearly 50, 000 classes representing a vast variety of different diseases and causes of death. This evolution in terms of size was accompanied by an evolution in the way ontologies are engineered. Because no single individual has the expertise to develop such large-scale ontologies, ontology-engineering projects have evolved from small-scale efforts involving just a few domain experts to large-scale projects that require effective collaboration between dozens or even hundreds of experts, practitioners and other stakeholders. Understanding the way these different stakeholders collaborate will enable us to improve editing environments that support such collaborations. In this paper, we uncover how large ontology-engineering projects, such as the International Classification of Diseases in its 11th revision, unfold by analyzing usage logs of five different biomedical ontology-engineering projects of varying sizes and scopes using Markov chains. We discover intriguing interaction patterns (e.g., which properties users frequently change after specific given ones) that suggest that large collaborative ontology-engineering projects are governed by a few general principles that determine and drive development. From our analysis, we identify commonalities and differences between different projects that have implications for project managers, ontology editors, developers and contributors working on collaborative ontology-engineering projects and tools in the biomedical domain.
doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2014.06.004
PMCID: PMC4194274  PMID: 24953242
Collaborative ontology engineering; Markov chains; sequential patterns; collaboration; ontology-engineering tool; user interface
20.  Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education 
Background
We have witnessed a rapid increase in the use of Web-based 'collaborationware' in recent years. These Web 2.0 applications, particularly wikis, blogs and podcasts, have been increasingly adopted by many online health-related professional and educational services. Because of their ease of use and rapidity of deployment, they offer the opportunity for powerful information sharing and ease of collaboration. Wikis are Web sites that can be edited by anyone who has access to them. The word 'blog' is a contraction of 'Web Log' – an online Web journal that can offer a resource rich multimedia environment. Podcasts are repositories of audio and video materials that can be "pushed" to subscribers, even without user intervention. These audio and video files can be downloaded to portable media players that can be taken anywhere, providing the potential for "anytime, anywhere" learning experiences (mobile learning).
Discussion
Wikis, blogs and podcasts are all relatively easy to use, which partly accounts for their proliferation. The fact that there are many free and Open Source versions of these tools may also be responsible for their explosive growth. Thus it would be relatively easy to implement any or all within a Health Professions' Educational Environment. Paradoxically, some of their disadvantages also relate to their openness and ease of use. With virtually anybody able to alter, edit or otherwise contribute to the collaborative Web pages, it can be problematic to gauge the reliability and accuracy of such resources. While arguably, the very process of collaboration leads to a Darwinian type 'survival of the fittest' content within a Web page, the veracity of these resources can be assured through careful monitoring, moderation, and operation of the collaborationware in a closed and secure digital environment. Empirical research is still needed to build our pedagogic evidence base about the different aspects of these tools in the context of medical/health education.
Summary and conclusion
If effectively deployed, wikis, blogs and podcasts could offer a way to enhance students', clinicians' and patients' learning experiences, and deepen levels of learners' engagement and collaboration within digital learning environments. Therefore, research should be conducted to determine the best ways to integrate these tools into existing e-Learning programmes for students, health professionals and patients, taking into account the different, but also overlapping, needs of these three audience classes and the opportunities of virtual collaboration between them. Of particular importance is research into novel integrative applications, to serve as the "glue" to bind the different forms of Web-based collaborationware synergistically in order to provide a coherent wholesome learning experience.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-41
PMCID: PMC1564136  PMID: 16911779
21.  An e-learning application on electrochemotherapy 
Background
Electrochemotherapy is an effective approach in local tumour treatment employing locally applied high-voltage electric pulses in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs. In planning and performing electrochemotherapy a multidisciplinary expertise is required and collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts from different scientific fields such as medicine, biology and biomedical engineering is needed. The objective of this study was to develop an e-learning application in order to provide the educational content on electrochemotherapy and its underlying principles and to support collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts involved in the research and clinics.
Methods
The educational content on electrochemotherapy and cell and tissue electroporation was based on previously published studies from molecular dynamics, lipid bilayers, single cell level and simplified tissue models to complex biological tissues and research and clinical results of electrochemotherapy treatment. We used computer graphics such as model-based visualization (i.e. 3D numerical modelling using finite element method) and 3D computer animations and graphical illustrations to facilitate the representation of complex biological and physical aspects in electrochemotherapy. The e-learning application is integrated into an interactive e-learning environment developed at our institution, enabling collaboration and knowledge exchange among the users. We evaluated the designed e-learning application at the International Scientific workshop and postgraduate course (Electroporation Based Technologies and Treatments). The evaluation was carried out by testing the pedagogical efficiency of the presented educational content and by performing the usability study of the application.
Results
The e-learning content presents three different levels of knowledge on cell and tissue electroporation. In the first part of the e-learning application we explain basic principles of electroporation process. The second part provides educational content about importance of modelling and visualization of local electric field in electroporation-based treatments. In the third part we developed an interactive module for visualization of local electric field distribution in 3D tissue models of cutaneous tumors for different parameters such as voltage applied, distance between electrodes, electrode dimension and shape, tissue geometry and electric conductivity. The pedagogical efficiency assessment showed that the participants improved their level of knowledge. The results of usability evaluation revealed that participants found the application simple to learn, use and navigate. The participants also found the information provided by the application easy to understand.
Conclusion
The e-learning application we present in this article provides educational material on electrochemotherapy and its underlying principles such as cell and tissue electroporation. The e-learning application is developed to provide an interactive educational content in order to simulate the "hands-on" learning approach about the parameters being important for successful therapy. The e-learning application together with the interactive e-learning environment is available to the users to provide collaborative and flexible learning in order to facilitate knowledge exchange among the experts from different scientific fields that are involved in electrochemotherapy. The modular structure of the application allows for upgrade with new educational content collected from the clinics and research, and can be easily adapted to serve as a collaborative e-learning tool also in other electroporation-based treatments such as gene electrotransfer, gene vaccination, irreversible tissue ablation and transdermal gene and drug delivery. The presented e-learning application provides an easy and rapid approach for information, knowledge and experience exchange among the experts from different scientific fields, which can facilitate development and optimisation of electroporation-based treatments.
doi:10.1186/1475-925X-8-26
PMCID: PMC2770511  PMID: 19843322
22.  Automated seeding of specialised wiki knowledgebases with BioKb 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:291.
Background
Wiki technology has become a ubiquitous mechanism for dissemination of information, and places strong emphasis on collaboration. We aimed to leverage wiki technology to allow small groups of researchers to collaborate around a specific domain, for example a biological pathway. Automatically gathered seed data could be modified by the group and enriched with domain specific information.
Results
We describe a software system, BioKb, implemented as a plugin for the TWiki engine, and designed to facilitate construction of a field-specific wiki containing collaborative and automatically generated content. Features of this system include: query of publicly available resources such as KEGG, iHOP and MeSH, to generate 'seed' content for topics; simple definition of structure for topics of different types via an administration page; and interactive incorporation of relevant PubMed references. An exemplar is shown for the use of this system, in the creation of the RAASWiki knowledgebase on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). RAASWiki has been seeded with data by use of BioKb, and will be the subject of ongoing development into an extensive knowledgebase on the RAAS.
Conclusion
The BioKb system is available from http://www.bioinf.mvm.ed.ac.uk/twiki/bin/view/TWiki/BioKbPlugin as a plugin for the TWiki engine.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-291
PMCID: PMC2753848  PMID: 19758431
23.  Collaborative research: Accomplishments & potential 
Although a substantial part of scientific research is collaborative and increasing globalization will probably lead to its increase, very few studies actually investigate the advantages, disadvantages, experiences and lessons learned from collaboration. In environmental epidemiology interdisciplinary collaboration is essential and the contrasting geographical patterns in exposure and disease make multi-location projects essential. This paper is based on a presentation given at the Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, Paris 2006, and is attempting to initiate a discussion on a framework for studying collaborative research. A review of the relevant literature showed that indeed collaborative research is rising, in some countries with impressive rates. However, there are substantial differences between countries in their outlook, need and respect for collaboration. In many situations collaborative publications receive more citations than those based on national authorship. The European Union is the most important host of collaborative research, mainly driven by the European Commission through the Framework Programmes. A critical assessment of the tools and trends of collaborative networks under FP6, showed that there was a need for a critical revision, which led to changes in FP7. In conclusion, it is useful to study the characteristics of collaborative research and set targets for the future. The added value for science and for the researchers involved may be assessed. The motivation for collaboration could be increased in the more developed countries. Particular ways to increase the efficiency and interaction in interdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration may be developed. We can work towards "the principles of collaborative research" in Environmental Epidemiology.
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-7-3
PMCID: PMC2265690  PMID: 18208596
24.  How can scientists bring research to use: the HENVINET experience 
Environmental Health  2012;11(Suppl 1):S2.
Background
Health concerns have driven the European environmental policies of the last 25 years, with issues becoming more complex. Addressing these concerns requires an approach that is both interdisciplinary and engages scientists with society. In response to this requirement, the FP6 coordination action “Health and Environment Network” HENVINET was set up to create a permanent inter-disciplinary network of professionals in the field of health and environment tasked to bridge the communication gap between science and society. In this paper we describe how HENVINET delivered on this task.
Methods
The HENVINET project approached the issue of inter-disciplinary collaboration in four ways. (1) The Drivers-Pressures-State-Exposure-Effect-Action framework was used to structure information gathering, collaboration and communication between scientists in the field of health and the environment. (2) Interactive web-based tools were developed to enhance methods for knowledge evaluation, and use these methods to formulate policy advice. (3) Quantification methods were adapted to measure scientific agreement. And (4) Open architecture web technology was used to develop an information repository and a web portal to facilitate collaboration and communication among scientists.
Results
Twenty-five organizations from Europe and five from outside Europe participated in the Health and Environment Network HENVINET, which lasted for 3.5 years. The consortium included partners in environmental research, public health and veterinary medicine; included medical practitioners and representatives of local administrations; and had access to national policy making and EEA and WHO expertise. Dedicated web-based tools for visualisation of environmental health issues and knowledge evaluation allowed remote expert elicitation, and were used as a basis for developing policy advice in five health areas (asthma and allergies; cancer; neurodevelopmental disorders; endocrine disruption; and engineered nanoparticles in the environment). An open searchable database of decision support tools was established and populated. A web based social networking tool was developed to enhance collaboration and communication between scientists and society.
Conclusions
HENVINET addressed key issues that arise in inter-disciplinary research on health and environment and in communicating research results to policy makers and society. HENVINET went beyond traditional scientific tools and methods to bridge the communication gap between science and policy makers. The project identified the need for a common framework and delivered it. It developed and implemented a variety of novel methods and tools and, using several representative examples, demonstrated the process of producing politically relevant scientific advice based on an open participation of experts. It highlighted the need for, and benefits of, a liaison between health and environment professionals and professionals in the social sciences and liberal arts. By adopting critical complexity thinking, HENVINET extended the traditional approach to environment and health research, and set the standard for current approaches to bridge the gap between science and society.
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC3388450  PMID: 22759502
25.  Tobacco Industry Manipulation of Tobacco Excise and Tobacco Advertising Policies in the Czech Republic: An Analysis of Tobacco Industry Documents 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001248.
Risako Shirane and colleagues examined the the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and found evidence of transnational tobacco company influence over tobacco advertising and excise policy in the Czech Republic, a country with one of the poorest tobacco control records in Europe.
Background
The Czech Republic has one of the poorest tobacco control records in Europe. This paper examines transnational tobacco companies' (TTCs') efforts to influence policy there, paying particular attention to excise policies, as high taxes are one of the most effective means of reducing tobacco consumption, and tax structures are an important aspect of TTC competitiveness.
Methods and Findings
TTC documents dating from 1989 to 2004/5 were retrieved from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library website, analysed using a socio-historical approach, and triangulated with key informant interviews and secondary data. The documents demonstrate significant industry influence over tobacco control policy. Philip Morris (PM) ignored, overturned, and weakened various attempts to restrict tobacco advertising, promoting voluntary approaches as an alternative to binding legislation. PM and British American Tobacco (BAT) lobbied separately on tobacco tax structures, each seeking to implement the structure that benefitted its own brand portfolio over that of its competitors, and enjoying success in turn. On excise levels, the different companies took a far more collaborative approach, seeking to keep tobacco taxes low and specifically to prevent any large tax increases. Collective lobbying, using a variety of arguments, was successful in delaying the tax increases required via European Union accession. Contrary to industry arguments, data show that cigarettes became more affordable post-accession and that TTCs have taken advantage of low excise duties by raising prices. Interview data suggest that TTCs enjoy high-level political support and continue to actively attempt to influence policy.
Conclusion
There is clear evidence of past and ongoing TTC influence over tobacco advertising and excise policy. We conclude that this helps explain the country's weak tobacco control record. The findings suggest there is significant scope for tobacco tax increases in the Czech Republic and that large (rather than small, incremental) increases are most effective in reducing smoking.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 5 million people die from tobacco-related diseases and, if current trends continue, annual tobacco-related deaths will increase to 10 million by 2030. Faced with this global tobacco epidemic, national and international bodies have drawn up conventions and directives designed to control tobacco. For example, European Union (EU) Directives on tobacco control call for member states to ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship and to adopt taxation policies (for example, high levels of tobacco excise tax) aimed at reducing tobacco consumption. Within the EU, implementation of tobacco control policies varies widely but the Czech Republic, which was formed in 1993 when Czechoslovakia split following the 1989 collapse of communism, has a particularly poor record. The Czech Republic, which joined the EU in 2004, is the only EU Member State not to have ratified the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which entered into force in 2005, and its tobacco control policies were the fourth least effective in Europe in 2010.
Why Was This Study Done?
During the communist era, state-run tobacco monopolies controlled the supply of cigarettes and other tobacco products in Czechoslovakia. Privatization of these monopolies began in 1991 and several transnational tobacco companies (TTCs)—in particular, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco—entered the tobacco market in what was to become the Czech Republic. In this socio-historical study, which aims to improve understanding of both effective tobacco excise policy and the ways in which TTCs seek to influence policy in emerging markets, the researchers analyze publically available internal TTC documents and interview key informants to examine efforts made by TTCs to influence tobacco advertising and tobacco excise tax policies in the Czech Republic. A socio-historical study examines the interactions between individuals and groups in a historical context.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed 511 documents (dated 1989 onwards) in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library website (a collection of internal tobacco industry documents released through US litigation cases) that mentioned tobacco control policies in the Czech Republic. They also analyzed information obtained from sources such as tobacco industry journals and data obtained in 2010 in interviews with key Czech informants (including a tobacco industry representative and a politician). The researchers' analysis of the industry documents indicates that Philip Morris ignored, overturned, and weakened attempts to restrict tobacco advertising and promoted voluntary approaches as an alternative to binding legislation. Importantly, while the internal documents show that Philip Morris lobbied for a specific excise tax (a fixed amount of tax per cigarette, a tax structure that favors the expensive brands that Philip Morris mainly markets), the European strategy employed at that time by British American Tobacco was to lobby for a mixed excise structure that combined an “ad valorem” tax (a tax levied as a proportion of price) and a specific tax, an approach that favors a mixed portfolio of tobacco brands. By contrast, the documents show that TTCs collaborated in trying to keep tobacco taxes low and in trying to prevent any large tax increases. This collective lobbying successfully delayed the tobacco tax increases required as a condition of the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. Finally, the interview data suggest that TTCs had high-level political support in the Czech Republic and continue actively to attempt to influence policy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide clear evidence that Philip Morris and British American Tobacco (the two TTCs that have dominated the Czech market since privatization of the tobacco industry) have significantly influenced tobacco advertising and excise policy in the Czech Republic since 1989. The findings, which also suggest that this influence is ongoing, help to explain the Czech Republic's poor tobacco control record, which was reflected in a fall in the real price of cigarettes between 1990 and 2000. More generally, this study provides valuable insight into how TTCs might try to influence policy in other emerging markets. Improvements in global tobacco control, the researchers conclude, will be possible only if efforts are made to protect tobacco control policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry, a principle enshrined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco control, and if public and political attitudes to the industry shift.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001248.
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and about its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
For information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
The Framework Convention Alliance more information about the FCTC
Details of European Union legislation on excise duty applied to manufactured tobacco and on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products are available (in several languages)
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a searchable public database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking
Smokefree.gov, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking and not start again
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001248
PMCID: PMC3383744  PMID: 22745606

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