Dr. Martin Leach, Head of Research and Biomarker IT at Merck Research Laboratories will present A Call to Arms - Data Standards in Collaborative Research. I've known Martin since my days at Bayer, when he was my counterpart at Curagen. He is an articulate and outspoken advocate for the collaborative benefits that are possible when data standards can be adopted and applied across industry and the academy. I anticipate that he will make a stirring call for biopharma groups working in areas like preclinical research and translational medicine to adopt some of the data standardization approaches that have been so successful on the clinic, such as CDISC, etc.
When I attended the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco last month, I learned that some of the participants planned to microblog the conference using twitter. Twitter is a tool that allows users to post short messages (140 characters or fewer) to the web and to share them easily with others. When multiple twitter users "follow" each other online, the effect is something like joining a near real time conversation.
Somewhere along the way, twitter users began adding a "#" symbol (pound sign or hash character) before key words in their messages, tagging the words as being somehow important or adding context. The neat thing about such "hashtags" is that twitter's search tool lets you find messages containing specific hashtags, even if you aren't "following" the person who originally posted the message.
This is where it gets interesting: if people agree on a hashtag for an event (like a conference), then it becomes easy to follow what is happening at that conference, even if you are not actually attending it. Further, collecting messages with a specific hashtag creates a record of an event, not so different from collecting a series of dispatches by a group of correspondents. Finally, if you are at a conference, following a hashtag thread can let you know about last minute changes, insider info, spontaneous get-togethers, or simply where to find the best beer within walking distance of the convention center.
At the Health 2.0 Conference, people settled on the #health2con and #health20con hashtags. Using these tags truly added to the conference experience, allowing people to connect and to converse with a wide range of participants whom they might not have met otherwise, and, best of all, providing a means to keep the conversation going beyond the conference.
Mark Hawker has been on fire recently! His latest effort is a community-driven Health Informatics Calendar that anyone using an iCal-compatible calendar tool (Google Calendar, Apple iCal, etc.) can subscribe to. While there are other good calendars out there, most of them are company or organization focused, like the HIMSS calendar.
(Note: the calendar uses the London timezone by default, so adjust your perspective accordingly if you are based elsewhere.)