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Apr
02

My first blog in Japanese

Once in a while things just get a little busy and something I have been meaning to get done patiently waits for a few months. I admit it, though its a rareity because I like to clear my inbox the same day if not the same week. This results in being glued to my desk and literally having to be prised away for meals and other essentials of life.. Last year I was asked to write a blog about the latest book  I co-edited which I blogged about last year here, the difference being this blog would be for Wiley Japan. One thing and another interupted my progress (writing papers, Christmas, a trip to Bratislava, a trip to the UK, 2 trips to San Francisco, 1 trip to San Diego, more papers, a few grants and preparing more slides than I ever thought possible..). Last week, close to implosion I promised myself I would write the blog and I did most of it 30,000 feet up (or thereabouts) on my iPad enroute to San Diego.

My patient contact at Wiley Japan Jiro Iwasaki has kindly translated it and it appears here  I am grateful for this opportunity and excited because I have really enjoyed my trips to Japan over the years and I hope to return one day.

Here is my transcript of the blog:

Collaborative Computational Technologies for Biomedical Research

I was asked to write a blog on a book I co-edited with Maggie Hupcey & Antony Williams which published in 2011. I hope it will do two things – give you more ideas about the book and inspire you to contribute to books that others are editing.

First I should provide a little background about my research. I am a clinical pharmacologist by training with a background in preclinical drug discovery. I have worked in the past for major pharmaceutical companies, small startup companies and now consult for companies in the life sciences and consumer product space. Perhaps as I mature I am becoming a little more entrepreneurial, or this is a reflection of my increased exposure to people, data, tools and projects. My present employment includes companies that develop software and databases for scientists. Over the past decade I have spent part of my time collaborating with academic scientists doing drug discovery research. In all of these collaborations I have used computational methods to make predictions that have been verified or refuted in vitro. This has lead me to publish and write extensively. I am also an advocate of increased collaboration between scientists and the cross fertilization of ideas from different perspectives. I was given the opportunity to edit several books and a series around pharmaceutical technologies.

This was the fourth book I had the privilege of co-editing for Wiley. The idea behind it had been growing for several years as I had become a hyper-collaborative scientist that relied on software to do my job and help others. I realized that there was also an increasing interest in collaboration for biomedical research and I was likely only aware of a fraction of what was going on in the field. After an initial sketch of ideas I fleshed out an outline. My wife and co-editor suggested a Man-Methods-Machine breakdown of the subject matter. This was very appealing to me as prior to this all the chapters were randomly ordered, so this immediately gave it some structure. Feedback from reviewers at Wiley suggested I needed another experienced editor to cover some of the gaps in my experience. I managed to convince Antony Williams (Royal Society of Chemistry), who I had been collaborating with for a year or so at that point. Tony also had great network connections and helped a great deal in persuading suggested authors.

The aim of the book is to show human collaboration, data and informatics aspects that are part of modern day scientific research which because of its large scale requires it. The book was developed as a “how to guide” to collaborations in which computational software may be a major component. It should be of interest to anyone involved in Pharmaceutical Research and Development in academia and industry, whether a student or leader of a research group.

I should say over all the books I have edited, I have invited the majority of contributors, most of which I have never met before. The books generally also tend to have large numbers of international chapters, in this way I can balance the perspective. So over the years I have been very grateful for these generous contributions of strangers to create something like a co-operative effort. Only very rarely have I had to cover for a chapter that did not arrive at all. Although I provide the authors with a suggested title and subject matter, they are of course free to adjust this as necessary. What I think is remarkable through the process of creating a book is how it comes together into a complete, or relatively complete assessment of the topic in question, whether that’s ‘Computer Applications in Pharmaceutical Research and Development’, ‘Computational Toxicology: Risk Assessment for Pharmaceutical and Environmental Chemicals’, ‘Drug Efficacy, Safety, and Biologics Discovery: Emerging Technologies and Tools’, ‘Collaborative Computational Technologies for Biomedical Research’. In this way perhaps the books can be used as a guide as well as a historical document of the state of the art when the book was completed.

By the end of the latest book we had 28 chapters, of which I co-authored 5. We were able to cover most of the chapter topics proposed in the initial outline to Wiley and were able to submit the book in the same year as the proposal was approved.
The book was eventually published the following year and represents a unique project, the first book on the topic to my knowledge. For me personally it is important to complete a project in a year or less once I get started. In contrast I have one book project I have been meaning to do for wiley for several years but it has always been superceded by another that came along which I felt at the time was more important.

What makes this current book stand out for me was that we put together a coordinated effort to spread the word through social media. I had started blogging (www.collabchem.com) in 2011, as well as putting my slides on slideshare and tweeting (collabchem). I wrote blogs about the book process (http://www.collabchem.com/2011/05/19/how-the-book-collaborative-computational-technologies-for-biomedical-research-came-to-fruition/) and put together slides that also describe the topics (http://www.slideshare.net/ekinssean/collaborative-technologies-for-biomedical-research). I am now on my way (while writing this) to the Amercan Chemical Society meeting in San Diego and I will give a presentation that uses the book as the platform for a discussion on how we can enable more open drug discovery (http://www.slideshare.net/ekinssean/acs-collaborative-computational-technologies-for-biomedical-research-an-enabler-of-more-open-drug-discovery). There are many chapters that touch on precompetitive initiatives or large collaboration like those funded in Europe (Framework and IMI) as well as crowdsourcing efforts in science. Some of the developments in collaborative tool development, increased data availability on the internet and the efforts of open science advocates suggest to us the potential for disruption to occur. By providing the right conditions and accessibility of data and software, anyone can participate in research from any country that has an interest. OK perhaps this is a little optimistic, but we are enabling this situation at a speed unthinkable just 5 years ago. I predict the pharmaceutical advances of the future will increasingly be made online using collaborative computational tools. Technologies to virtually determine the potential additional uses of already approved drugs already are available from different academic groups.

What next, well I think areas that will particularly benefit from the ideas presented in the book will be the neglected and rare disease communities. These are usually made up of relatively small, globally dispersed researchers. If we are to achieve meaningful progress in curing more of these diseases which have received just a fraction of the investment, then we need to ensure these groups collaborate either openly or selectively to share ideas, resources and computational models. The later I think is critical if these rare diseases are to find and test hypotheses quickly.

Naturally in my next book for Wiley I hope to address the current state of rare disease research, but this for me is very much a work in progress as the book is just in the proposal stage so far. I hope that some of you reading this will one day collaborate with me or contribute to a future volume I or another editor organizes. After reading the books I have edited I can conclude that I feel a sense of accomplishment and my understanding of a field has been significantly enriched by contributors. So thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the future articles and books that I am involved in collaborating on and contributing to.

 

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