Digital Insights: Will Pharma Ride the Google Wave?

As Google gets ready to unveil the “Wave,” what will this collaborative communication platform mean for pharma professionals?

By Michele Vaccarello Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

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I like to think Google web developers are a little like NASA scientists. I envision them all sitting around in their think tanks rewriting digital history. Their latest project, the Google Wave (info and a demo is available at http://wave.google.com/), due out within the year, is an application that has the potential to change the way we use digital programs by morphing all our electronic process systems into just one collaborative platform.

Google’s official definition of a “wave”:

  • A "wave" is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
  • A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.
  • A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

For example, you can create a “wave” to begin a discussion about a topic or interest and add your colleagues or even global users to it. Everyone in your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web within your wave. A wave is like a topic-specific inbox to manage discussion and collaboration. It is well-suited for instant messages, instant document-dragging and file editing and allows entire threads of movement and conversation to be recorded and played back.

What does this mean for the workplace? Email threads, chains and the ever-dreaded “Reply All” will become obsolete. Meetings can occur without dial-ins, room scheduling and web attachments. All necessary digital resources will be available for instant collaboration and knowledge share. And if we’re lucky I can avoid the “your inbox is way too full to function” message this year. 

What does this mean for the pharmaceutical industry? Hopefully more efficiency and enhanced means to facilitate global communication. Although the industry has been a bit slow to embrace social media, the Google Wave seems like an easy way for Big Pharma to enhance and promote collaboration in a controlled environment.

Waves can be created for specific drugs, specific diseases, specific FDA risks or even recruitment for clinical trials. Information and documentation can be passed and tracked easily and social media forums would become irrelevant. Blog comments, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds could be integrated with interviews, reference materials, and any rich media to live in one constantly updated interactive database.

There would obviously be issues of information security and, especially for pharma, compliance to be worked out for some collaborative Wave projects. But the folks at Google say they’ve got an answer for these concerns. (Google is never short of answers, of course.)

The possibilities for the life sciences industry and Google Wave are endless, but will Big Pharma take the plunge?

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