5 Health and Science Trends to Watch in 2013

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As the New Year beckons several trends that emerged in  2011-2012 are certain to explode in 2013. Here is a look at the trends I’ll be watching.

Trend 1: Open Science

Although open source and collaborative software development have been the norm for decades, the notion of open science has only recently gained a foothold.  Bolstered by recent access to large data sets from government entities, an array of mobile health applications, an explosion of data-hackers, and a growing mistrust of industry sponsored research, scientific research, especially health and medical research, is about to move from the lab to the social sphere.

Trend 2: Citizen Science

From volunteer classifiers and armchair tinkerers to full-fledged data analytics and engineering, the next decade is sure to see an explosion of scientific discovery coming from the most unlikely places.  In health and medical research, the tools to measure and analyze one’s own health are becoming more readily available to consumers.  Every person is potentially his or her own science experiment.  Every social network a data set. How we choose to utilize that information, who we share it with and how we share it will likely determine the next major corporate players in the marketplace.  At the very least, this new found access to health data, whether it be our own or others with similar diseases and health issues, is changing the very dynamic of the doctor-patient and patient-industry relationship.

Trend 3: The End of Academic Publishing

Peer-reviewed, industry-sponsored, closed-sourced publishing has been the gold-standard for scientific publishing for decades, but the model is broken and everyone knows it.  In much the same way that the internet and blogosphere have damaged traditional media, open access to data and information has made the closed nature of academic publishing an all-but obsolete model for the dissemination of information.  Add to the mix the growing problem of significant publishing biases, fraudulent and errant data, the once vaulted anonymous, peer-review process – the process that arguable defines academic publishing – is crumbling.

Perhaps the final straw of what will ultimately be the sector’s unraveling (lest the model change quickly) was Elsevier’s unsuccessful attempt to privatize and profit from taxpayer funded research through shady legislation called the Research Works Act (RWA). Coming on the heels of the failed Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA), scientists and major universities loudly protested RWA and succeeded in blocking the bill. Elsevier suffered and continues to suffer significant economic losses.

As a result, open access publishing which had been growing quietly over the last decade, exploded in 2012. Even more interesting, a bevy of new collaborative and open source research and publication sites (ResearchGate, for example) emerged heralding a complete shift in the control and dissemination of scientific and medical information.

Trend 4: The Rise of the Social Entrepreneur and the B Corporation

One of the most innovative trends in recent decades is the emergence a new corporate structure, called the B-Corporation that will codify social goals alongside corporate profits.  The B Corp is a hybrid of sorts that combines the social intentions of the non-profit with the fundraising and profit potential of a C corporation. Though the B Corp has no teeth or tax benefit per the federal tax code and is only recognized in 16 states thus far, it has legs. There is a real hunger to create pragmatic business solutions for social problems. Social entrepreneurism is on the rise and B Corps may provide the structure to help them succeed.

Currently, B-Corps are focused primarily on social and environmental problems. Should the B-Corp gain traction in the healthcare industry, it could usher an entirely new class of innovation in traditionally ignored and underfunded areas of the healthcare sector- orphan diseases/drugs or maybe even women’s health.

Trend 5: The Power of Women

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned was proved over and over again during this last election season. Though narrowly framed as the abortion debate, the fight over women’s reproductive healthcare rights goes much deeper. It is a battle over fundamental human equality under the law and spans every aspect of the modern economy, but most especially the healthcare sector.

We have yet to see the full backlash of the political attempts to limit women’s healthcare decision-making, but make no mistake, fail to recognize the power of millions of angry women, and your business, your political career will be over (how many local and federal legislators were voted out of office by women’s groups?).  Sorry guys but you wouldn’t stand for a bunch old women regulating your seminal excursions, why would you expect women to forfeit their healthcare choices, safety and survival to a bunch of old men with less than honorable motivations. As 2013 beckons, expect women to wield much more political and economic power. The companies and politicians that recognize this will unseat those that do not.

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