For pharma (and for all businesses) the internet continues to change the business environment. Social media platform adoption has also allowed for new business opportunities; to gain unique insights into consumer behavior, attitudes, and beliefs that drive their decisions. Online research is an ever evolving field.
question 1: so, what is online research?
as described by What is Online Research. Using the Internet for Social Science Research by Tristram Hooley, Jane Wellens, John Marriott
- online research methodologies describe the approaches that researchers take rather than the tools that they use
- it begins from the question of how do researchers find out about and make sense of the social world, and pursues that question in the context of the online environment
- online research methods describe an approach to finding out about people and the social world they inhabit, by using the internet
- many of the online research methods are really traditional research methodologies that we are familiar with in market research and they have only been modified and repurposed to fit the needs of the internet
question 2: some specific types / examples of online research methods include?
- cyber ethnography
- online content analysis
- online focus groups
- online interviews
- online qualitative research
- online questionnaires
- social network analysis
- web-based experiments
- online clinical trials
question 3: how can pharma use these online research methods towards strategic planning?
- brand reputation
- gaining meaningful insights into health care professionals, payer, patient and consumer behavior and beliefs
question 4: what are some ethical and legal aspects for pharma to keep in mind?
principles of research ethics and ethical treatment of persons are codified in a number of policies and accepted documents, such as the
- UN Declaration of Human Rights,
- the Nuremberg Code,
- the Declaration of Helsinki
- the Belmont Report
- Research Ethics in Ethnography/Anthropology
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
- 2012: Ethical decision-making and Internet research 2.0: Recommendations from the AoIR ethics working committee
“At their core, the basic tenets shared by these policies include the fundamental rights of human dignity, autonomy, protection, safety, maximization of benefits and minimization of harms, or, in the most recent accepted phrasing, respect for persons, justice, and beneficence.”
- intellectual property
- data ownership
- transfer & storage
- potentially operating in other or multi jurisdictions, for example when online research is international
- contractual terms of service (TOS) to which online participants agree when they sign up to, for example to social media platforms
- identification of adverse drug reactions (ADR) and proper reporting is important for drug safety surveillance
question 5: do online methods substitute the traditional research methods?
- one does not substitute the other
- consider during the development and decision of methodologies as whether online and onsite experiments can be combined
- online research may be not appropriate for all research questions, for example, the elderly population
- consider cross referencing, for example, are there any differences between online versus offline behaviors of individuals?