i-Pad, therefore i-Am.
A colleague asked me the other day – what is so special about the i-Pad that you don't already get on your phone or your laptop?
I responded by saying that right now, in computing, it is as though you have a choice between a nice big truck (your laptop) and your motorscooter (your phone). Both can take you to the same place and in nearly equal speeds. There are disadvantages to both – the bigger one requires you to have lots of power, find a big parking space and while you can hold a lot with it, it may not always be the easiest to manipulate.
The smaller one requires very very you to be very nimble and to be able to manage a lot of load with a small space. But if you are going to the grocery store, the truck may be overkill, while the scooter may mean you can only get what you can manage to carry.
What does that have to do with an AdComm meeting? I have been to many more hours of AdComm meetings than I care to admit – as it surely means I have less chance of being asked to exciting parties. (once 4 days in a row!).
One of the first things you know if you are a veteran of these meetings is that you need to either (i) have extended or extra laptop batteries or (ii) get there early and camp out on the fringe so that you can get access to the occasional electrical outlet or even rarer – power strip – this is prime real estate. And you must (i) get an extra chair to use as a desk; (ii) bring one of those little fold up desks which are kind of cool, but also kind of geeky; or (iii) burn your thighs with your laptop bottom.
In any case, second thing that it means is that the i-Pad, with its extended battery power life, ability to access the Internet and a keyboard that does not require excellent eye sight and tiny little fingers to utilize, means that potentially more people in the audience sector could be following and reporting on the meeting in real time to the outside world.
In fact, in the interests of going greener, the FDA could have i-Pads for each member of the AdComm meeting so that instead of those onerous briefing books that they have in front of them, they could have electronic versions of the materials (that are key word searchable!) right in front of them. They could follow the presentations on their own screens.
The third thing that the expanded access of pad technology means is that more and more people who attend the meetings will have access to the Internet for purposes of fact checking, live-blogging and tweeting.
Therefore, in the further interests of transparency, the FDA media office can, and should, set a hashtag for each and every meeting on Twitter. That way, those in the audience who are live-tweeting the event could have their comments aggregated to one spot where media and industry observers could see that is unfolding at the meeting as well as gain the insights of the many commentators involved, including reporters covering the event. Of course, no one needs the FDA to do that, anyone can set up a hashtag, but it would be nice if they did it. Kind of shows they are getting hip. And undoubtedly, FDA would want to make sure that AdComm members are not following such a hashtag just as they are always admonished at the lunch break not to discuss the proceedings during lunch.
I don't expect any of this to really happen. But one thing the i-Pad does mean is that I won't have to search the fringe for an electrical outlet and arrange a time-share with pleading, less fortunate neighbors. And I will, at least for meetings I attend, set up a hashtag in case anyone else does not.
In Part 2 of this topic, I'll talk about something even more rad!