How to optimize your medical affairs efforts: share of scientific voice

Medical Affairs (MA) practitioners have many ways to disseminate information. Meeting with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and attending conferences, submitting to journals are common. However, although those methods are effective, there haven’t been effective tools to help guide the decision making and measure the results. Which of these various outlets are the best for your needs? We cannot say for sure unless we can measure the impact of each method.


Businesses have developed a wide array of techniques for measuring the impact of advertising and other forms of outreach. Many of these are based on impact on sales and market share. At first glance, these techniques may seem of limited use to Medical Affairs practitioners — their focus is on disseminating information, not securing immediate revenue. The same methods used to measure market share, however, can also be used to measure the share of biomedical discussion in journals, conferences, and other channels of communication within the biomedical community. This is known as the Share of Scientific Voice.

Share of Scientific Voice is a relative measure of how frequently your drug or other therapeutic is mentioned in the biomedical discourse. (Note, this includes biomedical literature in the traditional sense, such as journal articles, as well as conference proceedings and forthcoming abstracts). Of course, with hundreds of thousands of publications per year in the medical field, one should focus on a more narrow domain of interest. The scope of the domain will depend on the topic area, which is defined by your business requirements.

For example, since 2010 there have been over 10,000 journal articles per year on immunotherapy and many thousands more posters and oral presentations. This topic area is probably too broad since it includes therapies based on different modes of action and targeting different cancers. We could narrow the scope of the domain further by looking only at check point inhibitor immunotherapies if we are particularly interested in lung cancer and melanoma treatments. Because check point inhibitor immunotherapies are relatively new, the first journal papers on the topic did not appear until 2016. This is a prime example where faster publication channels, like conference proceedings, are important for understanding the current discourse.

Defining the scope of the biomedical discourse based on number of publications is helpful to ensure that your topic is not too broad or too narrow. Size, however, is not a sufficient criteria for defining scope.

A complementary method is to define the domain of interest within the biomedical discourse to focus on drugs that provide similar therapeutic benefit. For example, Nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) both treat non-small cell lung cancer and both target the T cell protein, PD-1. For the purpose of measuring Share of Scientific Voice, one should probably include other drugs that use different mechanisms, such as Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) which targets the PD-L1 protein found on some non-small lung cancer tumor cells.

An MA professional monitoring the Share of Scientific Voice for Opdivo may find these three drugs are sufficient for defining the scope of what should be monitored, others may want to include other types of therapies, such as angiogenesis drugs that target tumor blood cell growth. There are no hard and fast rules for defining the domain but it should be broad enough to include treatment options a physician would consider.

Once you have defined the scope of the biomedical discourse you will monitor, you can search the literature to find papers, abstracts, posters, and so on that mention the topic of interest. Next, identify the number of publications mentioning each drug or therapy of interest. The percentage of publications mentioning each drug or therapy is the Share of Scientific Voice. You can even refine this measure, for example by considering the number of times each drug is mentioned in a paper.

You should plan to regularly measure Share of Scientific Voice. This will allow you to assess the impact of dissemination efforts, like meeting with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and attending conferences. It is important to have a consistent scope of discourse so you can compare results over time.