I was an early adopter of what were once called “online information retrieval” services, which (back in the 1980s) were powerful tools for accessing databases on distant servers. These are less in the public consciousness now, of course, with Google and other search engines giving the illusion of access to all information, but structured data still benefits from more specialized tools.

But in the late ’80s, this was just about the only game in town, and I was an enthusiastic user (as well as occasional writer and speaker) about the technology. Somewhere in there, I had a brief relationship with Dialog’s in-house publication.

In the introduction to this issue, I discuss the biotech industry (and I think I wrote the Alza customer profile, though I don’t have the text).

Dialog Inside Business
by Steven K. Roberts
Winter, 1988

I see it every day: the wonder, the awe, the disbelief. As a traveling writer and consultant living daily with the magic of online services, I have many opportunities to act as an agent of future shock. All I have to do is sign onto DIALOG and let someone watch over my shoulder.

It’s not always a surprise to people, of course — especially in the more energetic high-tech industries, like biotech. While researching material for this issue, I spoke with a number of pharmaceutical industry professionals who quite dazzled me with their creative uses of DIALOG. One company, faced with unexpected FDA rejection of a long-awaited new drug application, used DIALOG business databases to weigh the trade-offs involved in decommissioning their manufacturing plant. Based on industry experience, they decided to continue with production… stockpiling designer genes in anticipation of a more favorable regulatory climate down the road.

In this issue we explore the fast moving biotechnology industry. With the precipitous growth of this complex industry, first class information sources are essential — and that’s why DIALOG has become a key competitive tool in ways that could never have been anticipated before. Biotech companies must be keenly aware of every whisper of activity in their fields, for news of regulations, competing technologies, public opinion, and even promising job candidates. These firms must be quick to tack when the wind shifts, quick to respond to subtle changes in the tides and currents of this dynamic business. And now with DIALOG, all the information they need to immediately respond to changes in the technological, competitive, and regulatory environment is right there for analysis… online.

DIALOG files, by some estimates, reference some 95% of technical research published in the last 15 years. But beyond all this, DIALOG also offers complete patent information, financial analysis, industry data, company intelligence, and current news (discussed in detail in this issue). With that in mind, it becomes clear that for any industry — especially one with complex information needs like biotech — the stakes are too high to depend on guesswork.