The Future Has Arrived: Data and Technology Trends You’re Already Part Of

Clinical Researcher—January 2019 (Volume 33, Issue 1)


Gary W. Cramer




The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. — Mike Murdock


I was struggling to think of how to introduce 2019’s first issue of Clinical Researcher in a way that wouldn’t mention that this is the year in which the first Blade Runner movie (the one released in that impossibly long-ago era of 1982) was set. Well, you can see how far my resolve got me…it’s my favorite movie of all time, after all.

But wait! There’s a connection to be made between the fictional, very dystopian future seen in Blade Runner and the real, very promising future of clinical research. At least…I hope I can convince you there is, if you’ll bear with me.

In the movie’s timeline, the collapsing ecosystem of Earth has prompted anyone who can afford it to emigrate to off-world colonies, where the quality of life is supposedly far better due in part to the slave labor provided by artificial humans (replicants) with limited life spans. Although it is not explicitly shown in the film, one gathers that replicants are treated as highly regulated, disposable tools, despite the most advanced models having developed authentic emotional responses to their experiences.

No Time Machine Required

As my mind makes the (possibly tortured) leap from science fiction to science fact, I recognize that the snowballing revolution we are experiencing in all things data- and technology-related has made—not without some bumps and bruises along the way—what in past decades would have seemed astonishing advancements in the practice of research part of our daily routines. As may be gleaned from the words of contributing authors in this issue, in many respects within the clinical research enterprise, we blinked—suddenly it’s 2019—and the future has arrived.

Although our environment hasn’t totally tanked (yet), we don’t have flying cars (yet), and replicants who can’t be distinguished on sight from us real folk don’t walk among us (yet?), we are already in the future foreseen by the more cautious prognosticators of the data and tech world nearly 40 years ago. In many cases, we’re not waiting to catch up to the trends we’ve long been told would change our lives; how we handle our daily home and work chores right now is the trend. We’ve made it! But we won’t be standing still.

Making the Future a Place You’ll Want to Live

In the quest to conscientiously utilize the best capabilities delivered to us via data and technology breakthroughs for the betterment of all, our clinical research enterprise will only thrive in this future we have awoken to if we keep a constant focus on the very real people who make it work. This translates not only to carefully crafted professional development opportunities that bolster the core competencies of the research workforce, but to the fostering of consistent and compassionate care for the volunteer participants in our studies.

Far from being treated as anonymous datapoints in a medical research realm motivated by profit and prestige—as mere replicants whose value is derived from limited terms of service—I hope that whatever the ongoing march of our technical prowess allows us to achieve, the flesh and blood people who have made it possible will always be cheered as “more human than human.”

Gary W. Cramer ( is Managing Editor for ACRP.