Talk It Out

By Gil Y. Roth | September 1, 2010

I'm all about the power of pontificating conversation. It's why I conduct those Newsmaker Q&A interviews in this magazine. I enjoy listening to people talk about their business, their histories, and how they've seen things change over time. It's more laborious to do these interviews on the phone than by e-mail, but I like the conversational style that emerges from transcribing audio-interviews.

I admit that this non-sound-bite preference of mine may be out of style in an era where public discourse consists of shouting, but I guess that makes me a contrary-contrarian. Contract Pharma isn't a platform for staging Jerry Springer-like arguments about the merits of outsourcing in the west vs. the far east, or protectionist diatribes of the Sen. Chuck Schumer's variety. Both professionally and personally, I prefer a good talk to a loud argument.

Sure, there are instances when conversation can grind to a halt, but those can be revealing too. Like the time I talked about healthcare reform with a self-described progressive professor-pal of mine. When the issue of paying the bills came up, she told me, "Why, we'll raise taxes, like they would in a civilized country."

See? Even though she essentially shut off the conversation by declaring that it's 'civilized' for the state to demand an ever-greater portion of private earnings, at least I'd learned something significant about her.

And sure, there are times when conversations flat-out go off the rails. Why, I once attended a Tolstoy class in college where a student argued, based on single line of text, that Anna Karenina was championing marijuana legalization. (I admit that if we'd been sitting across from each other, I'd likely have clocked him in the forehead with the spine of that 700-page novel.)

In fact, I bet that JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater thought he was going to have a straightforward conversation last August with that passenger who got up to get her luggage before the plane had stopped taxiing. That exchange ended in a stream of profanities and the single greatest workplace exit in history.

But I'm keeping the faith that conversation illuminates more than it inflames.

Why all this talk about talk? Because Contracting & Outsourcing 2010 is coming up on Sept. 23 and 24 at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, NJ and we're going to host some panel conversations this time around!

Planning this year's lineup of speakers, I had the notion that we could bring together pharmaceutical executives and directors from throughout the industry and get them to talk about outsourcing at their companies. The speakers in our inaugural Executive Outsourcing Summit (Sept. 23, 1:30-2:15) represent a broad swath of activities in drug development and commercialization, and it's my belief that these speakers and the attendees (and this editor) have plenty to learn from their conversation.

Shortly after I'd finished organizing the group for the Outsourcing Summit, I was contacted by a gentleman from GlaxoSmithKline who wanted to see if we'd performed any surveys dedicated to contract laboratory criteria. I told him we hadn't, and over the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he and several of his colleagues at other pharma companies all have strong opinions on their experiences with contract labs.

The light-bulb went on, and we organized our Contract Laboratory Criteria panel (Sept. 24, 10:50-11:20). Barring audio-recording mishaps, we plan to include a transcript of that event in an upcoming issue of the magazine. (Technology isn't flawless; I once "mis-recorded" a conversation that would have made for a great Newsmaker piece.)

Contracting & Outsourcing 2010 features 10 Conference presentations and a record-sized Tabletop Exhibition to go along with our panels. There's also a Networking Reception at the end of the first day. If you take a gander at this issue'sI, Mak column by Mak Jawadekar, you'll find plenty of insight into the benefits of networking at a conference.

You can find our conference preview on pages 105-124 of the print edition or visit www.contractpharma.com/2010conference for more information. I hope you can join us in New Brunswick and be part of the outsourcing conversation.

Gil Y. Roth has been editor of Contract Pharma since its debut in 1999. He can be reached at gil@rodpub.com.

P.S.: If you can't make it, but have questions for our panelists, please e-mail them to me!