The life sciences are founded on the exchange of fact-based knowledge. Conferences and journals allow the community of researchers to exchange and bring to a common understanding what has emerged from studies and other investigations. However, insights cannot always be generated from information. It takes a more discursive approach to come to an understanding around fact-based recommendations for action. Delphi analysis makes this possible, and we were fortunate to be able to interview Alessandro Gallo, General Manager and Sales Director at Springer Healthcare Italy, an expert in Delphi analysis.
Luca Melis: Why is Delphi analysis an effective methodology for achieving the objectives of a scientific paper?
Alessandro Gallo: Delphi analysis is a well-known scientific tool for reaching consensus among experts in order to answer a specific research question. Participants are allowed to nuance and re-evaluate their views anonymously. In recent decades, Delphi analysis has played a crucial role in developing best practice recommendations from dialogue and shared expert knowledge, in situations where research results are scarce, available data is inconsistent, or when ethical and logistical challenges exist.
LM: To what extent is Delphi analysis impactful within the framework of an editorial scientific project, taking into account how it is applied by Springer Healthcare?
AG: There are no structured or recognised criteria for assessing the quality of a Delphi analysis approach in medical research. There is not really a single standard process, but rather different techniques and approaches on how to use the expert panel, how to determine consensus, and how to define the closing criteria.
As a publisher, our role is to attempt to evaluate the quality standards of the Delphi process. We advise on systematic quality methods for assessing the Delphi approach, including identifying the specific area of interest or debate, panel selection, and panelist anonymity. It is also essential to have controlled feedback, with iterative Delphi rounds, along with precise consensus criteria, consensus analysis, closing criteria, and consistency of results.
The combined use of Metaplan and Delphi techniques is useful in exploiting qualitative and quantitative research at its best.
LM: What are the advantages of choosing Metaplan to run a Delphi analysis?
AG: In my opinion, Metaplan can be used to enhance the powerful outcomes of a Delphi analysis. To develop a more cohesive and manageable collection of expert opinions, Metaplan can be a useful tool in all the phases where key opinion leaders define the standards and metrics that will be subsequently used as a basis for the Delphi research. They can then review and interpret the data and optimize the interpretation of the results in order to finalize the research. The combined use of Metaplan and Delphi techniques is useful in exploiting qualitative and quantitative research at its best.
LM: In what context is Delphi analysis, as a methodology, the most impactful for disseminating consensus through scientific papers?
AG: When submitting a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal, one of the most important points to take into account is the external validity of the research presented, notably the fact that other researchers should be able to replicate the outcomes if they intend to repeat the analysis. A structured format for identifying, prioritizing, and assessing statements is essential, including the metrics and benchmarks to be used.