Information Output Is Growing Exponentially: 3 Strategies for Laboratory Data Management

Did you know that 90% of all the data in the world has been produced in just the last few years?  Even more amazing is that, according to some recent studies, scientific output is increasing at a rate of 30% each year. That means that the total scientific output will double every 3 to 4 years.

For scientists, this is both a blessing and a curse. More data means more discoveries and innovation is what continuously pushes us forward. But the massive amount of data produced needs to be managed and made easily accessible in order for this progress to be worthwhile and helpful in our journey. Unfortunately, it’s simply not feasible for laboratories to handle the massive amount of data that is being produced with traditional lab practices. Handing this volume of information will require lab managers to invest in new tools, like electronic laboratory notebooks.

Below are three benefits gained in relation to data management from implementing an electronic lobotomy notebook that cannot be gain through paper notebooks:

Companies need to implement Laboratory Data Management procedures to protect digital content.
Laboratory data is growing at unprecedented rates. Lab Managers need to be prepared to manage this growth.

1. Increased Accessibility to Data

The first challenge of managing data within a laboratory is ensuring that the data is accessible. Unfortunately, data stored within a paper-based laboratory notebook is not easily accessible to anyone else but the researcher. To really unlock the data, laboratory managers need to implement an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).

In regards to accessibility, there are many benefits gained from implementing an ELN, like the Accelrys Notebook. First, the data becomes searchable, meaning that researchers can perform queries against the database to rediscover key elements or references to their work. Second, since the results are in an electronic format, they can easily be shared via email or other electronic methods. Also, the searchability and shareability of results helps to prevent duplicate experimentation from occurring.

In addition, electronic laboratory notebooks can be interfaced directly with laboratory instruments.  This saves researchers time, because information can be input directly into a laboratory notebook rather than entered by hand, or cut and paste into a paper lab notebook.

2. Increase Data Security

For scientists who recognize the value of ideas, security has always been a priority. A quick review of Leonardo Di Vinci’s notebook reveals that he recorded the 13,000 pages in code or written backwards, to prevent rivals from stealing his ideas. Although such measures would not be feasible in today’s laboratory, it is necessary to make sure information is secure and protected. An effective security system should protect data from outsiders, but allow access to authorized insiders. Although this is not so easily done with paper notebooks, it can be easily facilitated with an electronic laboratory notebook.

The security benefits gained by implementing an electronic laboratory notebook include the ability to limit the visibility of data depending upon a security hierarchy. Upon installation, lab managers evaluate each person within their organization and assign security access levels based upon their privileges within the laboratory.  This prevents internal employees from gaining access to data that they do not have clearance to retrieve. In addition, basic security like usernames and passwords coupled with network security will ensure that data is protected from outsiders as well.

3. Regular Data Backup

Discoveries can only be made if the data is accessible. However, human and mother nature will frequently conspire to prevent scientists from accessing the data due to natural or human disasters. If using paper laboratory notebooks, lab managers need to be concerned with damage caused by fire, water, and deterioration over time.

Electronic laboratory notebooks solve this problem by allowing notebook data to be backed up on a regular basis.  A regular backup and recovery procedure can ensure that the data is always available to users, even after a disaster occurs. If a regular backup is performed and taken offsite, there is no need to fear when disaster strikes.

Backups are an important part of Laboratory Data Management.
With more advanced experiments and research, laboratories are producing terabits of digital information that could be lost if not properly backed up.
Courtesy of Retama via wikimedia.org

Final Thoughts

The amount of data that is produced within the laboratory is growing every year. Lab Managers need to take steps to ensure that these basic laboratory data management principles are followed. The most obvious step is to install an electronic laboratory notebook. This will help ensure that the data is accessible, secure and backed-up so it is available when it is needed. For more information regarding the Accelrys Notebook, please visit our website today.

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