The conversations are interesting... because in the short term, for any one-off experiment, the case can be made that Excel IS the best choice. After all, every scientist knows how to use Excel, and mistakes on spreadsheets are rare (right?).
Then the analysis stops. Those who hold this view ask no further questions. They make no further demands on the economics of their own research budget!
Below is a partial list of questions that forward-looking scientific data managers DO ask. They consider the entire “life-cycle” of managing valuable data:
- How do you track versions of your spreadsheets that you are using?
When we help groups transition to Mosaic (our platform for scientific data management), we have many cases where scientists are amazed/embarrassed to find that they were using the wrong template to analyze their data, or using the right template, incorrectly.
How do you make sure data on a spreadsheet was not changed since the analysis was performed?
- When employees leave and new scientists are hired, how reliable is the knowledge transfer on each assay?
- Once the analysis is done and key results computed, where do they go? Do you as the manager get emails of results?
- How do you conveniently review previous work?
- How do you audit the analysis methods used? (See the formulae).
- How do you create reports on the data?
In Mosaic, you can extract any time-period of data all at once to a single spreadsheet – how would you conveniently aggregate a series of results from a bunch of spreadsheets?
We also have a Create Summary Report that extracts all data and graphs for a study into a Word document. This can be used for external reporting.
- How do you associate written summaries with a study and keep track of it?
Mosaic has a document management component (that optionally integrates with Microsoft SharePoint) that allows storing versioned copies of documents with the study.
- How do scientists prepare for a group meeting to summarize their week’s work?
Time preparing is time wasted if all you need to do is log into Mosaic and click through your results?
- How do you integrate results from other sources (collaborators, CROs) conveniently into your repository?
With Mosaic, you can capture external studies along with your own data.
If you give a collaborator access to Mosaic, they can securely upload data directly to your database.
If a collaborator has Mosaic, you can exchange study data with one click.
The answers to these questions are why scientific data management systems (SDMS) are growing at 20% per year. All large pharma have efforts well underway to manage their R&D data. Smaller biotechs are positioning for success by getting serious about data management and value preservation early in their life, before the backlog of studies becomes too large.