Availability of research data fell by 17% per year after initial publication.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia identified a striking decline in the accessibility of original scientific data over time. The team requested data from authors of more than 500 papers that had been published in the previous 2 to 22 years to determine the percent of data reported as extant at the time of the study. Their disconcerting results lead the team to the pointed conclusion that “research data cannot be reliably preserved by individual researchers” and prompted them to call for changes in the way such valuable data is archived.
“I don’t think anybody expects to easily obtain data from a 50-year-old paper, but to find that almost all the datasets are gone at 20 years was a bit of a surprise.” – Lead author, Tim Vines
Outdated Storage to Blame
Not surprisingly, a primary reason that data was lost is due to outdated storage devices. As the pace of technological change quickens, it is entirely plausible that data will be lost at even faster rates without a major shift in the ways that data is captured and stored. The authors of this study are calling for increasing storage of data on publicly accessible archives, but such a suggestion ignores the very real need to protect intellectual property, especially in fields where technology development is a priority.
A well designed ELN, however, solves both problems, especially if integrated into the institution’s long-term archiving infrastructure. A good quality enterprise ELN solution can store data using industry standard formats like .xml and .pdf that will be supported for decades to come. Additionally the data in a properly implemented ELN is far more likely to be professionally backed-up so that data will not be accidentally lost by lax practices of individuals. If stored on scattered drives and file cabinets in the lab, project data can become fragmented as members transfer from one lab to another.
Intellectual property is ironclad where it’s necessary,
yet scientific collaboration is enabled where it’s beneficial.
An ELN will assure that a centralized copy remains accessible to authorized members within your institution. Controlled access to that data is entirely manageable and can be as public or as private as the authors and project managers want it to be. Moreover, authorship of each item is securely recorded, along with date and time-stamps. Lab supervisors can easily sign-off on the work of staff members and documents can be digitally locked against any future editing. Intellectual property is ironclad where it’s necessary, yet scientific collaboration is enabled where it’s beneficial. Some ELNs, can even pass appropriately formatted data bundles off to long-term archiving systems like DSpace, where it can safely reside under the supervision of the institution’s dedicated archivists.
Lab-Ally will be happy to assist you in securing your data for the future with an electronic lab notebook that meets all of your scientific and data management needs. Contact us for details.