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Data security in a collaborative environment


The R&D sector is increasingly turning to collaborative, partnered and outsourced projects to boost innovation, reduce costs and help expedite development, writes


Sophia Ktori T


he model outlined above has the added benefit of spreading risk and allowing industry to tap into niche expertise and specialisation. But


partnering or outsourcing inevitably involves the two-way traffic of information, and that raises major concerns about data security, confidentiality and the ability to track and monitor exactly who may get to see your IP and other commercially sensitive data. Soſtware developers and vendors have been turning to the cloud as a secure and flexible platform for establishing virtual workspaces and collaborative environments for the R&D sector. Confidentiality and data security are


integrally linked with the overall complexity of outsourced and partnered projects, suggests Scott Weiss, senior director of product


12 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD


management at IDBS. An R&D organisation may have agreements with multiple service providers and contract research organisations (CROs), as well as research and development partnerships and collaborations based on licensed or shared IP. ‘Each of these agreements will involve different working relationships and have different outcome goals, and for each you need to make sure that the partner or service provider has access to all the data that they need to carry out their function most effectively and efficiently. At the same time you need to avoid passing on any sensitive information or compromising confidentiality, and ensure that any data that you do exchange can’t be accessed by any other external parties.’


Losing context in shared data At the most basic level, any collaboration or service agreement is founded on a contract that outlines the activities of each party, and the nature of the information that is generated and shared, and how it may be used. Setting up a conduit for this information exchange, and ensuring that the data is in the most useful format, can be a major sticking point, Weiss points out. ‘Commonly, data is passed to the partner as a PDF, Excel or Word file by email, or through SharePoint or Dropbox. Tese summarised documents may contain only results and essential data for auditing, and lack any important context, so a huge amount of value is immediately lost.’


Te problems do not lie with any lack


of technology to facilitate the exchange of richer information, but the security risks are evident, Weiss comments. You typically can’t give an external party access to your in-house laboratory information management system (LIMS) or electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), or indeed to any data that is behind your firewall. ‘Tis means that you have to rely on internal IT departments to unlock and release packets of data that may need to be shared with collaborators. Tis is a hugely time-consuming and inefficient process that can leave key information behind; results in fragmented two-way communication and data flow; and hampers real-time review and decision making.’


Collaborative environments in the cloud One way of facilitating richer, more seamless partnering – while retaining confidence in security – is to set up a collaborative environment in the cloud, so that sensitive data can be shared, with individual or multiple collaborators at different levels, without having to punch holes in firewalls or put in requests to IT personnel, he continues. ‘Following consultation with our customers we have developed E-WorkBook Connect, a cloud- based soſtware as a service (SaaS) module. Offered as an extension of E-WorkBook, the new module supports safe and secure


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