Building a Smart Laboratory 2017

of the best known is Hadoop, sponsored by the Apache Soſtware Foundation. Hadoop makes it possible to run applications on systems with thousands of nodes, involving thousands of terabytes. Its distributed file system facilitates rapid data transfer among nodes and allows the system to continue operating, uninterrupted, in case of a node failure. Te Hadoop framework is used by major players including Google, Yahoo and IBM, largely for applications involving search engines and advertising.

Organisation is everything

When organising information one needs to decide what is important and what is not. Traditionally, in the paper notebook era, experiments, results, and comments were systematically entered to show diligence in pursuing a potential patent on an invention. Nothing could be removed; only subsequently noted or re-explained. Supporting data from instruments was retained with the notebook entries, and this practice led to the warehousing of innumerable papers as well as electronic records that might or might not be needed to support patent claims or meet regulatory requirements. Te volume of instrumental data today is

much larger. Is it prudent to keep everything, or perhaps classify the data into two piles – one that directly supports a conclusion and another that is perhaps more generic? All electronic data suffers from aging, not unlike human aging. We’ll talk about media and file format aging a little later, but we should also consider relevance aging. Should a particular spectral analysis file be kept or or should the sample be re-run five years from now using updated equipment? Information needs to be categorised

into a small number of groups, preferably in a central location to facilitate retrieval. Start with two piles and gradually split them appropriately. It is sensible to imagine how a researcher in the future would look for things, having no knowledge of past notations and conventions. People like to use familiar visual signs

to navigate. It’s natural and usually results in finding what is needed plus additional, associated materials. Search engines may give more precise results but may omit important things that are part of the navigation journey. Scientists appreciate the role of serendipity in drug discovery. 27 Retention schedules

Not everything can be kept for ever – but how long is sensible? Tere is some consensus that information supporting a patent should be retained for the life of the patent, plus several years before and aſter to cover eventualities. Most pharmaceutical companies have settled on a 40- to 65-year retention for intellectual property. Records to support regulatory compliance sometimes need to be retained for as long as 25 years. At the end of their retention period, records should be evaluated for their disposition. Should they be destroyed, or perhaps kept for a few more years? Scheduled examinations of records have a bonus of providing information that could be applied to current issues. Looking through the supposed ‘rubbish’ can be a very good thing. Tere are at least two good reasons

for retention schedules. First, there is the smoking gun. In the event of legal or regulatory investigations and/or audits, there’s bound to be information that is erroneous, that conflicts with established facts, or serves no particular purpose. Observations and comments that are taken out of context can also be misleading. Tis is not a licence to cook the books; the aim is to throw out the junk and items that have no real contribution to the organisation. It’s better to identify what needs to be retained before any of these issues occur. Te non-records should be destroyed as quickly as possible and the declared records evaluated aſter a pre-prescribed time (retention period). Keeping non- records and records

Knowledge: Document management

“ People like to use familiar visual signs to navigate. It’s natural and usually results in finding what you want plus additional associated materials”

past their retention dates costs money. Te cost of hardware associated with information storage continues to decrease but the amount of labour needed to support large collections has increased sharply.


How can records that are created within an organisation be authenticated? Tey don’t all need to be notarised, but it would be nice if there was an easy way to come close to this. So here are the concepts to use. Appoint a designated records manager who will have full control of the records. People have been doing this for years with paper records – it works. Te custodian authenticates the author and maintains a chain of custody if the record is moved. Copies can be made and distributed, but the ‘original’ is always in the vault. It’s pretty much the same with electronic records: the documents are stored on a server where users can view them or make copies. Te official, ‘original’ record stays in its slot. Chain of custody is maintained when the record is migrated to another location or is converted into other formats.


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