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Friday, September 28, 2012

Why deploying an ELN is worth the effort.

One of the linked articles below mentions a group who considered purchasing a commercial ELN system on several occasions. At least once, the research organization and the ELN vendor were "at the alter", waiting for management to sign on the dotted line. In the end, management balked because they could not see how they would realize immediate, obvious cost savings. The perceptions of management outweighed the needs of the scientists. The scientists were eager to deploy the solution because their data management and research coordination efforts were, frankly, in disarray. I can't say that the product would definitely have prevented the serious problems this group subsequently ran into, but I can say that avoiding situations like these is what ELNs were designed for. I can also say that the "discovery" portion of any legal or regulatory proceeding will cost an affected organization a lot less, sometimes thousands or millions less, if they have the ability to search for and produce required documents and audit trail information efficiently. Without an ELN, organizations will need to pay a small army of data minors to go through every single paper notebook and document by hand until they locate needed information, and even then it may be legally flimsy, incomplete and easy to challenge in court, or unconvincing to a patent attorney or board of inquiry.

Contrary to what the sales team  of some products might tell you, ELN's are not really designed to save an enormous amount of money "up-front". Rather, they are designed to help improve long-term productivity, protect your investment by safeguarding data, prevent catastrophic data loss and errors of internal communication, identify WHERE problems have occurred after the fact, and reduce the negative consequences of missteps by making it easier to locate legally critical documents and data when they REALLY count.

Managers are sometimes more interested in their careers than they are in science. Notice that in the articles below, it is often a high ranking manager whose name appears in the article. If your managers want their careers to come to a screeching halt, by all means tell them that they don't need an ELN. When their name appears in an article like one of those below, they will realize their mistake as they clear their desk. I have spoken to many labs who have been prompted to look for an ELN product AFTER something bad has already happened. ELNs are not about what you can afford to pay, they are about what you can afford to LOSE or what kind of PR damage and risk your organization and your managers personally are prepared to tolerate.

Below are some other examples of things your managers do NOT want to happen at their research organization. These types of misstep are surprisingly common. They can and do happen in ANY lab, commercial, academic or government.

How a collapsing scientific hypothesis led to a lawsuit and arrest

Dutch 'Lord of the Data' Forged Dozens of Studies

Stanford Grad Adds Plagiarism to Gene-Modification IP Suit Against School, Professor

Sequenom Discloses Mishandling of Test Data; Shares Plummet

A Medical Madoff: Anesthesiologist Faked Data in 21 Studies

Fraud found in AIDS Research

Scientific fraud news, articles and information

Scientific Journals Take Measures Against Inside Fraud

Scotts Miracle-Gro gets record penalties in pesticide case

Finally, take a look at the NIH "hall of shame" link below. Notice in particular how MANY cases there are listed here. Are you taking steps to prevent the bad PR and monetary damages that could result from issues like these occurring at YOUR research organization or laboratory?

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