Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Data organization and record keeping

I've been thinking about writing a post about data organization for awhile now, and I'm finally getting around to it, in part due to an excellent post on the topic by biochem belle at "There and (hopefully) back again..."

Biochem belle does a fantastic job listing what essential information should go into your lab notebook, including references to raw data files. She discusses backing up data files, and she also muses on the PI's role in ensuring good record keeping and data organization. It's an informative post that provokes some thought on the topic.

Other than Biochem belle's post, I've been thinking about data organization lately for two reasons. One obvious reason is that, as working scientists, we deal with it on a daily basis. Every day, we have to decide what to write down or type up, what to save, print, or delete, and how to index all of it to be easily found and accessed later. And every day, we likely deal with trying to find and/or reference something we have previously done, or something someone else has done. Having a working system for data organization and record keeping is essential for day-to-day scientific work.

The second reason I've been thinking about data organization is because I recently got ahold of a copy of a form my PI uses to evaluate post docs. The form is from a national research fellowship award application. It has a list of 11 proficiencies and requests the PI rank the post doc on each proficiency. Data organization is 1 of these 11 proficiencies. Apparently, PI's and fellowship award committees recognize the importance of data organization.

So data organization and record keeping are obviously important. Important for doing the day-to-day scientific work, and recognized as important by PI's and fellowship award committees. Stay tuned for posts to follow that discuss some problems with data organization and record keeping and some potential solutions.

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