• Build Your Method-Development Knowledge in the Background

Data Handling

Build Your Method-Development Knowledge in the Background

Nov 03 2020

Flip through your team’s laboratory notebooks. They hold the collective memory of all your group’s projects.

And just like human memory, they’re fallible.

They only contain information that was entered. That might include method notes, processed chromatograms, and summary tables - but what if you wanted to look at the raw data, or check the full instrument metadata? Often, you’d have to trawl through files saved elsewhere. What if you wanted to remember why you made a certain decision? It might have seemed obvious at the time, but six months later, there are no notes.

And just like with your own memory, sometimes you know a record should be there. Yet you just can’t dredge it up. You think your group has run a pH and column screen on a similar compound, but is it easy to find in your notebook? Or are you flipping through endless records one by one?

These scenarios aren’t uncommon. Scientific data is often messy. It’s cobbled together from several instruments and computers that use different data formats and don’t talk well to each other. Knowledge slips through the cracks, gets lost, and takes too long to find again.

But better knowledge management is possible, if we rethink how data is organised from the moment it’s produced.

First, gathering data in one database should be easy. Your method-development records should upload to a central repository with a few clicks, or even automatically. Second, data should be comprehensive. That means everything - method details, raw chromatograms, processed chromatograms, and notes, regardless of file format - should be collected, viewable, and editable from one place. Third, the database should be easily searchable by scientifically relevant criteria, so you can find your records by structure, method parameters, retention time, or other features.

A database with these attributes helps your team grow knowledge in the background. The upkeep is minimal, but every time you want to draw upon previous experience, the right information is only a few clicks away. And whatever details you need, they’ll be right there - no need to trawl through three other sets of files to find them.

Such a solution can be homegrown. But not everyone can afford the time to create and maintain their own databasing system, even if they have the expertise. Commercial solutions provide the same benefits in a friendly package, with technical support. For example, ACD/Method Selection Suite and ACD/AutoChrom, two method-development software packages, include databasing features with all three criteria: simple data sharing; comprehensive data collection, including chemical structure, method metadata, raw chromatograms, component tables, and more; and powerful search.

Whatever solution you choose, investing in chromatographic data management today will start growing the knowledge you need to be more effective tomorrow.

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