Data storage, back up and management
Data generated by any cytometer is extremely valuable as it represents not just fluorescence distributions but also the time and effort spent getting the experiment to the running stage. This also includes intellectual property and as such all data should be treated as irreplaceable. Although primary responsibility for data integrity can remain with the user, many core facilities provide a central back-up and storage program for data generated in the facility. Local rules should be in place to ensure that everyone knows who is responsible for this. There are several possible approaches:
- Back-up to ‘permanent’ media such as CD or DVD. In this case, two copies can be made, one for access and one for archiving which should preferably be in a different physical location, ideally in a different building. Bear in mind that there are contra-indications of using media such as DVD for permanent archiving as these media may only have a finite life.
- Back up to remote server. This can be within the facility or handled by a local IT Department should one be available. There are several advantages to this approach. Storage capacity is rarely a problem; when new storage methods become available, transfer is relatively easy and access to the data should also be quicker and easier.
In all cases, data should be removed from the cytometer on which it was acquired relatively quickly. In general, and especially in facilities where cytometers are heavily used, analysis is better off being carried out on the user’s own computer (if appropriate software is installed) or on a stand-alone and dedicated workstation within the facility where a suite of analysis programs may be provided.
If a server is used, there are several web-based solutions that will allow users access to their data. This is an approach that is becoming more popular especially if they allow integration of cytometric data with, for example, images from traditional microscopy-based technology e.g. confocal or fluorescence microscopy.
Case Study (Grace Chojnowski)
Queensland Institute for Medical Research data management policy.