For scientists and researchers, lab notebooks are indispensable tools. In the thick of their work, paper lab books are often the most convenient way for them to record ideas, hypotheses, and results from experiments, research, and field work. The problem, though, is that lab books are made from paper. As such, they’re very susceptible to damage, not to mention that if it isn’t backed up in some way, losing the notebook means the information inside is gone for good.
Why backing up research data is so important
Failing to create some form of research data backup for lab books could have serious implications beyond forcing researchers to continue their work without their records to guide them. To start with, paper records degrade over time and can easily succumb to fire and water damage.
What’s more, the work on the pages of a researcher’s lab notebook is the intellectual property, in most cases, of their employer – a university for example. That means if the university department were to be audited and a lab notebook was lost and couldn’t be produced, it could cost millions of dollars in fines. On top of the loss of critical data and what’s sure to be a huge investment into the research, fines like this could be completely devastating to an organization.
Scientific data protection
And it’s not just research data in notebooks that needs to be protected. In recent years, studies have found that as much as 80% of the scientific raw data collected in the 1990s is lost. Why? Well, sometimes it’s because we can’t reach the original authors due to inactive email addresses, inaccurate physical addresses, and fruitless web searches to try to find current contact information. But other times it’s because the data was stored using outdated technology, like floppy disks.
Luckily, there’s a solution to protect organizations from disastrous data loss: document scanning. Document scanning and cloud storage allow research facilities, academic institutions, and other scientific hubs to digitize and back up research data, no matter the medium.
The best way to protect research data
As mentioned above, if you have sensitive research data stored in notebooks or with outdated technology, the best way to protect it is by scanning it, then securely storing it digitally in the cloud.
For the best insurance that your document scanning will be done efficiently, accurately, and up to compliance standards, you’ll want to outsource it to a trusted document management partner like Digiscribe. The right scanning partner will have the appropriate tools and technology for the job, like V-shaped scanners that gently scan bound books without breaking or cutting their bindings (which, depending on the field, could actually be illegal).
Your lab data can be scanned in full color, creating crisp digital images of every page which are then loaded to a secure cloud-based document management system that allows for on-demand retrieval. Even handwritten documents can be scanned and indexed in a way that allows you to easily search for them when you need them – like in the event of an audit.
Document scanning for years past & the future
If your organization is brand new to document scanning, the prospect of digitizing boxes and boxes of years-old files might be a bit overwhelming. But when you partner with Digiscribe for document scanning, the process is totally stress-free. Take for example, a client we’re working with to build an index of 15,000 – yes, you read that right, 15,000 – research books dating all the way back to the 1930s. Because all of the books to be scanned have been gathering dust in storage for decades, our client was unaware of what information they might hold. They wanted to be able to access this huge archive of information more easily, to protect it, and to save on expensive storage space, and with lab book scanning and indexing they’ll be able to do all of the above.
The job of protecting research data isn’t done once your backlog of lab records has been digitized, however. After that, it’s smart to continue working with your scanning partner on an ongoing basis to ensure that all future work is scheduled for digitization. Some clients choose to send an annual batch of lab notebooks to Digiscribe for scanning, while others may prefer to do so at more frequent intervals – Digiscribe can even scan and digitize partially-completed research notebooks and return them so they can continue to be worked on.
A diligent data research backup plan
No matter what kind of research records you have, protect your investment with a research data backup plan and a trusted document scanning partner to help you carry it out. As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Thinking about going digital to protect research data? Visit our laboratory book scanning page for more information about your options.