The Case of the Missing Data: Metadata

Research scientists are swimming in data. Every day. Every experiment. The data and the integrity of the data are paramount.They provide documentation of scientific processes and hold keys to success, failure and reproducibility. But there is always missing data in most experimental research – information that you should have collected that gives context to the experimental data itself.

What is rarely collected and analyzed is the metadata from the physical world – temperature, humidity, light levels, CO2 and more – and its impact on how to understand the results of an experiment. With our solutions, which are seamlessly deployed and don’t require researchers to modify protocols, lab staff now have insight into key factors in the research environment – helping them identify causality where it exists and rule it out where it does not.

Here are some recent examples of how our customers are using this information. They have identified:

  • Broad swings in ambient temperatures that were contributing to outcomes. Researchers were accustomed to managing around temperature fluctuations in the lab, adding or removing a sweater for personal comfort. But dramatic fluctuations in lab temperatures were contributing to test outcomes, and had not been factored into results — until monitored, quantified, documented and correlated to protocols;
  • An invisible humidity culprit. Unlike temperature fluctuations, changes in humidity are much harder to perceive, so people generally overlook them. Two separate research labs were experiencing unknown variability in their results, and decided to monitor humidity. One found a positive correlation with their experiments, while the other found no correlation (and thus eliminated it from the list of possible causes). In both cases, the teams quickly assessed the impact of humidity variations on their work, saving time and additional effort; and
  • An equipment issue that almost compromised valuable tissue samples. Our software identified and alerted scientists that a machine was headed out of its specified range as a result of intelligent monitoring and real-time notifications.

Not only does access to this metadata give scientists an additional level of confidence in outcomes, it accelerates their work. And that is our mission at Elemental Machines.