When it comes to research and development, data-sharing is the engine of innovation. To stay ahead, organizations need to efficiently and securely create, acquire, disseminate and leverage knowledge, sometimes wrapping in external parties. Doing this effectively will boost productivity and profitability—but it also presents new challenges to the R&D ecosystem.
Ian Peirson, senior solutions consultant at IDBS, said that a variety of issues loom as organizations learn to handle data differently in the digital age. For instance, take data storage, which may refer to the archiving of important research in different media, including paper notebooks, computers, external hard drives and corporate IT systems.
“Although document management systems encompass enterprise storage capability for intellectual property compliance, often these fail to capture the tacit knowledge of the researcher—and crucially, the context of how and why the data was created,” Peirson explained in a column. “The introduction of electronic laboratory notebooks has helped to overcome this, by providing an environment that allows the researcher to capture the experimental design process, together with the data and conclusions as the experiment is conducted.”
The knowledge management infrastructure must be underpinned with the right tools for employee resourcing and the processes of data capture. And, network connectivity is paramount for effective intra-organizational knowledge sharing, particularly where multiple research sites exist in different geographic locations.
“By connecting sites, the research operation become decentralized, although potential technology barriers may result from a lack of integration of the information systems, together with a disconnect between employees’ expectations of the technology and what it’s capable of delivering,” Peirson warned.
There’s also a human element involved; employees are often willing to share information only if they are sure their knowledge is safe from misuse, or that they are certain about the results—meaning that trust must be established, through both organizational and technological processes.
“Traditionally, such information may have been controlled by visibility and access to the paper notebook where the information was stored. In an electronic laboratory notebook, private areas can be created to hide data from public view, until an experiment has been completed and the results have been validated,” he noted. “Equally, these protected areas may be created to protect sensitive data, or to segment in-house research from that conducted by a contract research organization.”
The issue becomes even more complex when dealing with companies that have gone through mergers and acquisitions, and teams that may be dispersed globally.
“Organizations can help to overcome this by creating a recognition system to reward employees for sharing information, or by accrediting those whose work contributes to new patents and publications,” Peirson said. “By enabling information exchange sessions between remote teams, an open culture of knowledge sharing may be established.”
Edited by Rory J. Thompson