Data Management: Keys to Success

Organizations spend a significant amount of time and money to undertake environmental sampling. Field mobilizations, sample collection, and laboratory analysis are very costly efforts. After your mobilizations are over, what is the outcome? Data!

We often see that a lot of planning goes into the front end of these efforts, but less thought and time are given to the data after it is received from the laboratory. If data are not well managed, you risk losing the value of your previous effort and expense. Don’t let your investment fall flat. Make a plan for managing your environmental data!

EHS Support Data Management: House Rules

  • Data belongs in a database. Using a database ensures a single, authoritative copy with a consistent structure that is efficiently organized.
  • Avoid manual data entry/modifications whenever feasible. Reduce errors and increase efficiency by eliminating as many manual elements as possible. 
  • Quality assurance and quality control are critical and skilled humans are necessary. Many quality assurance checks can (and should) be automated to ensure that data issues are identified early and consistently. Still, not every type of potential data error can be flagged using logic. Ensuring skilled professionals are reviewing data at key milestones is necessary for success.
  • Understand your questions and objectives before you begin building solutions. Determine what pieces of information are needed and how to collect that information into one location/database. Remember, more is not always better. Be thoughtful in your planning to avoid wasted effort. 
  • Be kind to your future self. Consider the possibilities of additional data collection and forthcoming data analysis. Aim to be as explicit as possible to reduce any potential confusion for future data users. 

Have historical data that wasn’t well managed? It’s not too late. We are frequently asked to help our clients wrangle historical datasets. Migration of historical data into a database can be challenging, but doing so will ensure you continue to have access to the full picture as it relates to your site data.

Do you have questions or concerns about the state of your data? Our Database Administrator, Justine Decker, is happy to discuss.

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