Working with microbiology products in a lab is not always a glamorous job, but it is an important one. Not only do healthcare labs provide results and diagnoses for patients, but academic labs do important research that can identify new afflictions and find cures. These research labs, like any academic pursuit, rely on the information collected not only in their own labs, but in the labs of their microbiology colleagues. Data sharing among microbiology labs is essential to their functioning.

What Do We Mean by Data Sharing?

Microbiology labs can perform hundreds of discrete tests every day, generating results that give insight into their patient population, or their research depending on the type of lab. When labs share data, they are giving access to these results, stripped of private, identifying information, to other labs with similar interests. These labs may be down the street or on the other side of the world. Data sharing has been made much easier in recent decades with the advent of the internet, because data can now be sent quickly and cleanly to multiple labs at once, no matter where they are located.

How Data Sharing is Critical to Research

Data sharing is a critical part of the academic process and can also be instrumental in making clinical improvements. When labs are able to assess data from other researchers and clinicians, potentially who are using microbiology products or microbiology supplies that they do not have, they can learn a lot. Research labs can learn what type of results other labs are seeing and thereby adjust their own processes when things may not match up as they should. For their part, clinical microbiology labs can use population data from other parts of the world to find patterns and differences, giving them a clearer view of how their patient population may differ, and how they may be the same.

Cloud Computing and its Impact on Data Sharing

The introduction of secure cloud computing is allowing more and more laboratories to share their microbiology data. Because cloud storage makes it easy to upload even large amounts of data quickly, giving secure access to any lab who is approved, data sharing is easier than ever. For instance, microbiologists in the UK have recently availed themselves of cloud computing to create CLIMB, the Cloud Infrastructure for Microbial Bioinformatics. This program shares microbiology lab data among labs in the UK and their partners around the world, without forcing each lab to set up their own individual process software. Cloud computing has streamlined the process for these UK labs, giving them more efficient and therefore more effective access to the data they need to continue to build their research projects and ultimately make discoveries on behalf of their organizations.

Microbiology data sharing has always been a process in academia, through the use of peer reviewed journals and conferences. However, cloud computing and improved data security means that it is no longer limited to these time honored data transfers and can be much more immediate. Effective data sharing is an important step for an open and thriving scientific community.