Archive for January 26th, 2022

Data base or Data repository? – A brief and very selective history of data management in chemistry.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Way back in the late 1980s or so, research groups in chemistry started to replace the filing of their paper-based research data by storing it in an easily retrievable digital form. This required a computer database and initially these were accessible only on specific dedicated computers in the laboratory. These gradually changed from the 1990s onwards into being accessible online, so that more than one person could use them in different locations. At least where I worked, the infrastructures to set up such databases were mostly not then available as part of the standard research provisions and so had to be installed and maintained by the group itself. The database software took many different forms and it was not uncommon for each group in a department to come up with a different solution that suited its needs best. The result was a proliferation of largely non-interoperable solutions which did not communicate with each other. Each database had to be searched locally and there could be ten or more such resources in a department. The knowledge of how the system operated also often resided in just one person, which tended to evaporate when this guru left the group.