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The journey to the idyllic informatics landscape…there is no one station

February 3, 2016
California’s Pacific Coast Highway
by Graham McGibbon, Manager of Scientific Solutions & Partnerships (ACD/Labs)

En route to SLAS 2016 in San Diego to talk about ‘Tackling Obstacles to Analytical Knowledge Externalization’ I was struck by the congruity of the breathtaking road I was taking with the topic planned for the Informatics–Data Wrangling session. National Geographic noted the road as “An exhilarating driving experience…In places, the road has narrow shoulders and sharp drop-offs, so stay alert”. The Informatics landscapes of modern science-based organizations also offer remarkable challenges to navigate.

In both cases, participants seek trouble-free travel but each desires their own cadence and flexibility along with mindfulness of constraints. There is an inherent beauty to practical software which is designed to strive for a balance of those aspects and the ACD/Spectrus Platform exhibits many of those desirable qualities. Certainly the demands on analytical software are increasing from enabling automated processing and assembly of data and results; to often desiring integration with other homebuilt or commercial informatics systems like ELNs and LIMS to make them properly capable of handling, managing, mining, and presenting live analytical data.

Controversy swirls around whether Eroom’s law posited by Scannell et al. in “Diagnosing the decline in pharmaceutical R&D efficiency” has run its course or not. Fox of Bloomberg, and others (Welch of Pharmaceutical Online) have questioned the position based on more recent information. It is without question that, unlike the coast highway traffic, the extent of analytical data has increased more than hundreds fold over the past decades from a combination of compounds prepared and analyzed and from the amount of data points instrumentation pumps out with heightened sensitivities, acquisition rates, and computer related capabilities. The questions being asked now are: ‘How to manage it all?’ and ‘How to assemble and present results in ways that truly allow data-driven and knowledge-based decision making?’  Here, as on the drive, control is a key to success and satisfaction.

Clouds, on my drive provided overcast skies that eased the glare and shaped the vistas. Our company also has the Cloud in its present and future to match organizations as they transition from desktop (thick client) software based on-premise, into architectures of web clients, servers, and services, and cloud-based data storage.

If the Informatics road ahead is like the route I took, it will be full of exciting and novel developments and some unexpected twists-and-turns. For this analytical informatics endeavour I want to keep in mind the advice Robert J. Hastings poetically communicated in his essay ‘The Station’—that it is going to be about the journey rather than some idyllic destination. What obstacles do you foresee as you join us on the ride?

– Graham McGibbon


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