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Watch Out for Garbage

Posted on July 2, 2014

Where will you store your data? How will you verify it? These and other issues must be considered, asserts Debra Montrose (bio).


I think in general, people don't give enough time and thought to data management as a whole. I think that people think that data management is simply data entry when it's so much more than that. It's really going back to the very beginning about how are you going to ensure that you're collecting the data that you're supposed to. How are you going to check to make sure that everything is complete and verifiable? How are you going to make sure that what you enter is correct? And I think that people don't necessarily use the resources or assess the resources well enough as to how they're going to house that data. So I've seen way too many investigators where all their data is in Excel or all of their data is in SPSS. These are not relational databases; these are not the best way. We use Access, Microsoft Access, and SQL Server.

There are other very sophisticated methods, but that's really what you need to look for is a sophisticated method for housing your data. So if you're entering a value for an instrument and it's supposed to be a 0 to a 6, you can't enter 66 by mistake. These are the internal checks that you have to be sure that you have in your data management system.

One of my most important principles that I say very regularly in my daily life is garbage in, garbage out. If you don't take care in how you recruit subjects, in how you train your people, how you manage your data; you're going to get garbage and we are not doing research because we want to do garbage. And I don't think anyone wants to be known as the garbage man in the research community.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2014 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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