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QA/QC for Solid Data

Quality assurance in academic research can be a bit casual, writes Monya Baker at Nature News. But, she adds, there are a growing number of researchers who've realized that quality assurance and control can help their research efforts.

For instance, when Montserrat Torremorell, a virologist at the University of Minnesota, used a colleague's instrument, she received results that made no sense. She then learned that her colleague, to save on costs, hadn't kept up with instrument maintenance. "It was a real eye-opener," Torremorell tells Baker.

University of Minnesota's Rebecca Davies, who started the internal quality assurance consulting group Quality Central, notes that researchers are doing good work, but it can always be better. "There are easy fixes to situations that shouldn't be happening, but are," she says.

Getting such systems set up, though, can be a hassle, and QA/QC auditors can be perceived as overbearing, Baker writes. "You have to find a way to communicate that QA is not punitive or guilt-inspiring," Davies tells her.

Davies says that her goal is to make QA as integral to the research process as peer review is.

"If we want to be competitive to get funding, and if we want people to believe our data, we need to be serious about the data that we generate," Torremorell adds.