In some NHS biomed shops I have visited, the method of storing EST records appears to be the drawer on the test trolley being stuffed full of curled up paper strips containing results that are literally fading away! I wonder what the archeologists of future millennia will make of all that?
Meanwhile, regardless of the pros and cons of preserving EST data, as a "data" man myself I am more interested in how
such data is best retained, rather than the if
and the why
. How long should such data be keep at hand? Does it get discarded when the equipment it relates to is retired ... or does it get retained for possible analysis some time in the future?
These days (unlike the pre-historic era wherein I cut my teeth), data storage is cheaper (£ per megabyte, or whatever) than it ever was, and methods
of storing data are many and various. But, if even enthusiasts
like Marcel can't find the time to wade through his 25 years worth of stuff, one wonders what use are all those full-up mega-drives going to be in, say, a hundred years from now.
In these modern times of "information overload", where (technically speaking) "everything is possible", I would suggest that we need to think long and hard about what information our databases contain, and retain. Either that or we shall need to construct huge "data vaults" in which to stack our old data (with back-ups, naturally), and of course, a database
to catalogue it all!
As I write this I suspect that some bright spark will immediately come back and suggest archiving old data "out there" on the world-wide web ... OK perhaps, let it sit, forgotten, unwanted, unloved, and unlikely ever to be called up again on someone else's server in ... who knows, Beijing, Brighton, or Belize ... after all, "out of sight (site) is out of mind"!
Thinking about it a little more, I realize that possibly the best procedure would be to parcel up all test results into .xls format, and send them via email attachment once a year to the relevant government department. That way some over-paid and irresponsible idiot, having "downloaded" it all onto his (her) "memory stick" can safely get rid of it in the officially approved manner. That is, by simply leaving it on the bus, taxi or train on the way home!