Flow cytometry is a valuable research tool because it can generate abundant amounts of very detailed data, but this often means that scientists need to deal with moving and storing large amounts of digital data. In addition, many flow cytometry users run their experiments at a site separate from their lab or work with an offsite contract research organization (CRO) that runs their flow cytometry experiments. This means that flow cytometry data transfer is an issue that researchers must address even in the planning stages of their flow cytometry experiments. Consider these factors related to transferring large datasets for flow cytometry.
- Start with a Data Transfer Agreement (DTA). If you are working with a CRO or core facility, DTAs are a critical component to assuring that your flow cytometry data transfer is executed securely and meets the data recipient’s needs. DTAs include details of how the transfer will be done, who will have access to data, how data is organized (i.e., templates for data repositories), and a timeline of data transfer. DTAs also address documentation needs for quality assurance (QA) and audit trails.
- Security is first and foremost. Whether you are running a preclinical study at a pharmaceutical company or processing patient samples for a clinical trial, data security at both the flow cytometer user and data recipient ends must be considered. Network security for both parties is critical, as are security protocols for any cloud-based file sharing services that may be used to facilitate flow cytometry data transfer.
- Communication is key. Transferring large datasets for flow cytometry relies on clear lines of communication between the parties that have the data for transfer and the recipients. QA requirements typically include limiting access to this data. Be sure to consider who will be involved in communications before, during and after flow cytometry data transfer.
Most CROs have experience in data transfer and are a good resource for both flow cytometry services and data handling. As with most research projects, planning and preparation make flow cytometry data transfer a manageable and secure endeavor.