Using performant data storage tools without surrendering confidentiality Helpline / Success Story

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The ASPRE project is an ongoing FP7 project which was launched on May 1st, 2013 and is funded under the Cooperation programme. It is carried out by a consortium of five partners from Finland, Germany, Iceland, Israel, and the United Kingdom and coordinated by the Fetal Medicine Foundation in the UK. This project aims at implementing a strategy for the screening and prevention of preeclampsia, which affects 2-8% of pregnant women and is one of the most common causes of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Within this context, Hananja ehf, an Icelandic SME active in the pharmaceutical field and one of the project partners, contacted the European IPR Helpdesk before the project’s start date. Hananja’s query was not a common issue brought to the Helpdesk’s IP consultants, and yet a very much relevant one to consider when doing research and development in the era of computerisation and digitisation.

While it is highly recommended, in all FP7 projects, to keep track of all research and development activities carried out by each of the project partners, this is particularly crucial in the case of lab-based experiments, where research data should be scrupulously recorded.

Such records are traditionally carried out by way of laboratory notebooks, but electronic laboratory notebooks (ELN, or “E-Lab Notebooks”) are proving to be an increasingly useful tool in this regard. Hananja decided to resort to such E-Lab Notebooks in order to be more environmental and “paper-free”.
Dr. Sveinbjörn Gizurarson, Hananja’s Chairman, therefore started to approach several ELN providers in order to find a suitable and efficient data storage solution. While doing so, Dr. Gizurarson grew increasingly concerned about the confidentiality of Hananja’s research data when using such electronic tools, in particular as most ELN solutions involved “Cloud” storage. He therefore contacted the European IPR Helpdesk to enquire about the confidentiality aspects to consider while negotiating the setting up of his own E-Lab Notebook, and thus start his involvement in the ASPRE project with less concerns as to the safety of project data.

The Helpline’s IPR Consultants assisted Hananja in providing guidance as to the pitfalls to avoid when resorting to Cloud storage. The IPR Helpdesk also provided Dr. Gizurarson with some practical hints as to the negotiation of security and confidentiality clauses with storage providers, as well as to the negotiation of a clear and narrow geographical scope for data storage. The overall goal was, of course, to assist Hananja in its endeavours of keeping as strong a control as possible over its confidential project data, while at the same time benefiting from some of the latest E-storage solutions available on the market.

Data confidentiality when resorting to such means of storage “is such an important issue to bring up”, acknowledged Dr. Sveinbjörn Gizurarson, who shared with us that our “prompt and detailed response was really helpful.” In fact, following the information received by the Helpline, the company decided to purchase an advanced E-Lab Notebook that allowed it to be installed in Iceland, “in such a way that it is fully secure” and allows the company “to keep track of all of its data”. They have also “decided not to use a cloud in the FP7 project.

Hananja ehf and its four partners are currently carrying out the ASPRE project, which should last until the spring of 2016.