Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

How to Improve Data Integrity at Your Tech Transfer Office

Garbage in, garbage out.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s also a truism for data integrity, as Becky Stoughton and I discussed at a webinar on improving data integrity for technology transfer offices (TTOs).

Both of us know firsthand the importance of establishing and maintaining data integrity. We have my experience with Fuentek’s own data conversion effort. We have Becky’s learning the need for good data as a TTO director. And then there is Fuentek’s experience helping clients transition/clean up their IP management databases.

Since we had some valuable insights to provide to TTOs, today’s blog post considers the tweets @fuentek sent out during the webinar in a little more depth. BTW, you can read more about what we presented in this detailed article published in the Technology Transfer Tactics newsletter. And Tech Transfer Central is offering a package discount for our two webinars on Optimizing Tech Transfer Operations. (Our other topic was of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)—Becky blogged about SOPs here.)

The Connection to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

This webinar is a deeper dive into some concepts from our previous webinar on standard operating procedures for #TechTransfer offices. Check out the #SOPs4techtransfer tweets or read our blog post: https://t.co/G1DQtQxbeb

We had discussed the need to consistently and correctly enter data, exploring how SOPs help avoid errors and omissions. Again, check out Becky’s blog post on tech transfer SOPs here.

Data Integrity Matters to Everyone

Who cares about your #TechTransfer office’s #DataIntegrity? Oh, just your staff, managers, inventors, institution’s leadership, research sponsors, investors, startups, gov’t agencies, and economic development agencies. That’s all. ?

Data integrity helps TTO managers and staff know technology status and priorities, who’s working on what, upcoming deadlines, and much more. It affects operational efficiency and effectiveness and has critical financial, compliance, and legal implications.

The TTO’s stakeholders also need accurate or timely information. So, if you have data integrity problems, then your internal issues rapidly become external issues. For example, it could affect faculty research and technology development opportunities as well as promotion and tenure decisions. Additionally, if you don’t have accurate data, you can’t provide reliable metrics and information commonly used in monthly or annual reports.

The Harm Caused by Bad Data Integrity

Bad data ➡️ Inefficient reporting, missed deadlines, decreased productivity, increased costs. Compromises revenue, accuracy, compliance, and your relationship w/researchers & administrators. #TechTransfer office gets perceived as disorganized & inept

Your TTO could face huge financial penalties from a lack of data integrity. For example, missing the deadline to convert a provisional patent can lead to reduced licensing revenue. (This is not theory—we have seen this happen!)

Plus, if the administration’s requests for data always turn into a major fire drill with lots of scrambling, explanations, and caveats, they will begin to question the TTO’s competency.

How to Achieve Good Data Integrity

Good #TechTransfer data is accurate, complete, and added to database as received. Making it happen requires training & being clear about who should do what, when, how. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow; spending time now saves time later

Let’s break that down:
  • Accurate: Everyone knows who should capture what information and where it goes. Training and SOPs are provided to current staff and new personnel.
  • Complete: For agreements and patent filings, which happen in stages over time, fill in as much information as you can. Then add data as they progress and become final.
  • Added as Received: Spending the time upfront means that you will spend much less time later, either cleaning it up or chasing it down when you are asked for it.

Again, established SOPs are key to your success.

Begin with the End in Mind

Whether setting up or cleaning up, think about types of #TechTransfer reports you’ll need to generate. That’s your guiding star. Then, once you understand database’s structure and capabilities, define fields and standard formats for consistency.

Having good data integrity means that anyone with access can extract from the database the information needed to generate an accurate, reliable report. By thinking through what reports you need, you can build the database structure—and the SOPs—to ensure you’re collecting the data you need to support those reports. Some advice:
  • Talk to stakeholders to understand what’s important to them and why.
  • Document what you hear and then sketch out a draft report layout (e.g., tabular lists vs. graphical charts).
  • Different insights can be gained depending on how you “slice and dice” the data, think about to filter, group, and summarize data so it conveys useful insights that the audience can easily interpret.

Tackling Database Cleanup

#TechTransfer database cleanup: 1. Know what data you have/need. 2. Understand what is/isn’t accurate. 3. Set high/low priorities based on your goals. (What’s worst pain point? Start there.) It takes time, so set small goals to chip away at the list.

If you’re a brand-new office, you have the luxury of establishing solid data integrity at the start. You just have to choose your IP management system and set it up to generate the reports you need.

Achieving data integrity in established offices that don’t already have it is much harder. And it is likely overwhelming to tackle everything at once, so think about what’s most important.

For example, if you’re trying to increase revenues on existing agreements, focus first on understanding what agreements are in place, their status, and how to leverage the system tools to request payment.

Here are some specific tips to consider:

Tips for database cleanup include: 1. Identify triggers 2. Leverage spreadsheets and word docs for drafting/iterating 3. Pull reports before and after to track changes (mistakes will be made) 4. Use test sites to make sure before changing real data 5. Ask the database company if they can implement some changes on the back end (e.g., patent formats)

Digging into the Details

So many nuts & bolts on how to improve #TechTransfer database integrity! Where/How to find errors, fixing them efficiently, using drop-downs, working w/database provider, avoiding potential pitfalls. Get all the deets here: https://t.co/VU58FMeyxI

There was way more detail than we can provide in a blog post, so I encourage you to check out either the recording for this webinar or the package discount for this and our SOPs webinar here.

You Are Not Alone

Lots of TTOs struggle with their data. Achieving good data integrity should start with understanding what reporting you need to extract from the database system and then develop SOPs to match up with it and your procedures. Then focus on accurate and consistent data entry from this moment forward. For past data, don’t aim for perfection; good is enough and achievable.

If you need help, Fuentek is here for you. We have helped many TTOs clean up their databases and establish good practices for maintaining data integrity. Contact us today to discuss what your TTO needs.