Laboratory Data Types

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Authored by: Mark F. Russo

As the technology for data storage has improved in speed and capacity with a concomitant decrease in cost, so has the magnitude of experimental data collected. While it is certainly not always true that more experimental data is better, it is true that there is almost always more that can be collected, especially when one uses automation. It is a natural tendency to store the data you collect, if possible, so there is rarely an excess of data storage capacity.

Forms of experimental data range from single data points through high-resolution video. Of course, the quantity of actual storage required depends entirely on the amount of data collected. Storage requirements for a very large number of individual data points can easily exceed storage requirements for a few frames of video. Nevertheless, it is useful to have a sense for the typical orders of magnitude of storage required for each form of experimental data, if only for planning purposes.

The following table summarizes a range of typical experimental data types, with storage requirements and examples.

Data Type
Storage Requirements
  • Single data point
  • 4 bytes to 8 bytes
  • endpoint assay
  • ...
  • X-Y data series
  • 100 bytes to ?
  • kinetic assay
  • dose-response curve
  • chromatographic trace
  • ...
  • Signal
  • 100 Kbytes to ?
  • electrophysiology experiment
  • ...
  • Image
  • 100 Kbytes to ?
  • High Content Screening
  • ...
  • Video
  • 1 MByte to ?
  • animal behavior analysis
  • ...

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