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Book section Open Access

Errors and error management in biomedical research

Dirnagl, Ulrich; Bernard, René

The validity of biomedical research results has come under scrutiny that revolves around factors regarding the quality of these results. However, due to the complexity of the experiments involved, errors quite naturally occur frequently. They include quality-compromised devices, errors due to limitations of measurement, protocol deviations, reporting errors, and human errors caused by carelessness or moments of distraction during complex tasks. Additionally, there are errors of unknown cause, which makes it vital to communicate them and keep a record of them for further investigation.

A way of managing these errors is the “Laboratory Critical Incident and Error Reporting System” (LabCIRS), a software tool to record all incidents anonymously and to analyze, discuss, and communicate them. It has been adapted from the Critical Incident and Error Reporting System (CIRS), used in the clinical world to improve patient safety in complex, fast-paced, and often understaffed settings.

LabCIRS is a nonpunitive format devoid of emotional connotations, exclusively focused on how to avoid errors in the future. Errors are reported, viewed, and initially classified. Thereafter, a decision is made about the urgency of actions. After further discussion, measures to be taken in response are determined and entered into the system. They are 

presented to the research group in question. A newsletter, issued on a regular basis, summarizes both errors and actions that were taken. No personal information or computer IP is ever recorded, ensuring the confidentiality of the reporter.

LabCIRS could be considered an essential model for any community seeking a systematic error-management strategy to handle quality issues that have become a matter of concern.

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