Data Manager Alex Ferrier oversees the way data are collected in a clinical trial, and he makes sure his data are as accurate as possible.
At the beginning of a study, Alex helps design a system for collecting and checking data, and develops Standard Operating Procedures to ensure the trial runs in accordance with Good Clinical Practice Guidelines. Alex will also test the databases and data collection techniques to make sure that they are accurate. “The data are collected by the trial teams,” he says, “And they enter [the data] on the database. I must make sure they are entered in a timely fashion and are consistent. The data then goes to the statistician, who might ask me to query more things with the doctors and trial teams.”
Alex checks the data as they come in for any inconsistencies—numbers that seem too low or too high. He investigates these to make sure human errors (such as entering incorrect numbers into a database) are not confused with actual results.
Medical Statisticians analyse the data from a study and figure out whether a new trial medicine is successful. Without Data Managers like Alex, they would not be able to answer these questions. “The Data Manager has got more of a focus on ensuring data quality. So that’s where I stand, so that the Statistician can get the right results,” Alex says.
Alex studied biology and epidemiology at university, but Data Managers come from several backgrounds. Not all are scientists. They all have some experience working in clinical trials, perhaps as Research Assistants who gain experience and are promoted. Besides understanding how clinical trials work, Alex says, “I think you need to be reasonably numerate and have good communication skills. And secondly, have very good attention to detail.”
The most satisfying thing about being a Data Manager, he says, is, “When you see the outcome of a trial, and if it has a positive result, seeing that go into production.”