Horror: Wrong sample

Wrong sample

afbeelding van wattenstaafje in DNA buisje en handschoenen

What happened?

During my PhD, I needed to use a DNA sample from a colleague. She/he gave me the sample and I trusted it, didn’t see the need to sequence the sample to verify whether it is really that sample. After months of work and experiments failing, finally I decided to sequence the sample and found out it was not what it was supposed to be and the sample I received was accidentally swapped with another sample due to mislabelling.

How long ago was it?

~3 years ago

How was this solved?

By sequencing the DNA sample, after months of work and experiments failing

How could this horror be avoided?

By the correct labeling of the sample and me verifying the sample by sequencing it at the beginning

What lesson can we learn from this story?

The management of physical samples, i.e. their verification, correct labeling, entry into a physical and digital inventory is an essential part of research data management and it is very important that these stages are done properly and documented well.


Did you experience data horrors in your research live? Do you think that researchers could learn from your experience? Would you like to share your story with others?

We would love to help you in turning a creepy story around data into a positive lesson learned. Use this form below to share your story with the Dutch Data Horror Team.

Horror form


Pompoen als hoofd van een donkere figuur

Are you ready for it?

Archiving panic? No backups? Bugs in your code? Licence confusion? Who ya gonna call? Just the thought of it!

And yet it happens every day.

During this Data Horror Week, researchers will share these horror stories, based on their own experience. To prevent you from making the same mistake!