Horror: Mislabelling


afbeelding van cellen

What happened?

During my PhD, I needed to use a certain cell line which was knocked out for a certain protein, meaning that it lacks that protein and this allows us to study the function of that certain protein. I searched for the cell line in an inventory shared with the whole department and started growing the cells. Again I trusted the labelling and performed an expensive mass spectrometry experiment using the cell line, just to find out afterwards the cell line was not the one it was supposed to be, again due to mislabelling.

How long ago was it?

2.5 years ago

How was this solved?

It was not. My PhD contract was about to end, so there was no time to solve the problem. It was a waste of time and resources.

How could this horror be avoided?

By the correct labeling of the sample and me verifying the sample 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 life? 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!