By Allyson Yee, Customer Success Coordinator, ACD/Labs
Reporting is an essential part of a chemist’s job, but it is often stressful. Chemical reports are documents or files that use chemical, process, or analytical data to share or store relevant information. Whether you are a pharmaceutical researcher tracking batch purity, or an undergraduate student working on class assignments, reports must be accurate and professional.
Luckily, tools are available to simplify and automate your documentation process. Recently, I presented a Power Lesson that explored how to use report templates in ACD/Labs software.
If you already use our software, this demonstration will help you get started with our chemical reporting tools:
Even if you don’t use our software yet, this article explains how chemical report templates can save you time and increase the accuracy of your reporting process. First, we should understand why generating reports is complicated.
Why Are Chemical Reports Stressful?
What is it about reports that make them frustrating? This may seem obvious, but we should understand the challenge of reporting to get to the root of the problem. The goal is to communicate your results, but many obstacles get in your way. Here are some of the most common issues:
Highly accurate: Reports need to be precise. Using out-of-date results can be a massive mistake. Data processing also needs to be reliable. Ensuring that all your data is correct requires time and attention.
Cumbersome data management: Getting all the information you need into a report requires legwork. The more types of analytical or chemical data you have, the more complicated these reports become. Raw data must be processed, exported from processing software, and then imported into applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Any mistake in this chain could cause significant problems.
Time-sensitive: Scientists often have limited time to get their data into a report and pass it on to others. Inefficient systems make the time crunch worse.
Repetitive: While some reports are single-use, many are reused daily, weekly, or monthly. This repetition becomes monotonous and frustrating.
High stakes: Reports are important. Whether they are going to a team meeting, regulatory agency, professor, or a peer-reviewed publication, the content must be reliable and presentable. This increases stress!
Any fix to the reporting issue needs to solve for these problems. You need to communicate your results in a precise and professional manner while avoiding time-consuming, cumbersome, and repetitive work. How can we accomplish this?
The reporting templates in our software aim to streamline, simplify, and accelerate the reporting process. Data is pulled directly into the report. This reduces the time spent exporting files, switching formatting, and consolidating data.
In addition to increased efficiency, pulling information directly from processed data files increases accuracy. You don’t have to worry about grabbing an old file or copying the wrong table from your Excel spreadsheet. Fewer human operations means a lower chance for error. Bringing information in from processed data files also preserves the quality of your results, so you don’t need to worry about compromising depth or nuance.
Once you generate a report, you can transfer the information in whatever format works best. For example, you can copy your content and paste it into Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. You can also export it as a PDF to integrate into existing systems—like your Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) or software for statistical analysis.
Even without customization, there is a lot you can do with the ACD/Labs reporting tools. Multi-technique reports mean you’re not running between different software and assembling the information in a Word document. You can include structure(s), spectra, chromatograms, peak tables, and more. You can also zoom into a region of a chromatogram or spectra and place it on top as an overlay. Our mutliplet report for NMR spectra still gets users excited! No more italicizing or listing peaks and J coupling values—just click “create multiplet report” and copy/paste it into your publication. These are a few of the functions you can take advantage of.
If you do need more flexibility, there are lots of customization options. You can create purpose-built report templates for your needs. You can even include details such as logos, detailed molecular structures, and signatures to ensure your reports look official.
Tips for Improving Your Scientific Reporting Process
With so many options, it might be challenging to begin. How can we get started building chemical report templates?
First, consider the goal. What critical information do you want to share? Make sure this information is as obvious as possible. If you are trying to tell a story with your results, be thoughtful about how you sequence your data. Be sure to consider your audience. If it is your boss, figure out what information they want to see. If it is an outside reviewer, make sure the report meets content, layout, and file format requirements.
One mistake people sometimes make when designing a report template is adding too much information. Every chromatogram, spectra, or data table imaginable gets thrown into one giant document. While this is occasionally necessary, it can also be overkill. Bringing in unnecessary data distracts from the main message and increases the risk of error.
Overall, it is about finding what is suitable for your team. Different chemistry and business processes require different workflows. You are the expert, so you need to know what meets your needs. The best part is that once you have a chemistry report template that works, you can iterate on it in the future or use it as the foundation for building other reports.
Want to get started building chemical report templates? Watch our Power Lesson for more information.