Quality assurance – Yes, please!
”The fundamental question is: How do you do, what you do?” This statement came from senior scientist Theo van Hintum at a workshop held with focus on quality assurance and cooperation between countries around the Baltic see and with participants from Russia, Netherlands, the Baltic countries and NordGen.
By Anne Rosengård
Yes, how do we actually do our job? The staffs at the gene banks in the Nordic countries, Baltic countries, Netherlands and Russia held a workshop with focus on quality assurance. The workshop was held just after the annual EUCARPIA conference on plant genetic resources. NordGen was facilitating and hosting the workshop.
Senior scientist Theo van Hintum from the Centre for Genetic Resources in Netherlands was invited to tell about their quality assurance system. The Dutch gene bank was the first gene bank in the world which obtained ISO 9001 certification. He explained: “We always make a backup, but do we know if the backup is functioning, when we need it? No, we don’t. But if we check it, we know”.
He continued, that the condition for quality is quality control, and that the staffs in the Dutch gene banks take feedback seriously. One of the most important things to do when introducing quality assurance is to involve the staff: The procedures must be discussed and improved, there must be traceability, and it must be easy to introduce new employee to the system.
Of cause there are also disadvantages, the senior scientist explained: “The staffs must spend quite some time; in the beginning they may just see it as an extra task. One uses around five per cent extra time on quality checks, and it may give additional bureaucracy”.
But he was not in doubt of the advantages. “External partners have a guarantee, that the quality is credible, when you have a quality assurance system. The devil is to be found in the details,” he smiled.
Support from the Swedish Institute
One of the objectives for the workshop was to strengthen the cooperation between NordGen, gene bank colleagues from the Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. The workshop itself was financially supported by the Swedish Institute, whose task is to spread information and knowledge about Sweden in foreign countries and to promote cooperation and the long term relations between the countries.
Mati Koppel, gene researcher and director of the breeding institute Jogeva Sordiaretuse Instituut was among the participants. He expressed his opinion on the cooperation across the Baltic Sea in this way: “We learn and we are in the middle of a learning process. We learn about new methods and this gives new knowledge and access to results from other gene banks”. He continued: “The best from the conference and the workshop is to make new contacts and hear about new methods. This will result in new scientific results and methods at home and give new possibilities for our work”.
After the workshop NordGen will summarize and take new initiatives that shall build on the cooperation between gene banks in the Baltic Sea area.