Intriguing things that capture our imagination.

During our work, research, and travel, we find a variety of articles, websites, and information that might interest you. Here’s an ever-expanding list that you can sort by topic.

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The Wall St. Journal (Monday, 14 Mar 2016) had a short article on the growing use of microlearning: short focused lessons on how to perform certain tasks.  You can find them on YouTube,, Home Depot, and on a variety of other websites.  Think of short, practical, and useful video procedures.

Visualizing data

A fascinating website with lots of information about data visualization from graphs to data maps to “infographics” can be found at  Check out the books by the site’s owner, Nathan Yau, that are available at Amazon.  Warning:  you might find yourself spending a lot of time here!

Flowing data website  

Error checking

The Wall St Journal (Saturday, 5 Dec 2015, page A2) published an interesting article on how long numbers can include checks to determine if the number is valid or not. The article describes how check digits can confirm a number that is entered.  If the check digit isn’t valid, it indicates that an incorrect number was entered.

“Here is a simple example of how they work: A product is identified with a three-digit identification number. The sum of all the digits plus a fourth number—the check digit—must equal a multiple of 10. If the identification number is 123, then the check digit must be 4. “You would attach 4 because 1 + 2 + 3 is 6, and 6 + 4 is 10.  When the number is received, if it is not a multiple of 10, you know something happened.”  The problem might be a typo, a transmission glitch, or possibly an attempt to fake a valid number.

The system is a bit more complex, however.  An algorithm is created to prevent an incorrectly entered sequence like “456” having the same result as the proper sequence of “654”.  In this case the position of a number is given a value and each digit is multiplied by that positional value.

Quite clever.  It’s a great example of detecting errors before they can cause problems!    

FREE book download: Pharmaceutical and Vaccine Quality Illustrated

A colleague and friend, Dr. Umit Kartoglu who works at WHO headquarters in Geneva, has self-published an excellent reference book on words and terms used in pharma, biopharma, and vaccines.  AND it’s a free download as a pdf. You need to get this!  

Pharmaceutical and Vaccine Quality Illustrated by Dr. Umit Kartoglu

Bacteria and Nespresso Coffee Makers: Something new to worry about?

Fascinating article about bacterial contamination that was found in Nespresso coffee makers.  A good reason why coffee should not be allowed in drug production areas (or micro labs)!   Nature: Scientific Reports – Coffee makers and bacteriome

Warning Letter citation concerning training

A Sandoz site received a Warning Letter that included a citation on lack of training…

3.    Your firm failed to ensure that each person engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, or holding of a drug product has the education, training, and experience, or any combination thereof, to enable that person to perform his or her assigned functions, and that training in current good manufacturing practice is conducted by qualified individuals (21 CFR 211.25(a)). 
During interviews with our investigators, your contract employee who trains other contract employees on good documentation practices was unable to explain the material he was required to present during training. In addition, while a significant number of your contract employees do not speak English, you only provided English training materials to these employees.  
We also found an employee’s failing equipment qualification training assessment form in the trash, yet that employee’s official file showed passing results.  According to your company policies, personnel with failing scores must be retrained, but your firm was unable to provide evidence of retraining in the employee’s official record.  
According to your response of September 22, 2014, department heads are now responsible for training their contractors.  Your response is inadequate, as you failed to assess how critical operations were affected by unqualified personnel. 
You have not demonstrated that you have provided employees with appropriate resources and training to make sure that they are qualified for the operations they performed. Falsification and manipulation of employee training records is unacceptable.

Two Einstein quotes…

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.


We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.



e-Signatures and (dis)honesty

The Wall Street Journal on 14 Oct 2015 reported on a series of seven studies that found that people are more willing to be dishonest when electronically signing a document.

In one study, participants were instructed to perform math problems to obtain raffle tickets.  Researchers cross-checked the papers and found that those who used traditional hand-written signatures all reported their results honestly.  Of those who signed electronically, 18 percent cheated.  The lead researcher concluded that using handwritten signatures deter people from cheating but e-sigs do not.


Ontario and Canada Financial Support for Training

A recent Toronto Globe and Mail article pointed to several sources for training grants.

The Canada Job Grant (CJG) [] is a six-year training grant available across Canada. From 2014 to 2020, businesses can apply for their provincial variant of the program (ie. Canada-Ontario Job Grant [ 2015-09-canada-ontario-job-grant-ontario-business-grants-for-training/]) .

“FedDev Ontario [] has dedicated funding to established Ontario manufacturers looking to carry out in-house or third-party training projects that willlead to improved productivity and export sales performance.”  

Link to article:

Quality Metrics – Comment period extended

FDA has given industry until 27 November 2015 to provide comments on the draft Request for Quality Metrics guideline.   Comments can be made using the website: and search for the title of the guideline.

MOOCs and Open Education Around the World

A book about MOOCs – coedited by a friend and mentor, Tom Reeves.

Find the book on Amazon

Patient Safety – Quality Improvement Module

An interesting website / resource on the topic of human error reduction from the healthcare perspective.

See the module on Duke University Medical Center

Pfizer completes Hospira takeover

Pfizer completes Hospira takeover and outlines $800m a year cost saving plan.


Quality Events, Interviews, and Brian Williams

The troubles that Brian Williams had with the changing details of his helicopter experience can be explained, in part, by how we store and re-store our memories.

Download a PDF copy of James Vesper's article, Quality Events, Interviews, and Brian Williams.

The Coolest Cars at the Planet’s Biggest Motor Show

Need a new car? Save the Porsche Mission for me…

See Wired

Are College Lectures Unfair?

Research is showing that “active learning” with more structure, feedback, and interaction is a better way of transferring knowledge for many people than lectures.

See NY Times