Lab Informatics: A Practical Idea for Improvement

Scientists often have tedious and labor intensive processes for organizing, storing and analyzing their day-to-day experimental materials and data.  This is frequently due to a lack of proper IT support or outdated applications.  Many times these scientists are unaware of other, more suitable IT applications available within the company that may suit their needs.

Many labs have several simple and custom IT solutions built for a particular task. Some may have been built over time and continue to satisfy needs. Some may face a risk of failure due to the changing nature of supportive operating software and platforms.  This presents a challenge to the IT organizations to re-develop the applications in an advanced language/platform and at the same time maintain their core function.  Additionally, the need often arises to streamline several individual IT applications and roll them under one umbrella for wider use.

One straightforward method to help address these challenges is to develop a list of all available IT applications and their use in a webpage/spreadsheet form, which is accessible to everyone in order to:

  • Create transparency of available applications and their benefits
  • Help scientists assess these applications and determine if they can be used as is or tailored to suit their needs
  • Present an opportunity for IT to streamline available applications
  • Help create a plan to mitigate risks associated with older applications
  • Help streamline the IT support and maintenance

In addition to the above mentioned solution, certain operational excellence tools can be used to assess and improve the scientific process/task associated with these applications and help the scientific community to increase their efficiency.

I am very interested in your feedback; please feel free to share your experience or thoughts on this or other methods to address the challenges presented.

Subbu Ramanathan

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