laboratory informatics ➤

applications, and one-click reports can be produced utilising data generated on any analytical instrument. While Allotrope and SiLA are approaching these issues with slightly different objectives, both aim to alleviate the unnecessary data management present in today’s paperless laboratories. Dr Gerhard Noelken, director of

informatics at Pfizer and Allotrope Foundation, said: ‘When I walk through the lab there are still a lot of scientists that complain about their laboratory systems, saying “I cannot get to my data; I cannot easily link it to other information sources”.’ Noelken explained that, while the lab of

the future is being discussed today, we still have a long way to go before we can fully realise its potential. Tis was a sentiment echoed by Boogaard, as any change to procedure requires that a company not only understands the challenge but also adapts their midset to a new strategy based on paperless technologies: ‘It is about having all of the contextual information. It is all about generating that extra value for the scientist and that extra value is really in the use of the semantic technology.’ Te main difference between SiLA and

Allotrope is that, while both focus on streamlining the use of data in the lab, SiLA concentrates on a unified format for chemistry data, whereas the Allotrope Foundation is trying to allow laboratory users to store and manage their data more effectively. One aspect of this process is the addition of contextual metadata to give users a clearer representation of the potential value of a data set.

Driving efficiency through process improvement While data integrity is a key challenge, the PLA event also highlighted the need for process improvement. Several speakers at the event noted that for larger organisations, efficiency savings and process improvement can provide the biggest benefits. IDBS’s Paul Denny Gouldson discussed

the myriad of choices for informatics users – usually requiring a three or four letter acronym. He argued that it is not the reliance on acronyms that we should be focusing on, but which features are required for an organisation to get the most out of its workflows. A user’s needs ‘have to be based on

requirements and then capabilities required to deliver those requirements’ said Gouldson, who went on to explain that the foundation of these activities was

28 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD Attendees enjoying the networking opportunities on offer at PLA

efficient data management – the ability to capture and manage all the different types of data associated with studies and samples. Te trick comes in exposing this to all the different users and workflows in a succinct and simple manner.’ Matt Harrison, IT strategy and portfolio

leader at AstraZeneca, shared this view that data management was the key to the success of informatics companies; however he argued that for large organisations, such as AstraZeneca, it is insight that ultimately offers the most benefit: ‘When you listen to some of these talks at these sorts of events


there is quite a lot of emphasis put on efficiency and the potential for going faster. Of course, going faster is very important but when you truly look at what adds value to a company like ours, operational efficiency is there, but it is probably the least important in terms of adding value. Te real key here is insight.’ Harrison explained that for companies

like AstraZeneca, with around 900 scientists creating information, there is a huge challenge around making that process easier from a regulatory perspective. AstraZeneca has considerable experience with this kind of deployment, having recently finished its implementation of a fully integrated laboratory informatics platform across its entire business. ‘How do we pull together all of this

knowledge data and insight and convince the scientists that they are not generating data for themselves but for an organisation?’ asked Harrison.

Putting a price on change One aspect of this, as Peter Boogaard highlighted, is changing the mindset of an organisation. At first, this can mean demonstrating the value of change so that it can be accepted by an organisation. Harrison explained that during

implementation of AstraZeneca’s new paperless system, researchers still had reservations about the potential benefits: ‘Te scientists say the data is too hard to structure so the cost to do it is too high for the benefits on the other side.’ However, as with the case for

AstraZeneca, there is a further challenge even once a system has been implemented, to drive researchers to make the most of these new technologies. Tis can be done in a variety of ways, from reusing information across different projects to using archives of previous work to help reach an intelligent decision – for example, to explain why a particular protocol might fail. Tese insights, Harrison argues, are not possible without a specific informatics platform, which allows users to develop and use the insight that can be arrvied at by efficiently managing data. Te technology for paperless informatics

is available today; the informatics community must now take the next step, which is to embrace these technologies. Without full scale adoption by the wider community, it will never reach the levels of uptake necessary to drive further technological innovation.l

@scwmagazine l

Darren Ebbs

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