Information: Laboratory informatics tools

Tis chapter will look at the four major laboratory informatics tools – laboratory information management systems (LIMS), electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), laboratory execution systems (LES) and scientific data management systems (SDMS) – their differences and how they relate to each other. Each of these systems functions at or around the ‘Information’ layer (see Figure 1) and typically serves to collate data and information about the laboratory’s operations.

Laboratory informatics is the specialised application of information technology aimed at optimising laboratory operations by the application of information technology to the handling of laboratory data and information. It encompasses four major multi-user systems: laboratory information management systems (LIMS), electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), laboratory execution systems (LES) and scientific data management systems (SDMS). Tere is a very good reason why the

use of a generic term such as ‘laboratory informatics’ is important: we need to get away from an application-centric approach

and think of a fully integrated laboratory and its interaction with other company systems. Te deployment of an ELN generally represents the final step in making a laboratory fully electronic, and hence raises the demand to connect up all laboratory systems. Being fully electronic and being fully integrated are two different things. For most labs, being fully ‘electronic’

corresponds to an application-centric portfolio of ‘systems’ that were not necessarily designed to work together, and for which interoperability is hampered by the lack of standards and so has to be customised. A smart laboratory is an ‘integrated’ laboratory that is modular, based on standards, and is designed to facilitate connectivity, data sharing and collaboration. Over the past few years, the informatics

market has undergone two interesting developments; firstly, the previously separate LIMS and ELN sub-markets have started to overlap, causing a certain amount of confusion to the application-centric mind- set; secondly, mergers and acquisitions have reshaped the vendor line-up, specifically in the ELN field. Te origins of the LIMS market can

be traced back several decades to the point where the increasing prevalence of computers in the laboratory, coupled with their increasing processing power, led enterprising scientists to develop simple, custom computerised workflow systems to operate in conjunction with data acquisition and data processing. In the early 1980s, first-generation commercial LIMS started

“ The initial evolution of the ELN market was centred on the provision of functionality to support small molecule chemistry”

to appear, usually based on minicomputers, supporting sample and test management, and reporting of results. A second generation of commercial LIMS

started to appear in the late 1980s, typically taking advantage of relational databases to provide more sophisticated functionality. Te development of client-server based systems represented the next (third) generation of commercial systems, taking advantage of



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