Building a Smart Laboratory 2017

Information: Laboratory informatics tools ELN

Experiment-centric: an authoring tool that handles unstructured data and offers generic and specific functionality to support different scientific disciplines. Supports IP protection, knowledge re-use, productivity and collaboration.


Procedure or experiment- centric: basically able to handle structured data and some unstructured data. Specifically designed to meet the requirements of the GxP environment. Simplifies repeated operations. Supports electronic SOPs.


Sample-centric: primarily designed to handle structured data, and offers sample and test management, batch operations, and industry-specific workflows. Secure laboratory information hub. Supports compliance.

SDMS Data-centric: handles data files from laboratory instruments, meta-data, documents, and the relationships between them.

of QA/QC and the regulatory world. A few vendors have concentrated specifically on this area, with products that are strongly aligned to laboratory workflows, following the step-by-step execution of SOPs or test methods. Te products are more structured than

a ‘conventional’ ELN and in some respects appear to be functionally closer to a LIMS. Tis particular segment of the market has seen a number of LIMS vendors extending the functionality available in their LIMS products to embrace some of the more unstructured requirements associated with experimentation. It could be argued that such products may be better labelled as laboratory execution systems (LES) as they follow a very prescriptive approach applicable to those communities engaged in regulatory based testing. To replace a paper notebook, all that

could be required could be a simple authoring tool capable of generating a compound-document. However, additional capability will be needed for storing and searching documents, and for addressing workflow requirements. Some organisations have chosen to implement generic ELN functionality within the framework of their standard IT tools, such as Lotus Notes and SharePoint. In the academic community, blogging tools have been used to record experimental work and thus provide the basic features of an ELN, with a strong emphasis on sharing and collaboration and in the form of a laboratory journal. Te convergence in the informatics

market is now confusing potential customers. Te table, right, identifies the core differences in the major tools. Initially, each of these tools addressed a well-defined, functional requirement, but

the increasing level of sophistication of the underlying information technologies has made it easier to extend functionality in ways that mean that there is now considerable overlap between the different tools. At one stage it was considered unlikely that a single ELN could provide the necessary functionality to support chemistry, biology and analytical requirements. Tose days are over, and this should make the task of finding a suitable ELN easier. But the extent of the overlap with LIMS, SDMS, and LES can generate confusion, and for someone looking to address laboratory information management requirements, the task seems to be more challenging.

What is a laboratory information management system (LIMS)?

A laboratory information management system (LIMS) provides the basic functions for sample and test management, and has become the standard tool for analytical and QC laboratories for registering samples, assigning tests, gathering and managing results, and issuing reports. Most LIMS now provide a more integrated solution to support workflows and processes customised to a range of industry-specific requirements.



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