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With more documents being created electronically it makes sense to store, manage and share them electronically too. Siân Harris looks at some tools for document management, how they are helping scientific workflows and what role they will play in the future


anaging and sharing information is an important component of any laboratory’s processes, whether the

lab is in academia or in industry and whatever sectors the researchers are working in. But although information is a common theme, what it encompasses is very broad. The need for information begins before the research process starts. Scientists learn about the background to a research area from the published literature, patents, conference proceedings and the work of colleagues. As research progresses, large amounts of information about the experiments,

results and observations are also generated. These experimental results might eventually lead to the generation of new research output, either published in some way or communicated privately with other researchers. There is another layer of administrative

information too. This includes health and safety forms, training records, standard operating procedures (SOPs), details of materials purchased, regulatory requirements and other documents that go alongside any project. Such documents may also link outwards from the lab to wider enterprise systems within

an organisation. The information types and purposes differ, but all need to be stored, used and accessed in different ways by different people. Laboratory results and data are covered

extensively elsewhere in this Laboratory Informatics Guide, but there is much that labs need to consider in their management of documents and at the interface between documents and data.

COLLECTING PAPERS Scientific papers, books and other background scientific research are important resources for researchers. Traditionally, these would have been paper-based, perhaps in a library or photocopied and kept in a filing cabinet in a lab or office. The past decade or so, however, has seen a shift towards electronic delivery of such information. Many organisations now purchase solely electronic subscriptions to such content. What’s more, many research resources are published online first and do not have a print run at all. With the change in format have come

changes in ways of working. If all the underlying resources are online it makes sense for the management of them to also be online. And online working brings the advantage of



PRECOS is a contract research organisation focused on providing clinically relevant oncology models. Jon Waterman-Smith is the company’s business development manager:

‘Data management is key to both our internal R&D and the secure data management of our client data. In 2012, PRECOS also gained our own HTA (Human Tissue Authority) licence, which means that managing the chain of custody for patient samples and data securely is absolutely critical. ‘PRECOS manages a variety of in vitro and in vivo data types for both

multiplicity of systems that clients use’

small organisation like PRECOS is the

challenge for a ‘The biggest

internal R&D and client studies. We use another software package, Study Director from Study Log, to collect raw in vivo instrument data, and E-Workbook (from IDBS) as our electronic lab notebook. The advantage of E-Workbook is that it will accept any data type and we collect a wide variety. Today, there is mainly a need for internal data sharing, but we expect a growing requirement from clients for greater transparency of secure, real-time data in the future. ‘The biggest

challenge for a small organisation like PRECOS is the multiplicity of

systems that clients use, from e-rooms to secure email transfer. Each client has its own SOP

Graph output from Graphpad Prism, a common format for data analysis by scientists

for secure data management and transfer, and so the legal/ managerial overhead for us is high. There has been no significant way for us to improve this situation. The other major issue is simply finding the historical data captured in the organisation. We have begun to get to grips with this, using tools such as E-WorkBook, but we still have some way to go to capture all our data in a simple, searchable format.’

Cell-based fluorescent imaging and bioluminescent animal study (Blood Brain Barrier model) | 21

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