February 24, 2021
The New Digital Age of the Laboratory Considerations for Better Data Provenance
The lab environment of today is moving towards a more data-intensive science. At the same time, however, many labs are still operating with documentation methods of the last century. The progress enabled by new computing power, lab software, and analytics processing often resides within a flawed documentation system where lab techs peer at device readings and take handwritten notes. Those notes are transcribed into Excel, and sample tracking, preparation, data analysis, and reporting are done in silos.
Digital transformation of the laboratory necessitates the digitizing processes and improving accessibility to data across the lab. However, science professionals with sophisticated lab tools and some of the most powerful computers in the world continue to work out of notebooks and manually copy data from one system to another, often using paper as the intermediary. The process may feel like second nature, but the potential for transcription and transposition errors increases every time data is manually moved from one source to another. Double data entry may help catch many of these errors, but the time associated with these kinds of redundant activities can be costly.
Truly modernized labs are moving away from processes that exist in silos. Labs are beginning to unify sample, experiment, and protocol management with the goal of making sure that all steps of their process are documented digitally and accessible. Labs can better track and manage all data under a single umbrella. When these processes are unified, workflows are streamlined, compliance standards are more easily met, and provenance is strengthened. A technology solution alone doesn’t equate to a modern system with strong provenance. More than the system, a strong provenance is established by evaluating all processes from the ground up so that there is a cohesive understanding of what everyone in the lab is doing. Lab modernization means establishing a holistic approach to your laboratory science.
The Case for the Holistic Approach
Provenance should begin the moment a sample enters the lab and continue to be tracked until the final results are published. The holistic approach to the lab data experience is a step towards both lab modernization and better science. World-class labs are adopting a holistic approach. By ending functional lab silos, they are creating efficiencies in reporting that allow them to better track, manage, and document all steps of the lab process. World-class labs are not only breaking down the process silos, but they are also streamlining the data flows within and between these silos, thereby creating a foundation for strong provenance.
We are living in an age of amazing innovation. Technologies like next-generation sequencing, mass spectrometry, and functional MRI are allowing revolutionary scientific advances. These enabling technologies bring a new challenge, with considerations needing to be made on how to handle the greater data loads that arise from these new technologies. Taking a holistic approach to these big data loads means that the tools and software handling this data must be tied together. Although working with thousands of lines of data in Excel might be achievable without a management system, this is not possible with a larger data set. Bigger data means that there’s more room for failure. The big data age not only demands a holistic approach for unified lab processes and reporting, but it also requires a management system that can meet the specific needs of the modern lab. By adopting a holistic approach, one where processes are unified and lab provenance is strong, labs can start to achieve a greater science. So how do labs choose a management system that brings them closer to this ideal?
Modern Labs Must Employ Modern Management Systems
Out-of-the-box data management tools have limitations that don’t meet the integration needs that are required of the disparate and often disjointed scientific software and hardware toolkit. Many tools only support one aspect of the workflow, blindly passing data over the fence into the next silo. Your modern management system should be modeled based upon how a modern lab works. Wet lab tasks, analytical tasks, and reporting tasks are all part of the process now. Digitally transforming your laboratory workflow requires more than understanding the technology from an IT perspective. It means using one’s understanding of the science and the technology to create an integrated approach.
An improved scientific process can be achieved through a management system that recognizes and employs a holistic approach. This means solving the challenges of lab managers who need greater insight, IT staff who needs to manage multiple systems, and end users who need specific reports. A fully modernized lab employs an end-to-end platform that prioritizes a streamlined workflow, has the ability to comply with any standards, and has strong data provenance. A more complete and sound science can be achieved when data collection, processing, analysis, and reporting is managed by a single system. This not only streamlines and better organizes your current process, but it also allows your data to be queried years after laboratory studies are complete.
The New Digital Age of the Laboratory – Building Better Science Solutions
In today’s digitally transformed laboratory, you need a flexible informatics solution that integrates easily with your existing systems and is designed to support the way you already work. This means the ability to configure it to support your current processes, practices, and regulations. Your modern informatics strategy may also need to accommodate legacy or siloed technologies as part of an interim or longer term approach. Unified platforms with common modules are the easiest path towards achieving a digitally connected enterprise with the needed flexibility to support a wide array of informatics requirements.
L7 Informatics, recently named by Gartner as one of the “Cool Vendors in Life Sciences that technical leaders should watch”, provides a revolutionary workflow management software platform for companies using data-intensive scientific techniques. The L7|ESP Science Platform is a fully-integrated, comprehensive hardware and software solution that is customizable to your specific laboratory requirements. The L7|ESP platform can also be deployed as an overlay system on top of existing siloed systems to tie them together and minimize legacy disruption or if needed, replace existing legacy systems, providing a big-picture view of the entire laboratory workflow.
Success in laboratory informatics projects can be difficult to achieve largely due to the complex processes and technologies utilized in laboratories, and the many different aspects of the workflow across the enterprise. At Astrix, we believe that if you are going to invest the time and resources into a digital transformation initiative, it is important to ensure success by applying a proven methodology. Our focus is on solving the challenges experienced by scientific organizations through a Value Engineering approach. The Astrix Approach™ is a comprehensive, methodical and flexible framework which is designed to ensure your laboratory informatics project is a success and maximizes business value for your organization.
Why it Matters for You
In the new digital age, the modern laboratory is focused upon eliminating data silos, allowing them to create efficiencies and streamline the flow of large amounts of data across all steps of the laboratory process. This holistic approach creates the foundation for strong data provenance and better science. Employing the principles below will lay the foundation for the achievement of operational excellence within your organization.
- Evaluating all of your processes from the ground up will provide a cohesive understanding of all laboratory functions, allowing you to fully streamline, optimize and leverage all aspects of your workflow.
- Digitally transforming your laboratory operations will eliminate manual processes, thereby allowing for strong data provenance leading to better science.
- Integrating your workflow utilizing an end-to-end platform will enable you to automate your operations and gain total visibility over your entire laboratory operations leading to sustainable improvement and scientific innovation.
- Selecting an informatics technology with an underlying architecture that provides deep data provenance, robust monitoring capabilities with built in security structures is best positioned for achieving regulatory compliance standards.