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Feb 26, 2019
Tue, 02/26/2019 - 4:00pm Comments by Simon Bungers, Ph.D., labfolder With the wave of digitization upgrading how we all handle and share data, the age of information management systems designed to serve the laboratory environment has also arrived. Tools such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) are disrupting the lab’s dependence on manual data entry, analogue tools and time-consuming operating procedures. Instead, the modern lab has switched out paper manuals and notebooks for cloudbased systems that maximize throughput and at the same time preserve data integrity But what are these tools exactly, and how do you choose between a LIMS and an ELN? Simply put, LIMS automate data entry, to reduce risk of error when copying results or interpreting an instrument’s output, like data points on a graph. On the other hand, an ELN looks to replace the paper-based lab notebook with more customizable data entry, for a more context driven workflow. However, there is a lot of overlap between each packages’ features, and this has led to some confusion regarding which tool is best suited to what task. Apples and pears One common misperception is that you must choose to adopt either a LIMS or an ELN depending on the general focus of the lab, and that the two rather different species of software package do not integrate well together. To an extent this is true. This is because as labs handle both structured data (e.g., pH values, masses or quantities of reagents) and unstructured data (e.g., images, chemical formulae), the tackling of both camps has required the design and construction of two distinct software packages: LIMS for structured data and ELNs for unstructured. As a result, setups such as those in industry QA/QC labs would lean towards the adoption of a LIMS over an ELN, to accommodate data entry where many experiments are repeat runs. Instead R&D labs—or postdocs—might invest in an ELN for a more freeform, adaptable research framework. However, although both LIMS and ELNs are distinct from one another, like two types of fruit they do complement each other in the general laboratory informatics basket. For this reason, newer generations of each type of software are starting to plug the gap between them to bring together features from both ELNs and LIMS to harmonize workflows. But firstly, let’s outline a comparison for each approach. Features of a Laboratory Information Management System Primitive LIMS have been on the scene since the 1980s and it is, in fact, the ELN which is a relatively new addition to the laboratory services space. In general, LIMS arose in popularity as a digital support framework to reflect the demand for process-centric data entry and encourage compliance oriented behaviors. Since there is such a large volume of data produced in labs today, and access to this data and samples can often span a large team, entry and monitoring of this access can be complicated to manage. Therefore, access security and automated time stamping by the LIMS provides an essential digital audit trail for recording, conversion and movement of results, samples and other resources between members of the lab. The rigidity of a LIMS also reduces the scope for human error seen in paper transactions, by automated tracking and tagging of samples with structured data points and information. This streamlines operations for repeat testing services and mitigates risk. However, this rigidity also renders a LIMS less suitable for use in more experimental lab spaces, where unstructured data and regular changes in protocols and workflow are likely to occur. Instead, this is where the ELN tends to take precedence. Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN)
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Simon Bungers has made 1 investments. Their latest investment was in Labiotech.eu as part of their Seed VC on February 02, 2016.
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