Will SDMS Become ELN of the Future?

Joseph Kofman



What Does The Future Hold For Electronic Lab Notebooks In 2012?

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Pharma IQ Q&A: An interview with Joseph Kofman, PhD, R&D Information Systems Director, Allergan, on exploring and adopting an SDMS as an ELN generic substitute.

What are some functionalities that the Scientific Data Management Systems (SDMS) bring into the laboratory workflow?

SDMS has to be recognised as a generic environment that provides a receptacle functionality for any documents generated in the laboratory. It also supports the business workflows for moving documents along laboratory and QA chains. SDMS offers controlled and structured areas where documents can be compiled in the presentable formats. I would like to mention the following SDMS features that can be used in the generic ELN settings: variety of forms (Acrobat, Word, InfoPath, and Excel) with the electronic and digital signature capabilities, auto e-mail notifications, instrument data viewers, pre-set workflows, audit trails, etc. This is not much different from use of the paper based laboratory notebooks and does not require extensive training. Form development becomes a routine process that can be handled by laboratory personnel while configuration of the traditional ELNs usually requires a significant resource investment of the IT savvy workforce.

What are some challenges you are faced with when implementing new systems and can you offer some advice on how to overcome them?

Although our laboratory scientists recognise SDMS offering of exciting new perspectives to laboratory data management, we are definitely facing resistance from some of them in accepting SDMS as a substitute for paper based laboratory notebook. I would contribute it to two factors: human nature of resistance to change and aggressive supplier tactics in promoting specialised ELNs. For those reasons, a small pilot that will show gains in personal productivity, improved laboratory efficiency and reduced work turnaround times is the best remedy in achieving business endorsement for delivering the proposed solution. From the very beginning of each project we are engaging laboratory people into strong partnership with our laboratory informatics folks. Particularly in establishing SDMS as our generic ELN substitute, our close work with scientists allowed us to build a common position with quality and legal units. I also would like to mention vendor support that resulted in adding new features that satisfied our business needs.

Will SDMS become ELN of the future?

SDMS have been grown from the simple archival solutions into he powerful scientific data repositories with reliable engines of moving data along with laboratory metadata down the laboratory and quality chains. However, a broad range of ELNs on the market as I mentioned earlier have huge influence on potential users. Therefore, we do not narrow our choices and will look at appropriate solutions based on the analyses of our operations, our future directions in using our data and information, retaining intellectual property and document scientific experiments. I believe that while the specialised ELNs have their niche in the laboratory environment, generic ELNs are moving toward merging with SDMS.