What affects the validity of your research?
The validity of your research depends on the quality of the bio specimens you are using.
If you are using disparate, legacy systems, and/or spreadsheets, the consistency, accuracy and nature of information captured against each specimen varies greatly.
Missing or inaccurate information can lead to unsuitable specimens being chosen for analysis and processing, valid samples in your repository not being highlighted as applicable for use or, even worse, using samples without the appropriate consent.
Sometimes even trying to choose and locate specimens for research can be time-consuming and expensive, with many institutions simply purchasing more samples.
The result: valuable time, money, specimens and resources are wasted.
What is the solution?
The solution involves several components; from the processes used to capture data at the time the specimen is taken, through to how this data is managed and augmented as it progresses through the chain of custody into your laboratory.
A centralised Sample Management or Laboratory Information (LIMS) system help standardise processes for data registration, use and management. These systems can provide simple tools to import, validate and format incoming data to ensure consistency and quality in the information provided by the specimen supplier or your own team.
The nature of information captured about each specimen is as valuable as the accuracy when accessing quality. Registering comprehensive sample details such as characteristics, collection methods and conditions, previous storage temperatures and movement is essential. Some systems also offer the compiling of associated donor profile, consent options and demographic data, such as lifestyle, diseases, diagnosis and treatment history, delivering enhanced insight into specimen provenance, their availability for use and potential reliability.
Capturing this information is only the start; the access, maintenance, and augmentation, of specimen data needs to be carefully managed, though not onerous, to ensure quality whilst leaving your team free to carry out their work. Sample Management or LIMS software provide tools to manage processes and workflows, data auditing, data formatting and security options to restrict access. The approach and functionality available will vary between systems and suppliers.
What is important to my business?
Understand what is important to your business to help you choose the most appropriate software for your needs. Some initial questions to consider could include:
- what tasks, processes, research or analysis do/will you perform?
- what types of specimens do you need and what criteria would you use to identify them?
- what criteria would you use to exclude specimens?
- how and where do you obtain specimens, how do you select them and what information is provided with them that you would like to capture and would help you assess suitability?
- how do you manage donor consent?
- who needs to know the outcome of your work and how should this information be presented?
- what information is included in the results/outcome, and how and where is this recorded?
- who else requires access to the specimens and what can they use them for?
- what happens to the specimens once you have completed your work, study, process?