10 min read
From the sample that comes in the lab, to the automatically generated report at the end, an electronic lab notebook (ELN) can help your lab to manage all data in compliance with the highest standards in scientific data management.
Today, science is facing challenges related to data traceability, integrity of scientific findings and reproducibility of scientific results. Forensic science is definitely not excluded. Incidences related to quality failures can shake the confidence not solely in the labs, but in the entire scientific field.
Therefore, the aim is to improve data management processes, standardise procedures and guarantee a reliable audit trail of all activities to make sure lab’s work is indisputable. While it all might seem as overwhelming for a lab as it is necessary, the technology available to labs today can already help improve these important aspects.
In this article we will focus on top 8 functionalities of SciNote ELN for forensic science labs:
1. Inventory management
You can create your own custom inventories of samples, reagents, instruments etc. and connect each item to your tests and obtained results.
Inventories in SciNote allow you to create the separate inventory for samples, reagents, instruments etc. and define each column in the inventory according to your needs.
For example, your columns can include sample information such as date, location, conditions or examination etc. You can even add the image, or the file in the column.
If you are creating an inventory of the instruments used in your lab, you can add operating parameters, files, validation details etc.
Reagents inventory can include a column showing the lot/batch numbers of reference materials for example. You can also add names, concentrations, storage conditions, expiry dates, warnings, etc.
Even protocols to perform the tests in your lab can also be organized and saved in this way.
Image below shows one example of a reagents inventory in SciNote:
If you already have your own excel lists organized in a similar way, they can be imported into SciNote. As you go along, you can later on also add individual items as they come to the lab.
If, however, you are using another digital system, there might even be a way to connect these two, as SciNote’s API (Application Program Interface) is available. API is a mechanism that allows other systems used in the laboratory (e.g. LIMS systems, management systems, …) to access SciNote data (and vice-versa) in a standardized, structured, documented and secured manner.
Each inventory item can be connected with the following information: test in which it was used, protocol that was used in the test, results obtained etc. This allows you to, for example, always trace back all information regarding each sample.
2. Data management
You can organize your lab’s data by projects, experiments and tasks, to record exactly when each stage of the process has been finalized and by whom.
Projects are the topmost layer of data organization. You can create a separate project for each case, customer, etc. As you find best to fit your lab’s work. Within each project, all information regarding the tests (= “experiments” in SciNote) performed in the lab will be contained.
Below, you can see the Demo project example, that contains 2 experiments: Protein spectrometry and qPCR.
You can determine and monitor exactly which members of the lab can access which project, if needed.
Each test is basically a sub-folder in which the procedure of the test is defined in great detail.
SciNote allows you to break the test into tasks (e.g. Sampling biological material, preparing buffers etc.) and connect them in a sequence i.e. a process. This allows you to define due dates, assign responsible team members and record exactly when each stage of the process has been finalized and by whom.
The image below shows how a qPCR test can be divided into tasks that are connected in a sequence. This allows you to define your processes in great detail and monitor them with precision.
If you need to choose the methods and decide how you will perform the testing for the next case, you can duplicate the tests (experiments) in SciNote, with all tasks included, which can help you replicate various experiments in no time.
3. Team management and collaboration
You can share comments and observations, and notify team members, supervisors or even external partners, about e.g. the results that are ready.
When you need to add comments or observations to a certain part of the test you or your lab members are performing, it is easy to do that.
In addition, you can use @ to tag another lab member, supervisor etc. or # to refer to a specific inventory item – sample, reagent, instrument, etc.
4. User roles and permissions
You can assign user roles and permissions to all users, and have an advanced overview of all activities in the lab that are automatically recorded.
Every user in SciNote has a determined role and the set of permissions that come with that role. The roles and permissions are determined on the level of the team (e.g. the team of people who work in your lab), and on the level of each individual project.
All actions of each user are automatically recorded. SciNote even offers advanced overview and filtering of all activities in the lab. You will always know who did what and when.
5. Audit trails
You can use audit trails to see the recorded history of all changes made in the system, all system activities and potential unauthorized access.
Take a look at the 2.5 min video to see the SciNote Premium audit trail functionality: Watch the video.
You can upload your results to keep all data in one place, which allows you to have access to all information that led to a certain result and the conclusions that were made.
Once your results are ready, you can upload them into the results tab of a specific task in your process. You can add comments to each result, or tag a supervisor to notify them that the results are ready.
In this way, supervisors and authorized lab members will always have access to complete information related to the obtained result, and will be able to see how the conclusions were made.
If the authorized person needs to approve or reject the result, he/she can add their decision and the explanation why as a comment, and automatically notify the rest of the team by tagging them.
The 2.5 min tutorial shows you all the benefits of this functionality: Watch the video.
7. Electronic signatures
When a task is signed, date, time and name of the responsible person who signed it are automatically recorded.
It is also possible to co-sign a task if there are two levels of supervision within an organization.
User permissions that differ among users determine whether a person can electronically sign a task.
See it all in action in the 3 min tutorial: Watch the video.
8. Automated reporting
SciNote can automatically create a comprehensive report from examinations and tests including comments and observations of obtained results.
Once all your data is optimally organized in SciNote, it can generate the reports for you automatically, in a matter of seconds. Reports can be exported as PDFs and printed if needed.
Each report has clear parts, showing the information obtained, methods used, comments and observations added etc. information is presented in a very precise, clear and non-misleading way.
You can choose exactly which information should be included in the report, whether it needs to be comprehensive and include everything, or you want to specifically select what to include.
The 2.5 min tutorial shows you all the benefits of reporting in SciNote: Watch the video.
Interested in data protection as well?
Download SciNote Data Protection Whitepaper (PDF):
All you need to know about the protection of your lab data in SciNote.
By Tea Pavlek