Research 4.0: Berlin Institute of Health moves to electronic lab notebooks
2017-04-06 / Starting in April 2017, the QUEST – Center for Transforming Biomedical Research at Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) will begin to implement electronic lab notebooks to manage research data. All BIH scientists at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) will benefit from the switch from paper lab notebooks to an electronic documentation system. The new electronic lab notebooks will enable not only documentation within joint projects but also across research groups – in compliance with internationally recognized quality and security standards as well as data protection laws. The roll-out is scheduled to be completed this year.
Documenting research results in a clear and understandable way is a prerequisite for all scientific inquiry. Whether done via laboratory journals, log books, or notebooks, documentation and data collection are a vital part of day-to-day research practice. At the same time, scientific research must meet high standards: every detail needs to be understandable and exactly reproducible. Scientists must record every step, and precisely document every result. Due to the increasing digitization of the lab environment and the growing volume of data, the introduction of electronic lab notebooks represents an important advance for translational medicine. Using electronic lab notebooks simplifies data collection and prevents errors when taking readings and making notes. Workflows and templates help to standardize processes, improve data quality, and avoid redundancies. A search function allows researchers to quickly find experiments, results, test parameters, measurement data, and much more. Overall, the new technology can significantly improve the quality of research data. Interdisciplinary working groups can collaborate easier and more efficiently thanks to the ability to jointly document research steps and filter these according to individual criteria. Additional features such as collaborative task management can also be individually adjusted.
Electronic lab notebooks increase documentation quality and security and thus play a critical role in making research more robust and efficient. Unlike paper lab books, they can store the generated data and the corresponding records in one central place so there’s no need to change from one media to another. Also planned are the expansion of the software and the creation of interfaces to existing and new systems, such as a laboratory information and management system.
“The seamless collaboration between BIH locations and interdisciplinary working groups is crucial for our translational research. Introducing electronic lab notebooks is thus a groundbreaking move,” says Professor Erwin Böttinger, chief executive officer of BIH. They simplify collaboration within and between research groups while at the same time supporting the necessary digitization of scientific work processes.
“We aim to increase the value and efficiency of biomedical research at BIH. Electronic lab notebooks are the first important step towards enhancing research quality. In particular, they help improve documentation quality and security and thus the reproducibility of search results,” says Professor Ulrich Dirnagl, Head of the Department of Experimental Neurology at Charité and founding director of QUEST – Center for Transforming Biomedical Research at BIH. The new electronic lab notebooks comply fully with the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), respective DIN EN ISO guidelines as well as with the FDA’s 21CFR11 regulation. These include, for example, clear procedures for user and role management, an audit trail of all changes made, and compliance with statutory archival requirements. Dirnagl extensively tested the system beforehand in various working groups and found great interest in electronic lab management. “I now receive inquiries nearly every week,” says Dirnagl.
The Center for Transforming Biomedical Research has chosen labfolder, the browser-based lab notebook software from labfolder GmbH. The licensing agreement will enable all scientists at Charité and MDC to use the labfolder platform.