Let’s face it – the world is now mostly digital, the concept is overtaking and infiltrating every aspect of our lives, and laboratories are no different. Science has always embraced technological advances and laboratory digitalisation is another step in that process.
There are many advantages of adopting technology. Accuracy is made the main priority, which in turn means that errors are reduced. Now more than ever, improvement and accuracy are top importance for most sectors, thus meaning embracing technology within science means the digitalisation of laboratories.
Example number one when it comes to digitalisation, is the transition from paper-based data recording into digital records. It will come as no surprise that paper records are prone to damage and being easily seen by the wrong eyes; going digital will help to prevent this. The digitalisation of laboratories strives to work more efficiently. Going digital is not only cost-effective, but it will also save time overall. Using a digital platform will enable scientists to focus on the matter in hand, rather than perform arduous administrative tasks.
So, what are the benefits of laboratory digitalisation?
The main factor is that it allows scientists to spend more time on necessary processes than on administrative activities, which ensures that the time an individual spends is more productive. Digitalisation enables better management and organisation, which also saves time in search of files.
More advanced technologies allow autonomous robots to ensure that research and scientific experiments are faster and more accurate, while reducing human errors. In addition, many software that records data can also analyse them simultaneously and identify data that may be relevant to the scientist, accelerating research and discovery.
An increase in efficiency also means that productivity increases when time is better spent. Productivity and efficiency are vital for the scientific field, as it must be economically feasible for innovative research to happen.
With data becoming more accessible and in one place after digitalisation, this enables science to be more collaborative, which in turn means more advances are made. The use of artificial intelligence benefits everyone within the scientific community as it allows deeper analysis and the increase of knowledge on a larger scale.
It is believed that up to 70% of research that is not digitised is not reproducible. This is often due to the inability to find the original research because it has not been catalogued properly.
Digital data is safer. However, it also has other security advantages, such as the ability to track who has viewed the data and the changes made. It also allows us to use encryption to authenticate who has access when the work is of a sensitive nature.
As inevitable as this process is for scientific advantages, it is certainly not without its challenges.
The biggest challenge in identifying data flows, is the management of the enormous amount of data stored in a laboratory. This requires that all paper documents be converted into a digital format, which is time consuming and laborious, but essential for the long-term integration of a digital laboratory.
These digital copies are then managed with a range of software tools that not only store, but also analyse, share, and manage these documents. To ensure further accuracy, this software can then be integrated with laboratory devices to seamlessly transfer data.
All these processes to digitalise the laboratory require rooting and changing practices and cultures, which can be difficult and time consuming.
Digital security is another challenge. When digitalisation takes place, there must be a robust access control system to ensure that only certain authorised persons have access. A robust audit trail is also required for changes to data and to ensure that it is limited to the relevant individuals. This is crucial for the integrity of data and transparency in the scientific field.
All these challenges are also accompanied by high financial costs for the implementation of changes and the training of staff.
Once the digitalisation has gone live, it is essential that all who it involves are aware of what needs to be done. A clear roadmap must be rolled out to ensure processes and routines are adhered to. This will be a learning curve as there are bound to be some hiccups that are going to need to be smoothed out. But once the processes are learned, productivity and efficiency will be dramatically increased.
The main factor is that the people working in the labs need to embrace the technology, it would be worthless if the change is not adopted. It is a partnership between the technology and people.
So, what have we learnt? Laboratory digitalisation is a growing field in which modern technological advances are implemented to ensure accuracy and productivity. Scientists have always been more adept at these advances, and as technology makes great progress, the scientific community will continue to do so. The integration has numerous advantages and challenges, these need to be expected and addressed to ensure that the scientific field is fully exploited.
If you are currently looking for a team to help with your digitalisation, contact Focus On LifeScience today!