On All Hallows Eve 2023, Dr Samantha Pearman-Kanza braved the dark and ghostly motorways to drive up to the Lab Innovations Conference & Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. This was her first time attending since 2019, and it was very interesting to see how much this event had grown, and what had changed in the lab sphere.
When Samantha and Nicola attended in 2019 Lab Innovations was predominantly an expo, with a few talks at various junctures. Fast forward 4 years and it now has multiple conference tracks on different areas of lab management and data research, as well as all the usual expo stands that we know and love! Although a word of caution, if you decide to walk round and see every stall and stop paying attention to your surroundings, you might accidentally end up wandering into their sister event Advanced Engineering…if you see F1 cars…you’ve gone too far!
But we digress…back in 2019 when Samantha and Nicola visited, it was to investigate the notion of voice integration into the lab, and specifically ELNs. At the time these areas did not appear very popular, however it is worth noting now that there are many companies working in the area of voice based lab assistants, and the integration of voice into ELNs.
There were a few other notable changes with respect to the current state of lab digitisation. Firstly, the ELN sphere seems to have shifted in recent years, companies are offering full digital platforms where the ELN forms but one part of the research lifecycle. Which is both exciting and important as it demonstrates that there is a need for more than just notebook software, but also dispels the motion that the ELN should do everything whilst serving as a direct replacement for a paper lab notebook, which are somewhat counter productive aspects. There was a much higher prevalence of robotic technology present, and very positively, many more labs seem to be focusing on sustainability as their core values.
Samantha presented on FAIR data, discussing the notion that making our data FAIR (with respect to adhering to the principles) as opposed to considering the wider considerations of making data (and software) fully re-useable are quite different things. Furthermore, it is very important to consider your research/data/software use case, are you producing research where you want someone to be able to replicate your analysis? Are you producing software you want someone else to be able to use, and what is actually required for them to run it locally themselves? Are you producing data that others need to fully understand in order to re-use it? Or replicate it using your collection methods? Samantha talk discussed these aspects of FAIR through the medium of baking a cake.
We would like to thank all the organisers of Lab Innovations, with a particular shout out to Matthew Partridge who invited Samantha to speak, and is also working with her to produce regular columns in the new Errant Science Lab Horizons Magazine.
If any of these topics resonate with you and you want to discuss FAIR data, Samantha loves to wax lyrical on this subject so get in touch 🙂