The Leibniz Institute on Aging – Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) started as the first German research institute in focusing on biomedical research on human aging, a multi-factorial process controlled by environmental and genetic factors. The FLI is located in Jena, on the major Thuringian science campus, which joins research in optics and natural sciences. The institute has about 330 employees, over 200 working in the wet lab. The institute-wide use of the RSpace ELN has been realized in July 2019.
In 2017, our institute established several measures to ensure Good Scientific Practice. One of them was the decision to mandatory replace the hitherto paper-based lab documentation by an Electronic Laboratory Notebook. A dedicated task force was set up to perform the transition.
The task force shortlisted ELN candidates from the market comprising almost 100 software solutions and followed an elimination process based on boundary conditions, e.g. the budget and hosting on-premises, as well as a list of indispensable feature requests, e.g. browser-based solution.
A voluntary group of scientists and lab technicians subsequently tested the shortlisted candidates by simulation of real-life laboratory documentation. The experiences gained this way allowed us to specify the requirements precisely. The most important ELN feature to have was an easy-to-use and intuitive user interface. In addition, demanded features included license-independent long-term access to ELN documents, linking to large files residing on the institute’s file systems, customer support and service, also in adaptations to the institute’s environment. Finally, the program RSpace succeeded as the result of a public tender procedure.
The ease of using a paper lab book for documentation is hard to compete with. So, barriers to be overcome were mostly mental and organizational. However, the FLI had a very strong commitment for introduction of digital documentation, at all hierarchy levels, which fostered the acquisition and rollout process from the very beginning. This and the mostly intuitive user interface allowed that major advantages became visible in the daily documentation work rather quickly.
In order to bring RSpace ELN into working life, we provided continuous support to the employees with about half an FTE over half a year, meanwhile going lower. Now, as we focus on more detailed workflows to be integrated with RSpace, there is a growing confidence that solutions will provide additional benefits for the laboratory work. Fortunately, we also stay in a productive cooperation with ResearchSpace to account for user feedback in future developments of RSpace.
RSpace has a user-friendly interface, which facilitated the adoption of the Electronic Laboratory Notebook by the lab staff. Now, the users savor ELN functions like full-text search, revision control, working together on documents, linking files and the possibility to share the ELN across the team and access it from home.
With the conversion to the Electronic Lab Notebook new possibilities and challenges arise. We are working on the integration of measuring devices using the very well documented API of RSpace, connecting RSpace to a chemical inventory and to primary data in a long-term storage system.