Protein Information Management System

Laboratory information management before PiMS

Scientists record their laboratory activity in order to:

  • be able to publish their results
  • have sufficient records that they and others can repeat their experiments
  • avoid repeating work
  • coordinate work with collaborators
  • report to supervisors

Current situation:
Laboratory information is currently recorded in a variety of formats. The laboratory notebook, a paper notebook owned by one scientist, has a key role in the traditions and current practice of science. Information is also recorded in spreadsheets, MS Word documents, and some existing local databases. Scientists also use web sites to look up gene sequences, protein sequences, and standard protocols.

Over the last five years, there has been a significant convergence in methods used for protein production. Nevertheless, most laboratories implement at least one stage of the protein production pipeline in a special way. Laboratories also vary considerably in their preferred vocabulary, even when they are describing the same things.

A scientists' current laboratory notebook is seen as personal - it would be wrong to look in it without invitation. At the end of a contract, the policy is that the employing institution retains the notebook. Some universities apply this policy and others do not.

The people who read and record laboratory information include:

  • independent researchers, who are responsible for work on one or more targets, from start to end of the pipeline.
  • supervised students, who work on one or more targets, from start to end of the pipeline.
  • principal investigators, who manage a whole research grant, involving many targets.
  • laboratory technicians, who may manage all the work that passes through a specific instrument at a specific stage in the pipeline, e.g. purification columns or may work on one or more targets from start to end of the pipeleine.

Thanks to those who completed the PiMS questionnaire at the CCP4 Study Weekend 2010. See also What Really Happens in an HTP Project? by Bill Gillette. For some background information about structural biology, see A light for life.