LIMS Overview

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This post was originally targeted toward undergrad/graduate students interested in building a LIMS to help conduct certain experiments but it can be useful for business analysts and others entering the field.

Today we are going to discuss, at a very abstract level, what a LIMS is and what it does. Before going too much further, read the following rubber elasticity and temperature experiment (don't worry, it was written at a high-school level).

More than Just Data

The belief that LIMS are mainly about data aggregation and storage is largely a misconception. There are many different aspects that simultaneously do the work of the system. In the rubber band temperature experiment there is, of course, data -- three trials consisting of temperature readings spanning from 3 to 45 degrees Celsius in 3 degree increments and several 'constants' that are really measurements relating to the materials being utilized in the test itself. But there is much more!

What Do You Get

The LIMS does many things for you, many that you do not immediately notice. Here is just a subset:


As you can see, lots of the features of a LIMS have to do with planned collaboration. If a single researcher were acting alone there would be less need for timestamp capture, pre-defined data points, authorization, etc. That individual would simply 'remember' what to do and whether the results entered should be considered correct. There would be no need for a work assignment because all the work would be expected to be performed by a single individual.

Collaboration is slower than doing everything yourself, but that is the price you must eventually pay for repeatability and verification of results. One could argue that the very purpose of a LIMS is to reduce variation needed to successfully repeat experimental processes with a great degree of success (there's a definition you can use). This helps both the reviewer and the analysts. If there was a great degree of variation between the analysts the reviewer's job would be nigh impossible. Reducing variation makes the reviewer's job easier. It is the reason judges want to hear from barristers that speak the legal 'language' rather than the layperson; the reason why we elect representatives rather than all try and squeeze into the town square for a vote. In a LIMS there is a tacit understanding that everything is eventually going to have to flow upstream to a reviewer for a 'yea/nay' decision. Reducing variation is a strategy for making such decisions more quickly. In the case of rejections some steps are going to have to be repeated or some constraints in the system will have to be modified. These things are not unique to LIMS, they are a part of everyday life!

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Citation: LIMS Overview. (2015). Retrieved Sat Jul 31 14:04:05 2021, from;iid=readMore;go=1439734552