Where sample management meets electronic lab notebook

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How to install and run lab software in a university environment

Posted by Rory on November 1st, 2010 @ 10:15 am

Managed IT environments

If you’re working in a university the odds are you’re in a ‘managed’ IT environment.  In other words, the computer your university supplies you with is controlled by an administrator.  That matters if you want todownload web-based  software for you or your lab to test.  It matters because you may not be able to download a test version of the software without assistance from your administrator, and once you  have downloaded the software, you may not be able to let other members of the lab access the software without administrative privileges, which you probably do not have.  This post looks at how to work within these constraints and find ways for you and other members of the lab to access software you want to test.


If you want to just test the software yourself, then you can download it onto your own computer — no need to deal with the managed computer system of your group or institution.  But if the software is going to be used by others, and you want them to be able to test it as well, you need to install the trial version of the software on a machine they can all access as a group.  To enable that you install one copy of the software on a single’ server’ machine and then use web browsers to connect to the software.

A server is normally a machine in your lab  dedicated to running services – always turned on and always connected to the lab network. The machine needs to be connected to the lab network and to allow connections to be made to it across your lab network. If you wish to be able to access the software remotely, then the server also needs to allow connections externally, which may require some configuration of your firewall. If you don’t know what the firewall allows, you may need to speak to your IT people.

Administrative privileges

Because web-based software systems are server applications that must be running 24/7,they require administrative priviliges for both the user installing the software and the user running the software. If you do not have administrative permission on your lab’s server, you will need to speak to IT to get the software installed and to run the software. Note that if you shut down the software you will need administrative privileges to start it again.

What to remember

So the key things to remember if you are testing software that various members of a group need to access as a group are:

  1. The software needs to be installed on a server.
  2. Administrative privileges are needed for both the person installing the software and the person running the software.
  3. It’s probably a good idea to speak with your IT people before you get started.

Installing eCAT

These points apply to eCAT, and are explained step by step during the eCAT trial install process.   There  is a more detailed explanation with additional background in the Support section of the Axiope website.

Preparing for patent filing with an electronic lab notebook

Posted by Rory on August 12th, 2010 @ 7:00 am

One of the questions that often comes up when people are considering adopting an electronic lab notebook is whether ELNs generally and the particular ELN being considered can be used to record research which may be used in a patent filing.  Often people get caught up in a theoretical conundrum about this question, but thankfully an increasing amount of practical guidance is available on the web from knowledgeble sources, i.e. practicing IP attorneys and legal scholars.  In this post I am going to highlight two recent examples.

The first is a recent blog post byJohn Boger.  He makes the following recommendations for groups  using an ELN to record research for use in patent filings:

“(1) institute a written policy for electronic record-keeping that is distributed to all involved employees; (2) establish a firm schedule for creating permanent back-up copies of all electronic lab notebooks.  All electronic signatures should be completed prior to the back-up process.  “Write-once” media should be used for the back-up; (3) number all discs (in progress and back-up) in consecutive order with permanent labels that note the disc number, start and end date; (4) validate the computer system used to ensure that it is operating properly and is free of viruses or other malicious applications; (5) all daily entries should be dated or time-stamped via a separate server.  Consistent use of electronic signature is a must with encryption software; (6) any commercial software package or bundle purchased should use “write once, read many times” technology; and (7) access to the computer and/or computer system should be restricted with screen and keyboard locks and password protection in place.”

The second is a webast by Professor Lisa Dolak at the Syracuse University School of Law titled, Establishing First to Invent and Electronic Lab Notebooks.  Professor Dolak echoes John Boger in making the point that in the case of both paper lab notebooks and ELNs, to prove admissibility, credibility and corroboration of evidence submitted in support of patent claims courts will scrutinize what SOPs have been put in place, for example relating to signing records, and whether those SOPs were followed in practice.

The point that strikes me about the perspectives brought to bear by both Professor Dolak and John Boger is their focus not on the ELN, but rather on the SOPs that need to be put in place to support a patent filing.  For many small labs, considering the adoption of an ELN should therefore be the beginning, not the end, of the process of thinking about putting in place a robust patent preparation strategy.