Mandated use at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), a step towards data compliance and protection

In 2017, TJU set out on a digital journey.

It all began with a vision to institute electronic research notebooks at TJU, followed by Theodore Taraschi, PhD, Senior Associate Provost for Research Conduct and Compliance. Dr. Taraschi amassed the key elements to fulfill this vision and secured input and buy-in from both leadership and faculty. Provost Mark Tykocinski, MD and Brian Squilla, Senior Vice President of Administration, institutionally prioritized the initiative and gave it their full support and funding while faculty surveys identified research notebook needs.

Dr. Taraschi also formed an expert implementation team. Team Lead Jessica Gutierrez, (TJU Office for Research Conduct and Compliance), together with colleagues Mike Suda (TJU Information Services Technology) and Gary Kaplan (TJU Academic Commons) established the infrastructure for the initiative. Together these elements proved vital to successfully establishing, launching and supporting the LabArchives initiative at TJU.  

56 labs initially tested LabArchives and after positive feedback TJU decided it was time to make the platform available to everyone. After this beta test and a later campus-wide launch, TJU now has LabArchives Enterprise and mandates its use for research activities. LabArchives is also available for use within TJU classrooms. 

We spoke with Jessica Gutierrez, Program Manager at TJU Office for Research Conduct and Compliance, to learn more about the institution’s journey to digital

When TJU launched their LabArchives beta test in 2017, the Office for Research Conduct and Compliance was motivated by an immediate need for a secure digital platform. Leading research institutions and journals were beginning to require access to digital raw data. Sharing data online was becoming increasingly important and often required. The office recognized that identifying a digital solution sooner rather than later was crucial for TJU’s continued research success.

The Office for Research Conduct and Compliance also identified an immediate need for greater consistency. During the beta test they learned that “a lot of labs stored their data on different servers, some used Google Drive, others used Dropbox and some were still working on paper.” Research data management was being conducted with various levels of security and documentation leaving the overall institution vulnerable when it came to managing data and intellectual property.

Jessica’s office “wanted to take what TJU labs were using and migrate workflows into one product where research data would reside.” Ideally, the product would also ensure raw data could easily be located in the unlikely event of a research misconduct case.

LabArchives organizational features and compliances offered TJU a total solution.

TJU

Rolling out mandated use

In October 2019, after a year of further LabArchives testing, the Provost and the Office for Research Conduct and Compliance decided to mandate use of LabArchives within the TJU research community.

Jessica says one of LabArchives most impactful capabilities is the way it enables easy collaboration within TJU and with users outside of the institution. Sending data, folders or entire notebooks to collaborators takes just a few clicks. “LabArchives provides our researchers with a combination of best practices, compliance and security as well.” Many faculty members quickly embraced LabArchives and infrastructure alignment began to fall into place.

So how did the implementation of mandated use work exactly? ‘Mandated’ sounds intimidating, but according to Jessica it’s actually been a relatively painless process with deeply impactful results. TJU’s success with mandated LabArchives use stems from their comprehensive approach to the project in general.

A comprehensive approach

The Office for Research Conduct and Compliance didn’t want to push out a tool that only satisfied government compliance. They wanted to provide a total solution that would amplify research efficiency and effectiveness too. There’s a way to marry best practices with intuitive, even enjoyable workflows. TJU has found it.

TJU’s LabArchives website.

TJU’s mandated use launch day had plenty of strategy supporting it. Dr. Taraschi’s office recruited beta testers with a strong presence on campus. ‘How-to’ and ‘Quick Start’ videos were sent to all researchers. 1 on 1 workshops and lab trainings began to take place regularly. A dedicated LabArchives x TJU website was created and FAQs were added. All of the basic information that TJU users need can be found there.

Once things got going, uptake happened quickly. A TJU user group was created within LabArchives. All TJU users have access and can share tips and tricks within the group. Changing behavior can be hard, as Jessica said, but giving users the opportunity to express their opinions and work through questions together generates success with the tool. 1 on 1 trainings have also been very effective.

TJU beta testers created videos to demonstrate how they used LabArchives to the wider community.

Trainings

During 1 on 1 trainings, Jessica’s office is able to help users and labs answer questions about LabArchives notebook structure and set up. Questions often include: should we base notebooks around projects? Should everyone have their own notebook? Jessica’s office looks at the respective group’s workflows in order to make suggestions. The response to these suggestions? Usually something along the lines of “Oh, O.K. I’ve got this now.”

LabArchives has also been there to help TJU along the way. LabArchives team members, Kip and Hannah, were on campus for the beta test launch and campus wide launch. Additional LabArchives trainings helped get users going. Later, Kip and Hannah returned to train TJU’s clinical researchers in LabArchives best practices as they relate to clinical research.

On site training with LabArchives team members.

Where are they now?

In December 2019, TJU had reached almost 100% usage on the research side. As word has spread about the tool, it’s become easier and easier to mandate its use. TJU is now conducting a beta test on using tablets in the lab. Tablets that stay in the lab reduce contamination risks and make it even easier to use this digital tool in real-time at the bench.

Thanks to everyone at TJU’s Office for Research Conduct and Compliance for their hard work and to Jessica for speaking with us.