Byron Deane works in the Research Technology Department supporting Laboratory Informatics as well as Innovation & Consulting at UMASS Medical. We caught up with him to learn more about how UMASS has employed LabArchives Electronic Notebook (ELN) in order to move away from the paper lab notebook and towards better documentation.

Byron Deane outside of UMASS Medical

How has COVID-19 impacted work at UMASS? The changes haven’t been too overwhelming for us. We have about seventeen different efforts at the moment at UMASS tackling COVID-19 research. 

What does that look like? There are individual efforts and some labs have combined staff and are collaborating. There are about 20 different labs involved in the process. There are restrictions and guidelines in place at the moment to keep everyone safe. UMASS has limited the number of people that can be in spaces at any one time. Lots of labs are doing split shifts.

When did UMASS start using LabArchives? We started in 2015 so this our fifth year. I led the effort to bring it here. One of the first tasks I got when I joined the Research Information Team was to procure an ELN and a LIMS (Laboratory Information Management system). I gathered a focus group and we discussed what we would need that system to do. The root of what we were trying to do was to replace the paper notebook.

How did you choose LabArchives? We saw a demonstration and had phone calls with vendors and narrowed it down to 3 platforms. The two things that stood out for us with LabArchives were the affordability and the fact that it’s discipline agnostic. We needed a system that all researches could use regardless of what they work on. We needed it to work for biochemistry and chemistry, pharmaceuticals, dry labs, wet labs – everyone. There were some robust, feature rich systems we looked at but the feedback from lab members was positive with LabArchives. 

Has the value of LabArchives changed for your researchers since COVID started? That’s tough to gauge specifically but there has been a fair amount of activity in LabArchives over the lockdown months. This tells me that having a digital platform that our researchers can access anywhere, anytime has been helpful in terms of working from home. We’ll need to look at concrete evidence once we’re further down the track but certainly it’s been helpful and appreciated during this time.

What has uptake looked like at UMASS? We took a slow roll approach. We had a soft launch where we featured the tool at our annual IT Expo. We set up a booth and held a forum for faculty members and students to check it out. A few months later we held a site wide two hour demonstration in one of our big auditoriums. It filled up. Marie Linvill, from LabArchives, also came in to present that day. She gave faculty and staff a basic overview. From there adoption steadily rose. By the second year we reached 400 users and now we’re at about 600. We have a high level of turnover here but are still sitting at about 25-30% highly active usage and about 50% moderate usage, which is great.

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