Let’s face it: A lab is a sensitive environment, and should be the definition of organization and adherence to rules. Not only does it maximize your safety, following a set of rules improves the quality of work. Indeed; in many labs, there are federal regulations that you have to follow.
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Best Practices that You Should Cultivate in a Laboratory
Other rules vary from lab-to-lab. For example, the quality of the ear tags for mice in biological labs can greatly enhance the accounting of the animals. You always want to be able to distinguish the control groups from each other, for example.
In the following, we check out a handful of practices that should significantly enhance the in-house experience and the results you produce.
1. Establish Procedures for All Aspects of Lab Work
When a lab runs like a well-oiled machine, even the most stringent protocols are followed easily and without much active thought. There should be a ready-made information management system in place. So that all members of the lab know the current stage of any running experiments.
Although there are electronic options for doing this – you can do it just as effectively with the old-fashioned analog method. No matter which one you use, this will minimize the instances of one team contaminating the samples of another team.
2. Proper Handling of Instrumentation
Obviously, other than the people, instruments are the workhorses of the laboratory. As such, they must be calibrated, cleaned, and generally maintained – the quality of your results depends on them, after all.
There should be a system in place to account for sample age, schedules of maintenance, and procedures for document access where applicable.
Additionally, if you have a large lab, then you may find it necessary to assign usage schedules to the personnel; senior scientists generally have the first pick of the times.
3. Record Keeping is Paramount
Without good record-keeping, the scientific method would be useless. One of the first orders of business of a laboratory should be to establish an ironclad system for this purpose.
It goes beyond merely ensuring the integrity of the research data. It also covers the decisions made by collaborators, how different members of the group interpreted the findings from the experiment, and the other relevant conditions.
One of the most important reasons that record-keeping is so important these days is for the judicial process. It is quite common for the results from a lab to be used in a court of law.
4. Method Validation
Even if your team has developed a novel measurement technique that returns good results, you should take the time and effort to validate the method. This entails submitting your methods to other competent groups, and having them run their own experiments to bolster the procedural utility of the new method.
Although the above is usually the better method for method validation, it is also possible to conduct this entirely in-house with the use of control charts. These charts must be current in order to be of use.
5. Never Discard Your Original Data
Although this lab procedure can be filed under the first rule, it deserved a spot all by itself because of its importance, and how often it is overlooked. Any notes and results jotted down on scrap paper should be preserved – you never know if you can’t arrive at a particular result from scratch that was the product of a bout of inspiration. Keep these in mind, and you’ll have, at the very least, a competent laboratory. 🙂