Talking about productivity: Labguru in the academy
At a small symposium held recently by Merck-Serono, Israel Makov, chairman of several Israeli biotech companies, have given a lecture about the challenges of biopharma in the coming years. He commented that the problem with current biopharma’s R&D is not the lack of knowledge, but rather the lack of productivity. Productivity, he stated, is maximized when you’re interacting with other people, especially with those coming from different disciplines (and big pharma companies rarely interact with their competitors).
This discussion led me pondering over the productivity level in which academic research is conducted and how it can be improved. While academia is known for its knowledge sharing, cooperation and multidisciplinary research it is still lacks the productivity observed in the industry. Why so?
Project management improves productivity in the academy
The key for improved productivity in the lab lay in setting goals, proper planning and supervising proper performance on bench (as I have discussed in Bitesize Bio and which was discussed by Jonathan Gross, Labguru’s founder). Such conduct is termed in the business world as “Project management”. Why such conduct is so scarce in academic laboratories? The problem originates from the lack of basic awareness that a graduate student acts both as a project manager and also as a technician. Thus, it is the responsibility of the graduate student and his/her PI not just to outline the vision of the project at the start of the project but also to prepare a master plan for the coming year with milestones and backup plan. Furthermore, unlike the industry, which routinely utilizes various sophisticated project management softwares and have dedicated personnel for project management, here the graduate student needs to move from the micro to the macro observation level (and then back) while keeping both perspectives at mind and without any guidance how to conduct proper project management. And don’t be mistaken for your PI to act as your project manager! Most PIs are too overloaded with academic obligations, grant writing, article reviewing and of course other students in the lab that need their attention than to act as a true project manager. It is up to YOU! So, you might ask me (and yourselves!) the following question: If the industry segregates both functions into at least two persons, how one can expect that a graduate student can perform both tasks and keep their productivity? Well, I don’t expect. Not without a help, that is.
Labguru leads project management in academy
As a graduate student, it is up to YOU to get any help you can conjure to help you push your project forward and achieve your goals (publications, recognition, skills, etc.). When it comes to cloning a gene or harvesting the newly stable clone within your HeLa cells, it is more trivial to come up with a helping hand whether it is a technician or a summer project undergrad. But what about the other side of the coin, the project management “module”? What tool can help you see the overall picture set the milestones ahead and manage your precious data and your physical archives, all for FREE? Have you checked labguru lately? If you answered “NO”, then I suggest you head to the Labguru tour and get your first impressions. For those of you who want to have the hard cash upfront, following is the reasons to make yourself a brand new labguru account:
- Setting goals – the first step in your account creation you will be asked basic questions as to your project goals (you might have several such projects). It is recommended to do so with your PI so he will guide you to the right goals.
- Set your milestones – just setting goals won’t bring you so fast to achieving them. You need to setup project milestones which define the outcome, the due date and even the outcome figure title (!). If you can envision the outcome you will make it!
- Taking control over your schedule – once you set up your account, your account home is your schedule, the calendar. Marked with different colors, you could discern both your experiments and your events.
- Setup your experiment and run them on the bench – with the Labguru’s app you can now plan your experiment even in the middle of a boring seminar. Or you can just plan your experiment on your desktop PC/Mac and then run them with your sidekick Labguru’s app with experiment-dedicated timers (no more head-scratching and thoughts such as “why is this timer rings? What experiment has ended??”). And yeah, no more yellow multiple Post-It with scribing which is not connected to nothing.
- Store your 3-year worth data in one secure place, all interconnected to your different projects and tagged for easy search & retrival.
- Manage your physical samples and resources archives (from DNA and proteins to rodents). Why waste the better of your Monday’s morning digging into a freezing -80°C Revco deep freezer when you can do the same after checking Labguru’s storage module and get it out in less than 30 seconds tops??
- Your PI can be on top of your project 24/7, even when he/she are at a conference abroad – yeah, he might be interested in your latest result or will want to show a promising result to a collaborator. Oh, and he might drop you a comment running “George is excited with the results; he will be sending you the plasmids tomorrow morning. Good job!”.
You think that’s a lot to get, right? Well, there are even more features to use in Labguru and Labguru is in constant development of new features to help researchers be more productive and publish more articles.
Electronic notebook does not manage your project!
Some might think that using electronic notebook can be a good to improve your productivity. While electronic notebook has been developed for the sake of maintaining your documentation a digital manner and can help your technician side’s productivity, it doesn’t help your project management side, which is exactly the part which requires a boost. An electronic notebook can’t help you plan correctly your next month’s experiments, evaluate current stocks of enzymes or current mice breeding. This is where Labguru changes the way academic research is conducted. There will be no need for electronic notebooks or regular notebooks! The revolutionizing idea behind Labguru is the combination of digitizing your daily documentation (technical aspect or using electronic notebook) with your decision and managerial making (project management aspect). This prospect should have been introduced long before into the academy because it gives back the control to the student and to the PI over their research and enable both to reach their goals.
Does Labguru’s step into the world of the academy signs off the explorative nature of the field, in which great discoveries were stumbled upon rather plan beforehand?
No, on the contrary! The unique knowledge sharing capability incorporated into Labguru enables lab mates to interact, discuss and increase the possibility of identifying intriguing or promising leads which have been stumbled upon while preparing cell culture for the coming experiment. As Israel Makov suggested – to improve your productivity level you should interact!
Go ahead and start your first steps with Labguru – improve your productivity now!
P.S – As a final statement, the Rapaport faculty of Medicine, belonging to the Technion, have started integrating Labguru into all its labs.
How do you improve your productivity in the lab? Those of you that feel productive – what are you doing to keep up your productivity?