Vendor Column: Uses for Scientific Search

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  • Published: Jun 26, 2013
  • Author: Chris Stumpf
  • Channels: Laboratory Informatics / Chemometrics & Informatics
thumbnail image: Vendor Column: Uses for Scientific Search

Scientists and analysts have access to Google for web searches, but when it comes to the laboratory environment, searching for information is not as straightforward. In a previous column, I introduced the concept of Scientific Search and described how it works and how it can be used to bring "Google like" search to the laboratory. Why not just use web based searching in the laboratory? Because laboratory based information is hidden from the laboratory user due to three barriers. To review briefly, Scientific Search overcomes the three challenges because it:

  1. Searches across isolated information silos (e.g., CDS, LIMS, ELN, Documentum, Sharepoint, File Shares) from a single interface,
  2. Can compose queries consisting of Science objects (chromatograms, spectra, chemical structures) in addition to keywords or text,
  3. Can locate information in unstructured text (e.g., manuscripts, ELN entries, and reports)

This column will look at several analytical chemistry-based roles where Scientific Search could have a measureable impact at science focused organizations.

Drug Discovery: In this role, analytical chemists typically support biologists and medicinal chemists with measurements obtained from LC, MS, and NMR, for example, to guide decision-making. One use for this analytical support is in characterizing the structure of molecules for intellectual property claims. However, locating analytical spectra, manuscripts, molecular structures, and images for patent filings is challenging, to say the least, when it is stored in isolated information repositories such as network file shares, Sharepoint, Documentum, LIMS, CDS, SDMS, ELN, etc. Without Scientific Search, locating relevant records is a manual process and often involves separate searches of each information repository. From my experience, even with well-thought-out nomenclature, locating information on a network fileshare is hard work and eats up valuable time. In contrast, the Scientific Search technology enables biologists and medicinal chemists to perform a single search by using a web browser-like interface that spans information silos and locates the scientifically relevant information that supports patent applications in a self-service manner.

Chromatographic Method Development: To develop chromatographic methods, analytical chemists require several forms of information in order to start the process. First, they need to have an understanding of the molecule or molecules that they will chromatographically separate because this will give them an idea as to what chromatography technique to utilize, i.e., reversed phase-LC, normal phase-LC, gel permeation chromatography, super-critical fluid, gas chromatography, etc. Second, a typical method development project begins with a literature search or by speaking with other experienced colleagues. Although intuition and brute-force selection of conditions is sometimes necessary, a good starting point is highly desirable, but access to potentially useful information beyond the literature search or a knowledgeable colleague within the organization is very limited. That’s where Scientific Search comes to the rescue. It can simultaneously search multiple information repositories and determine whether any existing internal methods for a specific compound. An analytical chemist performing such a search may find not only initial chromatographic starting conditions and other identifying information about the method, but also locate the colleague who may have additional recommendations.

QC/QA in Support of Manufacturing: Routine quality testing to support product manufacturing produces vast amounts of data, not just from liquid chromatography (LC), gas chromatography and mass spectrometry but from other techniques such as UV-cuvettes, pH, gravimetric, etc., with the resulting data stored in a myriad of different information repositories such as Sharepoint, File servers, LIMS, ELN, and SDMS. While these electronic repositories are a huge improvement over paper-based processes, it is sometimes difficult to locate interrelated information stored across several repositories. Many pharmaceutical products are manufactured in stages with data from each stage stored in different repositories. A QC manager may be asked to locate quality results for a particular batch throughout its manufacturing process – from raw materials to finished product – in order to trouble shoot a manufacturing issue or to support an internal or regulatory audit. In such a scenario, the QC manager would search within several isolated information silos – maybe a CDS, LIMS, and SDMS. In contrast, by leveraging Scientific Search technology, a single search across the isolated information silos would return batch results, allowing the QC manager to focus on either her trouble shooting or audit.

The examples I highlight here, are based on my personal experience as an analytical chemist. However, I think Scientific Search really has the potential to transform information consumption in the laboratory and beyond – the same way Google has done for the Web. It’s not just the analytical chemist who benefits, but organizations as a whole. Based on a recent survey of 330 C-level executives conducted by Oracle Corporation (see article here), 93% of organizations are collecting more information than they did only 2 years ago, and not fully leveraging that information. The article further points out that as a result, corporations are leaving on average, 20% of additional revenue on the table each year — for an individual company, this translates to about $98.5 million. The survey also highlights that most departments within an organization are negatively impacted by poorly leveraged information, including R&D, regulatory submissions/compliance, sales/marketing, customer service, supply chain management, and clinical trials. Based on this apparent need, could scientific search be transformative to scientifically focused organizations? Only time will tell.

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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