Spinal Tap & Information Management

But this one goes to 11…

Spinal Tap & the Secret to Good Information Management

As we looked at the extra day added to February for 2016, we were reminded of people tweaking the system to add a little something more – the ability to turn it up to 11…

In the 1984 movie, Spinal Tap, the faux rock-documentary has a beautiful scene, where a very proud guitarist, Nigel Tufnel, brags about how his band’s amplifiers are special. How “when you need that extra push over the cliff” the amplifiers go to 11. When questioned about why he didn’t just make 10 louder, a look of disbelief overtakes him and he repeats the fact that 11 is simply better than 10.

Whether or not the guitarist realized he was being mocked in the movie, he had done something very important. He had configured his sound system to fit his needs. He was not happy with a standard solution that would force him to play at the level dictated by the manufacturer… He wanted to create his music his way.

The desire to go that extra mile is nothing new. In fact, in the 1940’s the Chesapeake and Ohio class M1 steam turbine locomotive’s throttle included eleven settings. During a trial run, an engineer (required to keep the level at seven due to local speed limit) noted that he would “Sure like to be able to pull it back to eleven!”

So even before Spinal Tap, the idea of “turning it up to 11” had entered our consciousness, and now it has grown to mean giving 110% or extra effort.

Configuring Your System to Give You 110%

So why is this important? The ability to configure a system to fit your exact needs is what makes end users happy. Choice is the backbone of our society – otherwise we would all buy the same car of the same color and wear the exact same clothes. Sadly, in many factors of life –software included — your choices are limited. When your choices are limited, you are often forced to fit into the preconceived parameters of the software, and you may be stuck going at 10, even if you want to go all the way to 11.

Configuring a LIMS to Fit a Lab’s Needs

The need for configuration exists in all aspects of life (think of how you can automatically spot your phone compared to someone else’s- you have configured it, down to the case, to fit your needs). This need for configuration is especially important when it comes to Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) designed to track, measure and record new scientific research. Cutting edge scientific fields, such as precision medicine, genetic sequencing, drug development and even food component analysis can’t be easily predicted. These fields go where the research takes them, which means it will be impossible for a standard LIMS system that only goes to 10, to handle all of the individual needs of these labs. These labs are all different, they all need a LIMS that can go to 11.

Can a LIMS System Go to 11?

In a way, Spinal Tap was right. Theoretically, having more numbers on an amplifier affords you more control, by cutting the intervals into smaller segments. When the workflows in labs are cut into smaller segments or intervals it becomes much easier for the performance of software to be pushed to 11.

When the steps and interactions can be managed within preconfigured applications, a lab can easily pick and choose the steps it wants and plug them into the LIMS system. This personal configuration (just like with a phone) will make every LIMS system different, while ensuring the direct needs of the users are met and the information held within is handled appropriately. One place to find such applications is the Platform for Science Marketplace. The PFS Marketplace is an app store which has pre-configured applications which can work together to enable workflows in a variety of fields from start to finish.

When you need something — something a little bit more — it’s always nice to be able to turn it up to 11. So kudos to February 29th… this year, the month is taking it to 11.