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How to Manage Research Protocols and SOPs in Your Lab Team

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Having the right research protocols and SOPs in place will make a big difference to how efficient and effective your lab team is, both on a day-to-day basis and in the long term.

Putting together and managing the protocols and procedures is tricky enough, but you also need to consider how they are managed, disseminated, reviewed and updated over time.

To help you out, here are some advice on the steps you can take and strategies you can try out in order to achieve this optimally.

Tips for creating solid research protocols

In order to make research protocols that have a positive impact, you first need to establish the goals that you want to achieve using them.

This could be bridging a gap in your current understanding of a particular area of research. It could be investigating and interrogating a field that has not been thoroughly covered in the past. It could be scrutinizing and either verifying or dismissing the data gleaned in earlier research.

In short, creating solid research protocols means being able to identify what you want to achieve, and to express this clearly and concisely, so that other team members can make a meaningful contribution as well.

Embrace a unified approach to SOPs

As the name suggests, standard operating procedures need to be just that; standardized. This is all about making the aspects of how your lab handles tests and research reproducible, so that in turn you can rely on the data you generate being accurate, insightful and actionable, rather than potentially succumbing to reputation-ruining inconsistencies.

Implementing templates to help with the development of SOPs and research protocols will go a long way to making this ambition a reality.

Enable collaboration

It’s not enough for protocols and procedures to be created and managed in a top-down way. Better outcomes will be achieved if their oversight is handled in a collaborative, communal way, allowing all lab team members to make a meaningful contribution, and to feel like they can influence the way your operations are orchestrated more generally.

Modern tools built with this in mind can make creation and collaboration, as well as management, a breeze for organizations of all kinds, not just for labs.

Ensure accountability

Another of the advantages of adopting software to help with the creation and management of protocols and procedures is that if each team member has a user account that makes them uniquely identifiable, this in turn ensures accountability throughout each process.

When tests are taking place, the progress made can be updated in real time, and if changes are present or deviations from SOPs take place, this can be singled out and dealt with more precisely, rather than going unnoticed as might have been the case in the past.

Because this scrutiny will apply to everyone equally, it will be a form of compliance that does not feel unfair in its application to lab teams.

Take security and privacy seriously

Last of all, each step you take to design and implement research protocols and SOPs has to be completed with an eye on the security of your data and the privacy of the subjects it relates to.

Compliance with the various regulations that are enforceable in this context is non-negotiable, and ideally you want to be able to do this in a way that doesn’t require having to actively think about these matters.

Once again, the right software solutions will be able to implement appropriate protective measures automatically, letting you get on with the business of stewarding lab operations without the stress.

Helen Baumeister did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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