SLAS Standards Initiatives SIG

Posted by Burkhard Schaefer on 19 February 2013 | Comments

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I recently attended the SLAS2013 conference in Orlando. One of the items on my agenda was the Standards Special Interest Group (SIG) which I'm now chairing. The Standards Initiatives SIG promotes standardization and interoperability of instruments and data systems in the laboratory. This SIG is a unique forum which brings together two general groups of stakeholders: standard builders and standard consumers. Its purpose is to raise awareness of community-driven standardization efforts currently underway. It also provides a forum to foster collaboration between standards initiatives to ensure greater impact and better utilization of community resources.

Standard Builders and Consumers

Standard builders are the people and organizations which create standards. Each group has a particular scope, area of focus, and agenda. They are typically working under the umbrella of a standards body such as ASTM International, ISO, ANSI or DIN.

Standard consumers are the end users who leverage standards to solve common informatics challenges in their environments. They either implement a standards directly or work with an instrument vendor or a third party to implement them. Over time, we will see more and more off-the-shelf tools from vendors, making it easier to adopt standards.

Vendors may be on either side: sometimes they are part of standardization efforts. Other times, they implement standards in their products. This is actually a very valuable activity. After all, a standard typically is just a pile of paper - which is useless unless anybody implements it. And there is the third category of vendors who observe these efforts and try to determine whether going with standards is a good idea, which standard to go with, and what the best moment is to jump on the bandwagon.

Having a forum for all players to interact is very valuable. Personally, I'm interested in this because I'm both a standards builder and a standards consumer. As the lead architect of the AnIML standard and contributor to SiLA, I'm working on creating standards. At BSSN Software, I'm really on the consumer side. We make tools to allow labs and vendors to easily adopt standards.

SIG Goals and Mission

For those of you who weren't part of the meeting, here is the collection of goals that form the SIG mission:

  1. Awareness
  2. Collaboration
  3. Community

Let's look at each of these in detail.

#1 Awareness

The first goal of the SIG is to raise awareness of standards. It gives standards initiatives a venue to get their message out and get people interested in their efforts. End users are given the opportunity to learn about the available standards out there. Perhaps one of these standards will help solve a current problem in their lab.

#2 Collaboration

We are now seeing a number of standardization initiatives in the laboratory and lab informatics space. This is great news. Since building a standard is a major multi-year effort, this SIG tries to foster communication and collaboration between the different groups. Most standards initiatives suffer from contrained resources. By working together, we leverage synergies, deliver results more quickly, and make a larger impact on the scientific community.

#3 Community

The final goal of the SIG is to create a community of like-minded people interested in standards. Joining the SIG can help you grow your personal network and connect to the stakeholders in the standards space.

Next Steps

The SIG holds regular face-to-face meetings at the SLAS conference. To continue the conversation between conferences, we have started a LinkedIn Group. You are welcome to join the discussion and shape the future of the SIG. We are exploring other avenues such as webinars and meetings at other conferences.