Write up of the first day of SMI ELN Conference

Someone asked about the SMI conference in one of the LinkedIn forums, so I wrote something up – but LinkedIn has limits on how long a message can be so it’ll have to be a post.

Some thoughts on the first day of SMI, which I chaired.

As a general note, I think it’s important to calibrate any of these case studies against:

  • What industry is the person in
  • What department they are speaking from
  • The kinds of science they do (throwing around words like “Biology” and “Chemistry” aren’t precise enough
  • Their legal and regulatory environment
  • Their level of IT and business sophistication

If you don’t do this you can take entirely the wrong message away from these talks!

I never quite know what to do in “Chairman’s Opening Remarks” but given it was the day of the Apple iPad announcement (which started at 6pm that evening, London time) I just spoke a little bit about how I felt “consumer” devices were going to have an impact. Presentation here.

Mike Kopach from Eli Lilly talked about their ELN implementation, which has been a popular talk at many conferences. This is now a pretty mature ELN installation and just seems to work, which is excellent.

Jo Mulgrew from Pfizer is responsible for their ELN in Sandwich, and gave a really interesting talk on all the tools and techniques they use to smooth the rollout of their ELN. This wasn’t so much about the ELN as the implementation process, and I know we learned a lot from this. Their use of short (1 or 2 minute) screencasts was particularly interesting.

I talked about the “ELN Landscape”, the slides for which are here. I’ll be expanding on some of the themes on my blog in due course – it’s interesting how having to write a presentation causes you to crystalise stuff which you then have to summarise in a single slide but could easily do a good post on.

Jeremy Frey from Southampton University gave a really interesting on what they’ve been doing with blogging – not so much about the technology but how it all works in a science setting. Jeremy gave a talk last year and things have moved on a lot, I’m still distilling it all but I guess it’s a vindication of the research grant process that they are doing really interesting stuff and I’m trying to figure out how to translate some of their insights into an industrial setting.

After lunch we had two talks on the legal side. Colin Sandercock of Perkins Coie talked on the US issues, and then Matthew Dick from Bristows talked about the UK & EU perspective. Although this is my primary area of concern in my “day job” I continue to find these talks interesting and the compare & contrast was quite stimulating. The legal implications of SaaS are still being worked out so and I think that it will become a bigger topic for next year.

We then had a panel discussion on “Pitfalls to Avoid in implementing ELN”. I must confess I really dislike the panel format as a chairman because you’re so often left in the situation where you don’t get good questions, and there’s an embarrassing silence. So to spice things up a little bit we had a quick Google Wave demo, and then a 2 minute talk from each of the panel on “The one thing…” – and the discussion flowed quite well after that.

For those who were there, Jo has just about forgiven me for making her stand up at the podium 🙂

Finally Antonio Gomez from J&J talked about their home-grown ELN solution which has been discussed before and continues to evolve. I think what J&J have done is really impressive both from a technical and business standpoint and there’s lots of practical lessons there (Oh if only they could blog!). Disclaimer: I have a commercial relationship with J&J who use PatentSafe as the records/patent solution for both their Chemists (integrated with their ELN) and Biologists.

That was it – the evening was spent in the bar & restaurant with me sitting on Twitter watching the reactions from the Apple announcement and everyone else politely ignoring my geekish excitement.

Hope that’s useful. I didn’t manage to attend the second day unfortunately but perhaps someone else can comment.

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