How digital transformation is changing researchers’ daily work?

Transformation digitale dans la recherche

SaaS platforms, web portals, mobile applications: these technologies have profoundly transformed our daily lives and our habits. If this finding is easily verified in our personal lives, it is not so obvious in our professional lives.

In terms of digitization, many sectors of activity are indeed lagging behind. And research is no exception. Yet it is crucial that research moves on with its transformation to meet the challenges of the 21st century. For the planet (climate, health, energy, etc.) on the one hand, and for businesses (R & D, innovation) on the other, the challenges at hand require efficiency and responsiveness.

And that’s exactly what digital can bring to research. In this article, we’ll see that some processes and tasks that hinder the daily work of researchers in most labs can be streamlined and automated through digital solutions.

Automation and digitization: Make research more efficient

In an ideal world, this is what a typical researcher’s workday would look like: An idea springs in his mind, he identifies the right protocol to confirm or refute his assumptions, finds the instruments he needs for running his experience, and gets the necessary approvals to book them. Between idea and experience, very little time passes.

In real life, it’s more like a rocky run than a quiet walk. The lack of harmonization of technologies used and the absence of a single reference tool are largely responsible. However, modern technology makes it possible to improve these time-consuming and cumbersome processes which slow down researchers in their work.

Pain #1 : Identify and adapt the right protocols

To develop a protocol, a researcher must consult various scientific articles and databases, which are hosted on different portals and sites. The multiplication of sources, formats and tools is a first pitfall for the researcher. Once the experimental protocol is identified, the researcher must often contact other colleagues to optimize the method. This means finding the contacts of the right people and reaching them by any means of communication at their disposal (email, phone, etc.). Again, this can take a lot of time.

Solution

Technology makes it possible to federate all data (journals, articles, publications, etc.) into one single knowledge base. In the same tool, it is also possible to integrate a digital address book listing the researchers and the administrative staff of the various technology platforms. With the use of chat tools, communication times are reduced.

Pain #2 : Find the appropriate technology for the experiment

After finalizing the protocol, the researcher must then find the equipment(s) he needs to carry out his experiment. It also means identifying the technology platforms that host this equipment and can assist with its utilization. This often implies issuing multiple requests to technology platforms through, once again, different systems and websites.

Solution

Consolidate into one single online portal all instruments and services for all platforms. It only takes a few clicks to find out where to find the right technology and get a detailed quotation.

Pain #3 : Get the required approvals

Once the instrument is found, it is necessary to obtain approvals to unlock the necessary budget. In the absence of a simple and automated process, it usually takes a lot of time: email exchanges, phone calls, etc.

Solution

Digital platforms not only allow to automatically generate a quote, but also manage approval requests directly from your smartphone via a mobile application. Sending a request triggers a notification to the right person, then you just have to click to accept or reject it.

Pain #4 : Book the instrument

After your request has been approved, you’re almost there but still need to confirm your reservation for the equipment and/or related services. It is therefore necessary to contact again the same platform staff and check for availability. Another series of emails and phone calls …

Solution

Online digital platforms make it possible to automatically check the availability of each equipment and  confirm a reservation in a couple of clicks.

Key takeaways

Researchers should focus on their core business: Experiments. Today, they are wasting much time on mundane tasks that don’t add value to their projects. Modern digital technologies can help with the automation of those time-consuming activities. In the 21st century, research is facing critical and complex challenges and has no choice but to accelerate its digital transformation in order to be up to the task.

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