Throughout scientific history, the lab manager has been handed extensive duties, little praise, and few words to describe the discovery-shaping responsibilities she carries.
After all, hers are the hands tasked with restocking supplies, the eyes responsible for identifying maintenance needs, and the shoulders on which a lab’s continuous and flawless operations must rest in order for live-saving, mission-critical research to progress unimpeded.
Yet for too long, her contributions have been given little of the spotlight and no “home.” Allow me to explain.
For years, I attended conferences and trade shows, inspired by the future-focused researchers, chemists, and automation engineers I encountered, yet puzzled by the glaring lack of a home base for the team running the show: the lab managers, IT staff, and facilities managers who support the scientific organizations behind the scenes. I couldn’t find a single conference that catered to this community.
So two years ago, we spearheaded a conference of our own called the Elemental Summit Series. The enthusiastic response made it clear that demand for collaboration among lab operations professionals was extensive.
That conference birthed an on-line community called BioPharma Ops Unite, a digital watercooler that established a sounding board for operations professionals that was free to join and free from vendors. The group grew to comprise operations professionals from more than 75+ companies and continues to grow today.
With each endeavor, our collective instinct grew more acute: these essential workers known as lab managers, IT managers, and facilities managers needed a home — and a name befitting all they do.
Today, we’re putting a stake in the ground, christening a longstanding practice under a long-overdue banner: LabOps.
The Lab Managers of yesterday are running the Lab Operations of tomorrow. So what’s the difference between “lab management” and “Lab Operations”? LabOps is much wider and more strategic in scope - it’s the scientific practice that paves the way for all others. It’s the role once regarded as a cost center but today understood as a strategic driver and data epicenter. In addition to the countless operational tasks long asked of it, today it’s the trade responsible for data’s storage, connectivity, security, quality, and compliance — the one that enables data-driven decisions company-wide.
LabOps professionals are the colleagues (heroes) no scientist can do without. They’re the former firefighters finally freed from robotic tasks and empowered as strategy-shapers. And they’re who Elemental Machines exists to serve.
And so for them, today we also unveil a facelift of our own: a brand new ElementalMachines.com. Here, LabOps professionals will find a resource that speaks to their needs, understands their headaches, and presents resources to help them achieve their loftiest goals.
In the coming months, Elemental Machines will introduce even more resources for the LabOps community, including a summer leadership workshop, a LabOps podcast, and more.
The indispensable contributions of lab operations professionals are as old as scientific discovery itself. But their reign under a banner fitting of their contributions to the infrastructure of science begins today.
Here’s to a new chapter in scientific discovery.
Here’s to LabOps.
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