Sometimes a lab move is necessitated due to a need for more space to store biological specimens, a renovation, a consolidation of labs, a decommission, or a change in research funding. However, moving a lab is no small task. So when a scientist or a team of scientists have to move to another lab, a large number of steps have to be taken to preserve what they are working on.
Those in charge of the move have to pay attention to a lot of details because the costs are high. These aren’t necessarily financial costs, but the cost of time and effort that went into the research. While financial costs can be replaced, loss of specimens, misplaced experimental data, or other intrinsic aspects of the research project is irreplaceable. For this reason, many labs work with expert biological storage services and facilities to make sure that all regulatory requirements are strictly followed.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges faced when moving a lab:
1. It takes a long time to plan.
It can take as long as 4 to 6 months to plan the entire transition. Until the plans are satisfactory, not a single piece of equipment will be moved. This planning is not done by the scientists themselves, who still focus on continuing their research. It is done by experts in lab logistics who plan, organize, and deal with every specific aspect of the move.
2. It requires a detailed understanding of the new lab.
Planning includes fully understanding the future environment the scientists will be moving to. Planners have to make sure that the transition is a smooth one and that the new lab will have satisfactory electrical and plumbing fixtures. In many cases, the physical and mechanical aspects of the lab have to be considered, too. This is especially important if a cryogenic freezer has to be relocated. Something as simple as a short cord or a damaged wall socket could result in the loss of year’s worth of biological specimens.
3. It requires a deep understanding of the work the scientists are doing.
The transition planners must have numerous conversations with the chief researcher and the lab manager to understand the nature of the experiments being conducted. Without fully appreciating the depth or magnitude of the experiment, it can be difficult to relocate everything in the safest and most efficient way possible. For instance, an incorrect setting of climate or humidity could destroy live specimens.
4. It requires a comprehensive grasp of the equipment being used by the scientists.
Every experiment uses a specific type of core equipment. Since each experiment is unique, it’s important that the same equipment be transferred or highly similar equipment be used in the new laboratory.
Sometimes, it’s not as simple as simply transporting the same equipment because the scientist may not own the equipment. For instance, if a scientist is working for one university but then is hired by another university to continue the same experiments, then the highly specialized equipment used to date may belong to the first university. Even if the two labs are owned by the same organization, there may not be the same space available in the new lab.
Equipment isn’t just beakers, Bunsen burners, and test tubes. It could be specialized lab incubators; for instance, incubators to grow cells or biosafety cabinets. So when transferring from one laboratory to another, the ideal situation is to move the same equipment; however, when that is not possible, then the new lab must have equipment as close to the original equipment as possible.
5. It requires teamwork and open communication to resolve unexpected problems.
There is a thin line between a successful move and a disaster. Moving a laboratory is never as routine as, say, moving from one office building to another. Since no two labs are built exactly alike, unusual problems may arise that could not be anticipated. For this reason, it’s essential that there be excellent relationships between the transition planners and the scientists so that if any problems arise everyone is available to make the best decisions on what to do to take care of the situation.
In conclusion, for the lab relocation to go well, it’s important that there be a well-coordinated transition team, that all aspects of cold storage are transported as perfectly as possible, and that there is a clear documentation of the move in case law-enforcement agencies have questions. It is especially important to get special permits when hazardous materials are being transported.