Ahead of SLAS2023 in San Diego, Jill Hronek, SLAS Director, Marketing & Communications, shares her enthusiasm for the opportunities, products, technologies and innovation that this event brings together.
Data is the glue that keeps automation tools working together.
We’re accelerating into another year of innovation and automation at SLAS: our events calendar is set for our conferences and symposia, and we are excited to be planning meet-ups and roadshows around the world with enthusiastic volunteers and hosts.
At the time of writing, we have plans to be in Brussels (SLAS Europe May 22-26, 2023), Warsaw, Zurich, Cambridge (UK), San Diego and Washington DC. We’re confident that there will be several more activities scheduled. We are always energised by our events: the opportunity to meet new people, see new products and technologies and hear the stories of how research is progressing and transforming.
We hear from our community that the pace of automation and technology growth is ‘dizzying’, the needs are ‘urgent’ and the potential is ‘staggering’. Taken independently, it might sound like automation is spinning out of control, but really, the opposite is true. Technology providers are collaborating and connecting more than ever before.
We are accelerating our commitment to entrepreneurs through our Ignite Program and Innovation AveNEW—developing ways to engage these start-ups long-term and help drive companies toward even greater success. We are thrilled to have 19 companies from 11 countries participating in SLAS2023 Innovation AveNEW in San Diego. Their technologies range from data sciences to cell sciences, reagents to robotics, and microfluidics to virtual reality. We’re thrilled to give them this platform to get their products out in front of thousands of innovation-seeking attendees.
With an emphasis on data as the glue that keeps automation tools working together, we are seeing an unprecedented focus on data sciences and data management as the key to success. We’ve dedicated an entire track of SLAS2023 to Data Science and AI as well as several intensive pre-conference short courses designed to bring attendees up to speed on essential programming, data handling, analysis and report generation. In the ‘post-Covid’ era (or perhaps ‘managed-Covid era’ is more accurate), the work of these data scientists fits comfortably within established remote or hybrid work settings.
But while the amount of data in a research lab continues to balloon, the actual equipment and experiments are tending to get smaller and faster. The potential of micro and nanotechnologies to impact biological research and medical science is larger than ever; you name it-on-a-chip and other miniaturisation allows scientists to do more, integrate more systems, and generate more breakthroughs.
If there’s anything we’ve learned since 2020, flexibility and adaptability in space, time and workflow is critical. More automation does not necessarily mean more time, but it does mean that researchers can focus their human resources on those puzzles that need rethinking, new strategy, and unique approaches, and leave the robots to do the repetitive work. It also allows lab managers to focus on things that robots can’t such as enhancing sustainability practices, ensuring the physical and mental health of its employees or research teams, and establishing a productive, balanced and supportive work culture for all employees.
That’s where SLAS wraps its collective arms around the life sciences community and strives to be the wheel that keeps the life sciences and laboratory automation community turning and rolling smoothly, accelerating to support scientific discovery and scientific application by moving multidisciplinary innovations in life science forward. SLAS is one year into its five-year strategic plan that supports this goal through:
Discovery: we aim to be the premier venue (and many have told us that we already are!) for collaborative exchange of research in life sciences, digital sciences and relevant technologies. To do this and/or maintain this respected position, we look to create and expand our platforms and venues for interdisciplinary scientific exchange and collaboration. Our schedule for worldwide meet-ups, to gather regionally around a topic or discovery, and roadshows to introduce SLAS to students and early-career researchers) is expanding! Part of this includes recognising excellence in scientific innovation throughout the professional pipeline, whether that starts in academia, industry, government research or in an entrepreneur’s garage. We are here to help startups excel.
Technologies and applications: Our goal is to enable the application of innovation in life sciences and technology to current and emerging research and development needs by 1) identifying current and emerging skill sets, competencies and needs, 2) providing customisable education and 3) adapting and sustaining a diverse content portfolio for life sciences researchers around the globe. We’re addressing this goal with our diverse scientific tracks at our two conferences, our creative topical symposia, and our free Get Ahead series of online discussions for students and early-career professionals, as well as our Technology Idea Exchange discussions for those who want to group-think and brainstorm technology challenges.
Global community: SLAS’ goal is to be the hub of a diverse, inclusive and engaged network of multidisciplinary peers committed to advancing sustainable life sciences discovery and technology at every stage of their careers. SLAS takes inclusivity and diversity very seriously and believes that the best work is done by listening to and engaging all members of the team. We extend that listening and engaging to our dedicated members and volunteers who contribute to the success of the events, educational tools, organisational strategy and collaborative atmosphere in which we and they participate. We want to be the organisation that early-career professionals look to throughout their scientific careers for advice, recognition, leadership skills and professional growth.
We are doubling down on our efforts to support students with memberships and early-career professionals with opportunities to build their professional network and advance their scientific knowledge through mentoring, scientific presentation opportunities, job and career opportunities and scholarships and fellowships.
Scientific data harmonisation: SLAS strives to be the centre of the scientific community’s efforts to integrate discovery into technology, automation and data standards and we plan to convene like-minded life sciences groups to help with that integration. We want ‘best practices’ and SLAS to be synonymous with the life sciences community coming to SLAS first to find answers to data harmonisation challenges.
We’re glad you’ve joined us at SLAS2023 and are confident you’ll see us working on these goals right before your eyes!
SLAS 2023 Supplement, Volume 24 – Issue 1, Winter 2022/2023
About the author
Jill Hronek has served as the Director, Marketing and Communications for the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening since 2018. She and her team are responsible for getting people in seats, eyes on screens, and words and images on pages to engage and inform the SLAS life sciences community and transform research.