This report discusses the use of the features of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), one of the primary software systems used by crime laboratories, in facilitating a crime laboratory’s shift to remote working by laboratory personnel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The issues discussed stem from the experiences of managers and leaders of five crime laboratories in the United States, including three federal crime laboratories (DEA, ICE-HIS, and USSS), one state laboratory (Arizona), and one city laboratory (Houston). LIMS enable the collection, creation, and storing of data related to forensic examinations, enabling forensic laboratories to manage evidence and resources efficiently. Laboratories that use up-to-date commercially available and internally developed LIMS can leverage their capabilities and those of supporting tools, such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), to enable laboratories to operate effectively despite workflow, resource, and communication challenges. This report discusses suggestions for laboratories to consider in making modifications that can maintain a laboratory’s efficiency and effectiveness under pandemic protective measures. One suggestion discussed is accessing LIMS data from outside the laboratory facility. A second suggestion is to plan for an investment in information technology (IT) that will maintain consistent remote laboratory work. Other suggestions discussed are the leveraging of electronic communication methods, enabling staff to execute and benefit from new LIMS-based protocols, and setting up LIMS using application programming interfaces (APIs) to create “one stop shop” access to tools and data. By using advanced LIMS features, laboratories have digitized key processes and enabled remote access to information critical to efficient operations outside of the laboratory facility.