WHAT TO DO AND NOT TO DO
Avoid the use of ambiguous terms:
Many words and abbreviations mean different ideas in different domains and also are understood differently by the audience based on context. It is important that team members are aware of the potential risk of misunderstanding and mitigate it. For example, API means Application Programming Interface in the IT domain but means Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient in the scientific domain.
Similarly, storage is used to refer to Data Servers and Cloud Storage by technology team members, but to a lab scientist storage means cold refrigerators or walk-in freezers and ambient stores. A third example is a term IP. It could mean “Intellectual Property” or “Intraperitoneal” in the scientific domain and “IP address” in IT domain.
Use precise scientific terms:
Scientific informatics consultants need to have a solid understanding of scientific processes and workflows as well as the capabilities and features of the informatics systems that are used. An important part of that knowledge is proficiency in using precise scientific terms while interacting with scientists.
Proper scientific vernacular enables a productive and engaging conversation that helps the scientist understand and respond quickly; for example, when working with Medicinal Chemists, it is appropriate to refer to drug candidates as compounds while with Biologists, drug candidates should be referred to as Antibodies or Proteins.
Make sure you have a conversation:
Scientists should not be expected to translate scientific needs into technical requirements. All attempts should be made to optimize the use of Scientists’ time. Engaging in a conversation, where there is a true exchange of valuable information both ways, helps understand the underlying needs of the Scientist. Open-ended questions like “Could you please explain your process?” often take the conversation in multiple directions and fail to keep it focused.
Instead, direct questions like “How do you receive your samples?” or “How do you prepare samples for analysis?” encourage scientists to describe the lab process from their perspective in detail allowing everyone to understand both the context and the specifics.