Scientists Are Moving to Visual Standard Operating Procedures – Here’s Why

Supriya Kamath, JoVE Writer | 6 min read
Supriya Kamath, JoVE Writer | 6 min read

“Videos are great training tools and serve as visual standard operating procedures in my lab,” says Dr. Raja Sriperumbudur, Director of In-Vivo Resource Center at Biogen. “[Video protocols] are easy to reproduce because you have all the information, down to the reagents.” 

Dr. Sriperumbudur is one of many scientists who have been using video demonstrations of experiments to standardize the training and research process in the laboratory — a powerful way to present critical experimental details that are difficult to capture in written Laboratory Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). 

“In our center, one of our major priorities is to have standardized protocols,” explains Dr. Mouhsin Shafi, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. “These experiments are tricky with several different steps and a video format helps to walk someone through these steps.”

Visual SOPs save time, money, and resources

Fewer resources lost to reproducibility failures

Standardizing a complex laboratory procedure is the ultimate test of communication for the authors of the SOP — after all, a single missed detail might precipitate a failure to reproduce results. Whereas written protocols can be used to describe the steps of the experiment, it can be difficult to convey nuances.

“Methods are complex and can only partially be described in words,” says Dr. Michele Calos, Professor, Department of Genetics, Stanford University. “Seeing the method performed immediately provides a wealth of information to the viewer.” 

Incorporation of video into an SOP enables more efficient knowledge transfer, preserving the details required to replicate a technique accurately in fewer attempts. Fewer errors and faster implementation = time, money and resources saved.

Preservation of knowledge in the lab 

A common challenge many laboratories face is staff turnover: when lab members performing specific experiments leave, they take protocol know-how. Researchers wanting to replicate the experiments years later must learn via trial and error.

To address this problem and preserve the knowledge gained within the lab, researchers at the Drew Lab at the University of Alaska Fairbanks decided to standardize their lab procedures using video. They began using JoVE videos in their research and also published a JoVE video article to provide a single, consistent point of reference across lab member rotations.

“Sometimes you’re reading directions, and the words just don’t make sense,” says Jeanette Moore, researcher and manager at the Drew lab. “That is the value of JoVE, actually seeing how to insert a needle in a laboratory animal before you do it, so you don’t have to do it twice.”

Faster training and onboarding

An effective SOP not only enables continuity in the lab training process but can also speed up the process as a whole. By making it easier for researchers to visualize an experiment, video instructions can accelerate the training process by several months. 

Dr. Leonard Khiroug’s laboratory at the University of Helsinki, for instance, relied on a wide variety of special investigation techniques and needed a standardized, reliable set of training methods to ensure staff proficiency in each method. 

Consequently, Dr. Khiroug, a Docent of Neurobiology, adopted JoVE videos to standardize and streamline the training process with excellent results. “It took us 2 weeks instead of 1 year to learn a new surgery technique published in JoVE,” he reports.

How can I create a visual Standard Operating Procedure?

The JoVE library offers thousands of videos of basic and advanced research techniques illustrated via step-by-step demonstrations performed by scientists. This includes videos demonstrating lab safety procedures. Explore playlists curated specifically to support research laboratories here.

Need help locating JoVE videos to support your lab’s standardized protocol or training needs? We’re happy to create a customized playlist of JoVE videos for you.

Get in touch with our customer success team today! 

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