The GBSI BioPolicy Summit 2017 – Changing Scientific Tools for Better Reproducibility

This years’ GBSI BioPolicy Summit, in San Francisco, was focused on digital tools, technologies and automation. It was an interesting array of approaches to changing the way that biological experimentation is performed, inside and outside of the laboratory.

Different approaches to improving reproducibility from planning experiments all the way through execution, analysis, and collaboration were there. Automation, of course, was an important component. Robotic lab operations were presented by new enterprises such as Open Trons, iBioFAB, and HackScience, as a way to improve reproducibility and save time. Outsourcing experiments entirely, through Science Exchange or Transcriptic, may be a useful approach for study replication efforts as well as discovery. Tetrascience is extending the Internet of Things to the laboratory to help predict catastrophic events, like freezer failure, before they happen. It will be interesting to see, five years from now, which of these varied approaches are the most fruitful.

There were many presentations of new ways to digitize experimental design, data, collaboration, and publication. Riffyn, Synthace, SciNote,, Dryad, and Authorea were among those at the conference showing off ways to get rid of the 18th century paper notebook and better share data. We may feature some of these in later posts here.


A more surprising theme at the BioPolicy Summit was making automation and high-tech labs like Molecular Foundry more accessible to scientists. One interesting topic was putting DNA analysis tools into the hands of non-scientists outside of the traditional scientific institution. A panel near the end of the day addressed the “Democratization of Science” directly. The suggestion that researchers in traditional research institutions are seen as an exclusive “priesthood” was a provocative image. At the end of the discussion, it was still a bit of a stretch to see how democratization would improve scientific reproducibility. Will putting miniaturized DNA analysis labs, such as Bento Bio’s system, into community labs change the way that scientific discoveries are made? Maybe it will improve the relevance of findings to the community.


Overall, this was an excellent forum for exciting new approaches to the nuts and bolts of reproducible science.