As of 2020, the German Biobank Alliance (GBA) consists of 20 biobanks distributed across the country. The GBA is coordinated by the German Biobank Node (GBN) organization. Researchers wishing to access biosamples within the GBA biobanks currently directly contact a particular biobank location or gain access options via a mailing list. Sample requests are usually made using paper forms. Sample distribution methods are arranged on a case by case basis. There was thus some scope for harmonization and automation of the systems for sample location, request, and distribution, which could benefit from an information technology software infrastructure.
Lena Griebel of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, and colleagues, describe the development of a prototype “Sample Locator” web application. The main objective of their work was to describe the evaluation of the Sample Locator in terms of its fitness to use. The report was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
The first generation prototype was built from a consultation with eight technical staff members of the GBA, resulting in a hyperlinked PowerPoint schematic, which was iterated upon following usage feedback from biobank staff.
A usability survey was then conducted for the prototype Sample Locator with 27 participating researchers that have interacted with biobanks during the course of their work and were therefore representative of the Sample Locator’s proposed end users.
Overall the survey respondents found the prototype intuitive and usable, but some felt that more powerful database query functions were needed as an option. Better documentation such as a “help” reference was requested.
Based on the survey feedback a third prototype was created which incorporates “help” documentation.
The scope of the work was limited to a PowerPoint prototype with implementation of a fully online “Sample Locator” a future area of work.
“The Sample Locator would offer added value on the more granular level enabling search for specific samples and contact the respective biobanks. While the biobank of Masaryk University in Brno is already connected, the further integration of European biobanks is planned,” stated the authors.