Application of Laboratory Information
System (LIMS) in a
Forensic DNA Database Laboratory"
Hong-teng Tsui, MPhil, and Kwong-yuk To, PhD, Forensic Science.
Division, Hong Kong Government Laboratory, Ho Man Tin Government.
Offices, 88 Chung Hau Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China.
Proceedings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February
2006, Volume XII.
This article evaluates the usefulness of Laboratory Information
Management System (LIMS) in forensic laboratories, particularly in
enhancing the efficiency of forensic services and reducing human
Forensic DNA database laboratories handle large amounts of reference
control samples, such as buccal swabs or blood stain cards for DNA
profiling and database application. In addition, large volumes of
case-related information must be recorded and made available for
future searches (for example, police related references and offence
details). Moreover, technical worksheets or documentation are
generated during technical and analytical procedures in accordance
with international crime laboratory standards, such as ASCLD/LAB.
Extensive data entry, administrative and storage resources are
required to archive and manage these types of data.
In order to streamline the process and reduce human involvement, a
LIMS was designed and tested to automate case information management
processes in forensic laboratories. The LIMS software tested was
STARLIMS™ and the database software was Oracle™. The system in the
laboratory is basically divided into five main parts:
Chain of custody records;
Automated worksheet and statement generation;
File export and import for instrument and CODIS communication; and
Statistical report generation.
Clerical staff input case-related information into the database
through the LIMS interface, which is connected to a bar code
system that facilitates the input process. Certain data is
pre-stored, such as police stations for selection during input, to
reduce the typing workload.
The chain of custody interface records the transfer of exhibits
from delivering to receiving officers.
The LIMS system is able to generate technical worksheets and
templates for witness statements. It can automatically complete
templates by accessing case-related data in the database.
The communication between CODIS and instruments to the LIMS can be
achieved through export and import files that are in either “txt”
or “csv” formats. The LIMS can “capture” the DNA profiles exported
by Genotyper™ software, and store it in the database for CODIS
import and statement template generation.
The system is able to calculate monthly or yearly statistics
reports, including total cases submitted from police and total
cases completed within the committed targets. Moreover, the output
capacity for each professional staff can also be provided. This is
very important for material purchasing and resource allocation in
In conclusion, the LIMS database stores all the necessary
case-related information, which can be accessed through workstations
in the laboratory. The system is protected by RAID and tape backup.
The LIMS interface accesses and updates the database; it also
generates different worksheets, expert witness statement templates,
export files for instruments and CODIS entry, as well as import
result files from various instruments. A LIMS can increase accuracy
by reducing potential human error, and it can save storage space by
decreasing the amount of paper record required in case files. The
efficiency of a laboratory can be enhanced by such a computer-aided
case information handling system—especially for forensic
laboratories which handle large amounts of case information.
Published in PROCEEDINGS of the American Academy of Forensic
Sciences, February 2006, Volume XII pp. 38 Copyright © 2006 American
Academy of Forensic Sciences