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Pistoia Alliance Bridges the Gap Between User Experience and Digital Transformation with New Set of Heuristics

publication date: Jul 30, 2021
author/source: The Pistoia Alliance



Alliance publishes freely available set of nine guidelines to help life sciences organizations and hardware and software designers to apply good design practices

The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance that advocates for greater collaboration in life sciences R&D, has published a set of nine heuristics for user experience (UX) designers. Many life science organizations are undertaking digital transformation initiatives and are handling a growing variety and volume of data. Yet to date, digital tools and solutions are typically not designed with UX in mind and do not follow robust data management practices, limiting their effectiveness. There is also a lack of understanding of the FAIR principles amongst UX designers and a designer’s responsibility to be an enabler of the FAIR principles. The Alliance’s newly published heuristics address these challenges by guiding designers on critical elements of the design and data lifecycle, and to embed known data standards, including the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable). The heuristics are the result of a collaboration between two Pistoia Alliance projects, UXLS and FAIR communities, from PerkinElmer, Lextech Global Services, RockStep Solutions, Novartis, Genaiz, and The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre.

“Data projects and digital transformation efforts must be informed by deep knowledge of users’ habits, preferences and rituals, to achieve the desired outcome. Powerful technology and data exists, but if it doesn’t consider the people using it, it will never be successfully implemented, and its benefits never fully realized. Designers must consider all stakeholders involved throughout the data lifecycle, from external business partners to lab-based researchers,” explains Paula de Matos, UXLS Project Manager at the Pistoia Alliance. “The Pistoia Alliance is perfectly placed to bring together multiple experts from its existing portfolio of projects to pool knowledge and learnings when working with data-driven projects. By publishing these heuristics, we hope to encourage pharma companies, as well as software and hardware designers and vendors, to make a tangible difference to how scientists work.”

The nine heuristics focus on how revisiting UX at each stage of a project improves the data lifecycle and makes it easier for scientists to harness data for future use. In the freely downloadable document, each heuristic is accompanied by an explanation of why UX is important, as well as example use cases and ideas for implementation. The heuristics cover the following areas:

  1. Understanding the problem digital projects are trying to solve.
  2. Using known standards and industry guidelines.
  3. Understanding and mapping the entire journey of the data so all stakeholders are working towards a common goal.
  4. Identifying all relevant data and metadata.
  5. Connecting people to bridge between stakeholders.
  6. Designing as close to real data and metadata as possible by using real data users would expect to use.
  7. Designing for greater longevity and reuse of data.
  8. Designing to capture the full context of data as metadata, for example recording the method as well as the results.
  9. Establishing a consistent flow for user feedback so the project is always fit for purpose.

“Life science and biotech companies continue to invest considerable sums of money in digital transformation projects, and in new digital tools and solutions. But without cross-industry standards for UX and data storage, the benefit to the broader industry is limited,” commented Dr Steve Arlington, President of the Pistoia Alliance. “UX isn’t simply a tactical choice anymore, and data standards like FAIR are not just a ‘nice-to-have’. They are critical elements in making sure that digital technology can live up to its promise and facilitate innovation, and most importantly, accelerate the route of therapies to patients. Under the umbrella of the Pistoia Alliance, we can bring key stakeholders together to make this possible.” 

The Pistoia Alliance is inviting organizations in the industry to feedback on the heuristics to help evolve them and further contribute to the development of best practices. To get involved in the project, please contact Or, to download the detailed heuristics please visit this link.


About The Pistoia Alliance

The Pistoia Alliance is a global, not-for-profit members’ organization made up of life science companies, technology and service providers, publishers, and academic groups working to lower barriers to innovation in life science and healthcare R&D. It was conceived in 2007 and incorporated in 2009 by representatives of AstraZeneca, GSK, Novartis, and Pfizer who met at a conference in Pistoia, Italy. Its projects transform R&D through pre-competitive collaboration. It overcomes common R&D obstacles by identifying the root causes, developing standards and best practices, sharing pre-competitive data and knowledge, and implementing technology pilots. There are currently over 150 member companies; members collaborate on projects that generate significant value for the worldwide life sciences R&D community, using The Pistoia Alliance’s proven framework for open innovation.



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