Lab Miscommunications: An unfortunate but avoidable source of stress

“Wait, this isn’t the reagent I ordered!”

“Close, but I needed this in a different conjugate/size/format!”

“Didn’t we just get a shipment of this yesterday?”

None of these are sentences that scientists ever want to utter. But miscommunication between lab members can arise in the lab, leading to unfortunate repercussions for experiments – a source of stress and financial hardship for all involved.

When multiple lab members need the same reagent for different experiments, it is important to ensure that it is not ordered in duplicate. When many similar reagents exist, such as various conjugates of the same antibody, it is also important to ensure that the correct one is ordered. Indeed, it is imperative that steps are taken by all lab members involved in placing an order, to ensure clarity throughout the process. Here are communication tips to tackle common lab problems.

Problem: Wrong reagent

Solution: With so many companies selling similar products, and more arising every day, it is important to be specific when ordering your favorite reagent. Differences between companies’ manufacturing processes, clones, peptide sequences, etc. can cause major differences in the results obtained using reagents from different companies in the same project. Continuity is important when continuing a project or trying to replicate published results. So, when placing an order, be sure to specify the company and the product code in addition to the name of the reagent so that it can be easily identified amongst many similar options.

Problem: Wrong conjugate/size/format

Solution: If you’ve remembered to specify the company from which you want your reagent ordered, be sure to also make sure you’ve also noted the vial size, enzyme or fluorophore conjugate, purification level, or any other details that differentiate your reagent from others in a company’s catalog. Nothing is worse than ordering a critical reagent and then realizing that you were not precise enough and the reagent that arrived will not work with the experiment you have planned. One way to avoid this scenario is to include a full description of the reagent (including color, size, quantity, etc.) when placing your order. The chance for error is less when these details can be cross-checked throughout the ordering process.

Problem: Duplicate order

Solution: Before placing an order for a shared reagent, ask other members of the lab if they have already ordered it. For example, while you may have used the last of a reagent, another lab member may have thought to reorder it when they noticed it running low a few days prior. And because the delivery of reagents might take a few days, it is possible to accidentally place a duplicate order before the first arrives. Communicating with your labmates or touching base with the person who handles ordering for your lab before placing a new request can mitigate the likelihood of ending up with twice the necessary amount of reagent.

Details and open lines of communication between lab members are the best tactics to avoid ordering-related problems in the lab. A bit of effort on the part of each lab member can save everyone time, stress, and money, and make the research process flow smoothly!

Many labs use Quartzy as a free way to easily maintain open lines of communication. With Quartzy, your lab has a lab shopping list where all members can view and add requests, item details are autofilled from vendor catalogs, and there is a brand new comments feature for easy clarification with labmates.

Quartzy is the world’s No. 1 lab management platform. We help scientists easily organize orders, manage inventory, and save money. We’re free and always will be. Visit or reach out at

Interested in writing for The Q? Send us an email!

Share this:

Tags: advice, work relationships, purchasing

Aliyah W.

Aliyah W.

Aliyah is a postdoc at the University of Virginia, where she studies cancer immunology. She is also an advocate for science communication. You can find her on Twitter @desabsurdites and on her blog at

Related Articles