Specimen Management

Depending on the number of specimens being processed and/or archived, an automated inventory tracking system will be required to identify:

  • What specimens have been collected

  • What specimens have been assayed

  • Which ones remain in storage

  • Whether they have been thawed, assayed, and refrozen

  • Whether aliquots were made, how many, and where are they stored

  • Where they are located within a freezer




The information needed to track specimen inventories is often too complicated and detailed to store in spreadsheets. CPC staff have used SAS and Microsoft Access to develop customized inventory databases.  For more information about what to consider in such a tracking system or what resources are available to your CPC project, email the Biomedical Services core.


Some appropriate considerations for tracking specimens include:

Should bar code labels be placed on each specimen tube and a bar code reader be used for the project?

daresized box 008.jpg


Note: CPC can generate bar coded labels and can scan bar codes.

Linking the bar code to participant IDs is required, and the researcher may want to consider including other information in the bar code, such as the specimen type or the round of data collection.

Using a bar code scanner to read in bar codes into the database is desirable because transcription errors are reduced.

Will specific tubes be selected for assay based on other information about the study participant, e.g., an adverse health outcome or characteristics determined through questionnaire data? If so, the ability to merge the inventory system with other data sources is critical.

How will the research staff locate specific tubes in a freezer?

How will tubes that have been thawed for assay and then refrozen be identified?

How will the volume of specimens available be recorded and tracked?

How will tubes that have been used up be tracked?

Fiberboard freezer box for aliquot storage









pix of barcode reader here

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