2020 Round Robin Summary and Future Directions
Our round robin was successful in recruiting participants within North America and around the world, producing and shipping sets of blind samples to all participants, collating results and providing feedback to all participants.
Participating labs showed a high level of commitment to the round robin, evidenced by the fact that 95% of labs who received samples submitted results. As a comparison, our pilot round robin in 2016, which was successful in its own right, had a more modest number of participants (25) and a lower response rate: 76%. We now have a website portal capable of collecting information from, and providing feedback to, participants. We have an Access database with templates for generating general and individual result summaries.
Collaborators who produced the pathogen stocks (Cornell University and Vanderbilt University) and prepared and shipped the samples (Pisces Molecular), have stated their willingness to participate in future rounds. Communication with all participants, including those labs who were unable to submit results due to complications associated with pandemic restrictions, indicates that they are highly likely to participate in future rounds.
Based on what we learned with this round robin, and considering comments and questions from participants, there are some areas that we could improve on. These range from re-considering the type of swabs (wooden swabs were reported to cause problems to some labs not used to working with them) to conducting an online seminar with all participants to facilitate mutual understanding of the reporting form.
Incorporating these improvements into future round robins is definitely doable. Developing a round robin that focuses on emerging technologies such as point-of-care (POC) analyzers would greatly increase the value and impact of our findings.