QUAREP-LiMi: Towards community-driven quality control guidelines for light microscopy

Published: 2021-02-12

How can we be sure that measurements from a microscope in a cell biology laboratory in California, USA, correspond to measurements made by the same type of microscope in Paris, France? Or how can we be even sure that the measurements taken on the identical system 3 months apart can be compared?

This question has preoccupied microscopists for many years, without a clearly coordinated community-wide response. But since April 2020, the light microscopy community has come together to form QUAREP-LiMi – Quality Assessment and Reproducibility for Instruments and Images in Light Microscopy. This initiative unites microscopy experts from Academia, Industry, and Standards Organizations to develop quality assessment (QA) and quality control (QC) standards and practices that can be adopted by the entire global imaging community. The group now sets out its goals and calls for action with the publication of their first White Paper last week.

Since QUAREP-LiMi was formed in April 2020, it has grown exponentially. Today, more than 200 members are involved, hailing from Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Australia. One of the outstanding characteristics of QUAREP-LiMi is the diversity of its membership. Members include academics, core facility staff, imaging scientists, national and international microscopy communities, microscopy and supply companies, and standards organizations on both national and international levels. All involved are dedicated to working collaboratively to establish a set of common QC standards, as well as guidelines, protocols and tools for their everyday implementation for all aspects of light microscopy, ranging from field flatness and illumination power to axial resolution and chromatic aberration. The ultimate aim of the initiative lies in improving reproducibility and quality of microscopy data.

In the past year, a significant amount of work has already been accomplished in the working groups within QUAREP-LiMi, but it is not too late to join the community and contribute. One of the targets of QUAREP-LiMi is to be as globally representative as possible and unite all voices in the field of QC in light microscopy and therefore the initiative strongly encourages new members to join at all times. Information about joining QUAREP-LiMi can be found at https://quarep.org/contact/.

Euro-BioImaging strongly supports the goals of this initiative and its open and global approach to solving the challenge of QC in light microscopy. Staff of the imaging facilities of the Euro-BioImaging Nodes contribute their expertise in a variety of working groups and the Euro-BioImaging Hub is active in the overall planning group.  

Figure 1: Acquiring imaging data that is both quantifiable and reproducible involves a myriad of factors, few of which are acknowledged or accurately recorded. Intimate knowledge of the composition and performance of a system is essential for reproducibility. However, performance measurements may be tricky, and require specific protocols, tools, samples, training, and data analysis methods. In order to help microscope users to assess and judge the performance of their systems properly, the community must agree on and publish guidelines and benchmarks.

Citation: Nelson, Boehm et al., QUAREP-LiMi: A community-driven initiative to establish guidelines for quality assessment and reproducibility for instruments and images in light microscopy, 2020,  arXiv:2101.09153

“Quality control in light microscopy is very challenging. But being part of QUAREP-LiMi and seeing the enthusiasm of all participants has convinced me that with we as the global imaging community are now well-positioned to solve this challenge,” says Johanna Bischof, Scientific Project Manager at Euro-BioImaging, and co-author of the White Paper.

Read the community-written White Paper, “QUAREP-LiMi: A community-driven initiative to establish guidelines for quality assessment and reproducibility for instruments and images in light microscopy”:


Watch the Virtual Pub talk from Dr. Roland Nitschke, University of Freiburg: “Bringing a 15-year-old idea to success: Quality Assessment and Reproducibility for Instruments & Images in Light microscopy”

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