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Gentlemen once used to visit exclusive emporia in Savile Row in order to have their suits bespoke tailored. Now, the mass market means that quality clothing is available off-the-peg in High Street shops.

A parallel development is taking place in the world of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), as Peter Rees describes in this issue, driven not just by cost-cutting but also by a desire for standardisation across large international companies. But then comes the paradox, for LIMS do need to be tailored to fit the requirements of individual companies. Achieving this by getting into the code and rewriting the system takes us back to the expensive days of Savile Row. LIMS vendors are seeking a better way, by providing the facility for the software to mimic the workflows in the laboratory, without re-coding.

There is a paradox in application of computing to the life sciences, too, as the current articles in our sister publication Life Science IT explain. Major IT companies, such as IBM, see enormous potential in the life sciences, but the experience of installing new IT has not always been a happy one. Too often the human factor has been overlooked.

In a different context, Felix Grant has learned a similar lesson about free statistics software: not all costs are monetary ones.

Dr Tom Wilkie, Editor