Quality Control

This focussed interest group will raise awareness of the need for regular quality control within fluorescence microscopy. This group has evolved to become part of a larger global effort to address the problem, the aims of which have expanded to include, in addition to microscope performance metrics, image quality, metadata and publication standards.


Find out more at https://quarep.org

Background: since their introduction and widespread use in the late 17th Century, microscopes have moved from qualitative, image-collecting tools to automated, complex instruments capable of acquiring information-rich images. Indeed, microscopy now underpins a lot of biomedical research and is being used to provide the spatial context to many emerging 'omics' techniques. Observing a sample is often insufficient; there is a need to back-up these observations with quantitative information to answer often complex biomedical questions. The quality of these observations and data are only as good as the quality of the microscope used to make them: thus, it is important that microscope 'quality' is understood, documented and made available. With this information to hand, researchers and the public will have full confidence in the imaging data collected, interpreted and published from such instruments. 

The problem: standardisation for fluorescence microscopy is not widely practised in the scientific community: a recent large (from approximately 200 imaging labs) global microscopy-user community survey has highlighted the inconsistencies when it comes to choosing which microscope Quality Control (QC) metrics to record and how frequently they are performed.

The solution: this FIG was initially set-up in 2019 with a view to discuss within the UK microscopy user community issues relating to the quality control of widefield and confocal fluorescence microscopes.  However, in 2020 and with the disruption of the global pandemic, our efforts were put on hold.  Subsequent enforced remote working methods and the use of online meeting tools such as Zoom paradoxically brought together global imaging communities and like minds.  The topic of quality control in microscopy was elevated and the UK microscope quality control FIG and those that had joined it were invited to become part of a much larger global effort to tackle the subject.

The birth of QUAREP-LiMi: QUAREP- LiMi (QUality Assessment and REProducibility for Instruments & Images in Light Microscopy) was established in 2020 with an initial aim to gain consensus across the microscopy community and identify a set of QC tests that should be performed on microscopes at defined intervals in order to address a recent ISO standard on confocal microscopy (ISO 21073 - 2019).  However, it became quickly evident that efforts needed to be expanded beyond the tests recommended in the ISO standard and should include other system performance metrics such as: image quality; meta data; phototoxicity and publication standards.  Since 2020, QUAREP-LiMi has grown rapidly to over 300 members from both academic and commercial backgrounds and consists entirely of voluntary but highly engaged members. Efforts are organised into 13 focussed working groups, the participation and outputs of which are completely open.

Glyn Nelson & Alex Laude (Newcastle University) will liaise with the RMS and represent the UK microscopy community’s interests on the planning & organisation working group of QUAREP-LiMi. Members of the UK light microscopy community from both academic and commercial backgrounds are actively involved with several of the QUAREP-LiMi working groups.

If you would like to follow the work of QUAREP-LiMi and to join the community, please access the website: https://quarep.org

For more information and background to QUAREP-LiMi please see our recent Journal of Microscopy white paper: Nelson G, et. al. (2021) QUAREP-LiMi: A community-driven initiative to establish guidelines for quality assessment and reproducibility for instruments and images in light microscopy.  Journal of Microscopy. 284(1): 56-73. doi: 10.1111/jmi.13041


The RMS is committed to being a welcoming, inclusive Society and encourages diversity across all activities and in the membership of our committees and groups.

If you are interested in joining any of the groups in the future, please contact Allison Winton.