Where sample management meets electronic lab notebook


Current Articles | RSS Feed

What sharing features would users like in the Personal version of the electronic lab notebook eCAT?

Data sharing for scientists

Over on the Electronic lab notebook blog I have recently been posting about data sharing, asking What kind of data sharing do scientists want?, and then What kind of application would permit controlled data sharing among scientists? So what about data sharing in eCAT?  The Team Hosted and Install versions of eCAT support sharing, and also have full support for creation and administration of groups.

Sharing data in the Personal version of eCAT

The Personal version of eCAT, however, does not currently support sharing.  The Personal version is used by individuals to record and structure their data.  People obviously find that useful in itself, but presumably the ability to share data with others would make the Personal version of eCAT even more useful.  To test that assumption, we recently asked a number of regular users of the Personal version whether they thought the ability to share data in eCAT would be useful.  The answer?  A resounding yes!  100% of the users responding to the survey said sharing would be useful!  The following examples give you a flavor of how people think they might use sharing:

“I think that document sharing is an excellent idea. There are three of us in our lab group that are using the Personal edition of eCAT.  We use Google documents already so a transition would not be too hard.”

“I have a technician that I would like to have start using an electronic lab notebook, but I need to be sure that she’s entering data correctly, documenting correctly, etc.  If we could share documents, then we could easily do that.”

We also asked what kinds of features the users thought would be useful in a Personal version of eCAT that supported sharing.  Three features were discussed, and reactions to all three were mixed.

Chat

A couple of people said that chat would not be necessary because plenty of chat applications were already available.  But one of these went on to say:

“If the chats were auditable and traceable like signed documents they might be useful for intra lab communications between the PI and us. “

And one person was very enthusiastic about the possibility of better collaboration emerging from the introduction of chat.  He said:

“I would love to see something like a persistent chat/discussion for each project/experiment etc. Something that allowed for an ongoing discussion for each record. If you created something like this the option of an email notification of updates would be great. Sort of a very basic version of Google Wave connected to each record. If more than one user sharing the record is online at the same time there could perhaps be some form of on screen notification that the chat/discussion was updated.”

Journal or diary view of the research record

This same user suggested the addition of a diary or journal view of a user’s activity:

“I think that a lot of researchers are used to the standard lab notebook. You have all your notes in a chronological order. Instead of just being able to sort the records in different ways, and then view them one by one, I would very much like to be able to simply select a sorting and then view them all in a single series. This could simply be one record after another with perhaps the date clearly marked at the top. Sometimes it’s just easier to follow how your ideas evolved over time in this way.”

This journal or diary view is something that keeps coming up in discussions with users.

For example, Kim Martin at Edinburgh University has developed the idea of a journal view or ‘journalling’ in an electronic lab notebook as a way of being able to look back at the process of her work during a particular period of time.   To do this she wants to be able to very easily create a snapshot of everything she was doing on a particular day.

Kim’s concept is that the electronic lab notebook would, through automatic linking, support the creation with a single click of a’ journal view’ of research and related activity undertaken on any given day.  One of Kim’s key objectives is to gain insights on the process of research which may have been undertaken some time ago, as a mnemomic device.

Profile-based search

Again, this idea got a mixed reception.  Some said they had tried it in other applications and not found it useful.  Others said that since it was already available in other applications, it would not be useful to replicate it in a sharing version of eCAT.  And others said it would be useful, but that it might make more sense to integrate eCAT with other applications, e.g. OpenWetWare and Mendeley, that already provide profile-based search.

Comments on these views and further suggestions are welcome!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.