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Exporting data from an electronic lab notebook

The importance of export

Most electronic notebooks are locked down, and are built on the principle that things should be kept within the system and not shared outside it.  But that doesn’t fit with the real requirements of researchers, who need to be able to control  access to and sharing of their data.  For example, you might want to export some data to share with a collaborator who isn’t using the same electronic notebook as you, or you might want to export all your data when you are moving on to another lab.  So, as I have argued elsewhere, http://elnblog.axiope.com/?p=1037, it’s important to be able to export data from an electronic lab notebook.

eCAT’s new data export capability

We’ve just released a new version of eCAT (4.0.11) which, for the first time, supports export (other than exporting the XML, which is already possible.  With the new version it’s possible to export from both the Notebook and the Inventory (i.e. sample management) sides of eCAT.

eCAT Notebook records are now exportable to ODF (Open Document Format = the format for Open Office).  We have chosen that format for two reasons.   The first is that eCAT is platform-agnostic; it runs on Windows, OS X and Linux, and so does ODF.  The second is that ODF supports retention of links and embedded images, so after export the formatting will be retained.

It’s also possible to export eCAT Inventory records to CSV.  We have chosen to start with CSV because in our experience scientists like to see sample data in spreadsheets.

We see this initial  export capability as a modest but important starting point for making data from eCAT ‘portable’. We plan a series of future releases with additional kinds of export capabilities.

The following brief video shows you how the new export function works.


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