Where sample management meets electronic lab notebook

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7 Things you can do in the electronic lab notebook eCAT (but not Google Docs!)

Posted by Rory on July 15th, 2010 @ 7:00 am

In the last post I looked at how the interface of eCAT version 3.3 is  modelled on the familiar interface of Google Docs.  This time we’ll take a look at things labs can do in eCAT to document experiments and structure and share research data.  Things you can’t do with Google Docs.   It’s a long list but here are some of the main ones:

  • Create templates like the following one with the structure that suits your research rather than the structure imposed by a spreadsheet, a word document or a wiki page

  • Use links between records to create databases like the following one that capture your workflow and relationships like those between an experiment and the samples used in the experiment

  • Utilize the structures you put into your research records to (a) set up uniform methods of entering data, improving its quality and consistency, and (b) conduct fine-grained search — e.g. on all the records with Procedure field containing ‘ELISA’ — so that eCAT becomes a  repository which can be used by newcomers to the lab and others who did not work on a particular piece of research
  • Set up groups of users and variable permissions on a record by record basis, e.g. give the PI view and edit permission on the records in a particular Project or, on a postdocs’s experiment, give view only permissions to a PhD student who has been assigned to observe the experiment, and keep some records entirely private
  • View a full audit trail of all actions undertaken in eCAT
  • Sign and authorize experiments
  • Send messages and set tasks, which can be associated with particular records, so that eCAT becomes a tool for communication as well as collaboration

In sum,with eCAT you get the all the advantages of an online collaborative tool like Google Docs and the ability for everyone in the lab to bring their labbooks online.  So you can manage your research data along with general lab information in a single, integrated collaborative environment.

Familiar interfaces: Why the electronic lab notebook eCAT and Google Docs have similar dashboards

Posted by Rory on July 12th, 2010 @ 7:00 am

When we brought out  version 3.3 of eCAT last week we made the interface

look a lot like the Google Docs interface

Why?  We’re following the advice of our eCAT users! One eCAT user, Andreas Johansson at Lund University in Sweden,  made the point that:

If something is hard to get started with and easy to use a lot of people will just have a look at and never get around to starting the first experiment. The main reason I chose eCAT is because it’s really easy to get started with and use.

We want you to take advantage of  the extra functionality  eCAT offers without having to spend time finding your way around an unfamiliar system.  We know that a lot of labs are using Google Docs as a document sharing and group editing tool, so we thought it was the obvious model to look to when we decided to redesign eCAT’s interface.

The first thing you’ll want to do in eCAT  is either create a new record or import/upload an existing one.  In both Google Docs and eCAT you can do this at the top left.  Then across the top of the page in both Google Docs and eCAT there is a set of tabs giving you access to other things you can do.  And finally, they both give you a list of your recent records in the main body of the page — just like your email inbox.

Another feature  that people find useful in Google Docs is the template page

So, we’ve made a new template page in eCAT that, once again, is modeled on its Google Docs counterpart

So if you use Google Docs, you should find eCAT easy to get started with and use.