laboratory informatics ➤

budget. Te cost of licenses and support for proprietary soſtware, LIMS or ELN, ranges from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of US dollars – which means that most academic institutions and smaller institutes cannot afford it. To overcome this, some newer vendors already offer ‘freemium’ options, giving them leverage over the older players on the market. Te third reason lies in the soſtware itself. How is it possible, that up until now there was no soſtware that would meet researcher’s expectations?

Ease of use is crucial When we asked researchers what they expect from an ELN, the answer was clear: ease of use. Would you use Skype or any other

soſtware if it had numerous drop down menus and a requirement to click five times before you could call anyone? Of course not! Researchers want an ELN that would have the features they are familiar with from social media, phone apps or web apps they are using daily. Tey want to drag and drop files, take pictures and instantly upload them as results; they want to share the results with their colleagues, instantly create reports and easily search through the content. Recently, a new concept has been

introduced to the ELN market. sciNote is a free and open-source ELN that was kick- started in mid-December 2015 and released in February 2016.


Everything within sciNote is time

stamped, so full data traceability is guaranteed. You can also invite people to a project, assign tasks, add tags, checklists and comments – features that you are already familiar with from apps such as Facebook, Trello and Dropbox. It runs on Amazon cloud but, if the institution policy requires installation on premises, it is also possible to install sciNote on a local server. Researchers can use it on their mobile devices and PCs. Tis means if you are a principal

investigator, you can instantly see the latest research results your colleagues have put


An example of additiional modules created for sciNote analysis

into sciNote and contribute with your own results or comments. Tis significantly reduces the time needed for update meetings, which according to the article1 ‘Te Biggest Time Wasters in Research’ – can take approximately 35 per cent of the laboratory manager’s time. On the other hand, as a researcher you can take sciNote to your lab on a tablet or smartphone and finally get rid of paper protocols, sticky notes, printing, cutting and gluing. And most importantly, you will always be able to find your data!

Easier integration Let’s return to those popular buzzwords. As opposed to proprietary soſtware, open-source soſtware is much easier to integrate with other soſtware and laboratory instruments. Communities of scientists and soſtware developers are constantly contributing new soſtware, thereby assuring interoperability. Involving scientific community and encouraging it to develop new modules is a crucial step in making soſtware flexible enough to be used in laboratories working in different scientific fields. Laboratory equipment vendors are also

realising the importance of interoperability and that laboratory devices of the future will all be part of the Internet of Tings.

Add-ons such as instrument integration modules, special application modules, and analysis modules all make it easier for instrument providers to connect their systems with open-source soſtware. Just recently Gilson from Wisconsin, USA announced that all its devices (from manual pipettes to liquid handling robots) can now be connected to sciNote. In this way you can track your scientific protocols and results as well as control laboratory equipment and automatically collect the data generated. At every event the feeling I got from

the scientists was the same; everyone understands that there is too much data and that there should be systems in place for managing it, but it is difficult to start the procedure. Most people have never used an ELN system and do not know who to ask, or where to start. sciNote is a good starting point for anyone who is thinking about integrating an ELN, since it is free and really easy to pick up. When a majority of researchers are using

an ELN, interoperability and everything else will follow. Te willingness to change from the paper laboratory notebooks to an ELN will alter the way we manage our scientific data. Te ball is now in the court of the research community.l

Jana Erjavec is product manager at BioSistemika 1

@scwmagazine l


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