Drupal for an Electronic Lab Notebook

Much of the original work for this project was sponsored by the University of Houston's biotechnology program and the Center for Life Sciences Technology.

Inexpensive, Flexible and Extensible

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Drupal for an Electronic Lab Notebook

Drupal is one of the most successful open source content management systems. Its success springs from many aspects that make it an excellent candidate for use as a Electronic Lab Notebook as well.

* Free and open source and comparatively easy to set up and learn

* Mature and widely used in academia, industry and government, which speaks well for its sustainability

* Easy to create custom content types for use in describing experimental protocols and data

Drupal could also be used to build a very capable Laboratory Informatics System as well, but we focus within this site primarily on ELN capabilities.

Being built on a powerful CMS brings the flexibility other dedicated laboratory informatics systems may lack.

* Thousands of free, custom modules to enhance any setup - data collection forms, workflow, diagramming, analysis, plotting & charting, social networking, media management, geodata, authentication and authorization, service architecture infrastructure, semantic web capabilities

* Works well with the increasing move towards using services for research in the cloud and project based collaboration

Cheap, Fast, Good - Pick Three!
We believe that Drupal provides a unique combination in the extent that it fulfills these three qualities compared to other options.

* Cheap - Being free and open source opens the door for any lab - large or small - or for citizen science or similar projecs to reap the benefits.

* Fast to Ramp Up - The installation process is straightforward for anyone familiar with installing software on a LAMP stack. Alternatively, many internet providers offer a one-click Drupal install and some are focused solely on hosting your Drupal web sites. Documentation is also plentiful.

* Good for Scientific Data Manangement - Drupal is used by some of the largest web sites in the world and is continually monitored by the community for security and the quality of its modules. And we believe a strong case can be made that the free modules are more appropriate for scientific data management than any other open source content management system.

We have developed an electronic lab notebook for the biotechnology program at the University of Houston based on the Drupal content management system (see our publications). This has provided undergraduate students with exposure to basic data collection and sharing capabilities, similar to what they will likely encounter in their employment or graduate work. There is much more that can be done, however, both in expanding these capabilities for our own lab as well as making these capabilities available to other labs and research programs. Our goal for this website is to enhance the sharing of information for the use of Drupal as an electronic lab notebook, which will be a win-win-win for our lab, other labs and the progress of research investigations as a whole. We have recently been awarded a $2.1 million grant from NSF that will help to support these efforts.