Labii electronic lab notebook (ELN) and laboratory information management system (LIMS)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Is an ELN & LIMS too expensive for you?

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Is an ELN & LIMS too expensive for you?

People said YES are usually from academic. In their mind, research software should be open source, free, and accessible at any time, anywhere. This is because the software developed inside a research lab is often funded by the government like NSF or NIH. The funding policy requires the research scientists to make it publicly accessible. And, they are getting used to that.

Can an ELN and LIMS be free like other scientific software packages? Most of the scientific software packages are usually developed by one or a few people, and barely maintained. These packages are usually the projects of graduate students or post-doc, once they graduated or left, it is out of continuity. An ELN and LIMS is a complex software platform, requires a group of developers working on it and improve it, for a long period of time to keep up the new technology and new requirements. This is one reason that it cannot simply be achieved as a side project of graduate students. Also, the funding resources like NIH or NSF do not consider ELN / LIMS software platform to be innovative enough to support. They are more willing to support the discovery scientific projects. I have personally applied SBIR twice for Labii ELN & LIMS, and are all failed for such reason. To conclude, the development of ELN & LIMS cannot be developed with a few researchers and difficult to get government funding resources, as such, it won't work to make it free like other scientific packages.

How about open source? Open-source sounds like a great idea to keep a big on-going project free. However, open-source will never go with security. Data generated in ELN & LIMS are essential and sensitive, they are the most important part of research and the representative of the intellectual property. With open-source ELN or LIMS, anyone can spot the source code and can utilize the bug to hack other people's research data. If you do not want to risk your data, do not use open-source ELN & LIMS.

If ELN & LIMS is not free, is it too expensive? Some people are not used to spend money on software. It just feels like too much to spend, even it brings more value than the cost. Other people have the wrong mindset that the results are what matters, the process of documentation does not. As such, they produce poor results that cannot be repeated by others, or even by themselves. Most of students or post-docs, who claim they do not have money, spend $140/month in coffee, and at least $50/month in movies. However, it is ironic that they do not want to spend a fraction of that cost in the ELN and LIMS, which on the other hand, controls the most important data in their research career.

The cost of ELN & LIMS is not millions of dollars that will make your lab bankruptcy, it only cost you a couple of coffees. Scientists should value their research data more and change their mindset in using ELN & LIMS.

Draft by Yonggan Wu
Proofread by Matthew Manalac

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