Our experiences with software for managing lab data and reagents in silico…
Over the last year, we have toyed around with different ways to keep Electronic Lab Notebooks as well as manage lab stocks, reagents, animals etc. on line. It would be so great if we had found the perfect solution that integrates all our needs into one platform. Unfortunately (within the limited set we have tried), such a panacea doesn’t seem to exist … yet ! However, for the things we want to do (see below), we find that a combination of two commercial solutions works great : Labguru and mLims.
The basic idea when we started the evaluation process was to be able to (a) keep a shared electronic notebook where different lab members can keep/track/share raw data in a searchable format (b) manage different lab projects and tasks online, (c) manage a searchable online inventory of reagents and cells lines (c) manage the mouse colony completely online – tracking cages, breeding etc. in an easy format that new people can quickly pick up (d) keep track of budget, ordering and receipt of supplies and (e) manage lab activities and schedules online.
While it turns out that there are individual software that do each of these tasks really well, none really offer everything in a well tied up bundle. Labguru is the closest to doing most of these things .. but not quite. However, we should point out that the platform has evolved considerably in the time since we started using it. (so there is hope :-)). Labguru’s real strength from the beginning was in project and inventory management. It has a simple and intuitive template for organizing projects and experiments (once you get used to what their individual fields “milestones” vs “experiments” vs “results” etc.) really mean. Its inventory modules are pretty straightforward. You can assign different storage areas, catalog items, search etc. etc. But although (at least in the early versions) it wasn’t really set up to be a ELN – we found that by using the projects format and uploading data under the documents or experiments sections, we could use it as one without too much trouble. It still doesn’t have the complex raw data integration and analysis templates that some really good ELNs have – but this works fine for us.
The component of Labguru that was really limiting for us was mouse colony management. However, there are a few free and commercial software that are out there – specifically designed for just this. Although not the most powerful or most comprehensive of those, href=”http://bioinforx.com/lims/online-transgenic-mouse-colony-management-software-system/mlims” target=”_blank”>mLims turned out to be the most user-friendly. There is minimal effort in setting up the database and not much of a learning curve in getting people in the lab to use it. Again, it is an evolving software and we are really hoping that some of the feature requests we put in to their development team come through.