Robust User Management along with Data Collection, Management and Display Capabilities
The WordPress Content Management System is distributed under the GNU Public License version 2. This gives you free access to the source code and the ability to freely modify it as desired. However, you are not required to distribute your modifications as long as they are confined to your website.
WordPress's extensive documentation makes it straightforward to modify your platform for your specific needs. Build your own custom modules, tweak the look and feel of your site or extend some basic functionality. You can find good books, blogs, videos and online courses to make these modifications.
A useful feature of WordPress is the flexibility of easily creating custom content types (called Custom Post Types or CPTs in WordPress). This can be done through the use of various plugins or with relatively simple programming. You can leverage the ability to create CPTs to form an Open Source Research Platform that works specifically for your needs.
You can famously install a WordPress web site with just a few steps on a regular LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) server. The LAMP stack powers over 75% of the web and WordPress powers over 40% of all websites. Most hosting companies offer LAMP and WordPress at very reasonable prices or with minimal expertise you can set up LAMP and WordPress in your lab.
The WordPress Content Management System has been available since 2002. It now powers over 40% of the available websites and is widely used by numerous universities, governmental organizations, and commercial institutions.
There are over 50,000 free and paid plugins for features like data collection, forms, workflow, diagramming, analysis, plotting, charting, social networking, media management, geolocation, authentication, authorization, and web services. These plugins provide the flexibility needed to create the custom capabilities for the needs of your particular research website.
You are not confined to just the thousands of WordPress modules. You can utilize the web service modules in the core of WordPress or from contributed modules to link to cloud services on the web, including dozens of services like Genomic Understanding, Machine Learning, Computer Vision or Cognitive Services from Google, Microsoft, AWS and others.
WordPress provides a solid and well tested foundation. An excellent security team continually monitors WordPress for flaws in the core as well as in the heavily used contributed modules. The flexibility and maturity of WordPress provides numerous well-tested and powerful capabilities. And the open source nature provides the ability to extend and verify as needed.
Fast can mean a couple of things in this context. For speed of deployment, the installation of a WordPress website only takes a few steps for a standard installation or distribution. For speed in browser response time, WordPress is good for most situations. For large deployments response time can be improved through well-understood technical enhancements like caching.
WordPress has an obvious cost and flexibility advantage because it is free and open source. The only costs will be (1) hosting the software (on your own local server, shared hosting, in the cloud, or something similar) and (2) the cost and time in maintaining your website and learning WordPress proficiency. The goal of the resources on this website is to make the learning curve for building your Research Platform as quick and easy as possible.
Usually the trade-off for a product or task is Good - Fast - Cheap ... Pick Two. But the appropriate use of WordPress as a Research Platform can oftentimes get you close to meeting all three of these criteria. This should be especially true as this approach becomes more widely adopted and the resources and documentation for this approach continue to grow from more community involvement and as the capabilities of WordPress continue to mature over time.
The NSF funded ESRM research project has utilized a CMS for collecting and analyzing data for over 10 years. The first CMS used was Drupal and then in 2022 the project switched to WordPress for its more extensive set of plugins and improved ease of use. Our use of a CMS has resulted in several publications that describe the usefulness and flexibility of a CMS approach in greater detail.
WordPress has already been used in numerous other science related applications. Since WordPress capabilities continue to increase, WordPress has the potential to become even more relevant for future science related applications.
Although a WordPress ELN is not the focus of a recent NSF grant, it does allow us to continue to learn from and make adaptations to this approach and make those findings freely available to other researchers.
The ability of WordPress to create custom content types can be leveraged for the different content types needed for ELNs. Changes to existing content types or adding new content types requires only a few easily learned steps.
Because of the unique flexibility of content types, the WordPress CMS can be used for investigations in physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, archeology, animal sciences, health sciences, and nearly any other area of research.
Many other ELNs offer minimal or no capabilities concerning mapping or geolocation of data points. However, WordPress offers numerous geolocation modules that provide great flexibility for geolocation analysis and map display.
The extensive WordPress community and resources for learning and development are outstanding. We plan for this website to be a strong venue as well for support specifically for a WordPress-based Open Source Platform for Research.