We have implemented an initial demo version of a Drupal based Electronic
Lab Notebook (ELN) which shows some of the unique capabilities of this approach.
The Flexibility of a Drupal Approach
The overall approach is based on the use of custom content types, which
allow us to attach fields as needed to the standard Drupal content type of a node.
In this case, we only need two custom content types - the Experiment and
the Protocol Step.
The Experiment stores the information pertaining to a given experiment as a whole.
The Experiment then usually references one or more Protocol Steps. Each Protocol
Step then contains the appropriate sets of data fields where the researcher can store
the data for the procedure that they are performing. The sets of data fields
are then displayed using separate tabs for the given Protocol Step.
By using appropriate Drupal modules, we are able to accommodate numerous different
types of data fields, including the following.
Task List - Customizable list of tasks to be done in any Protocol Step
Rich Text Fields - Using HTML formatting tags for variations in styled text
Data Tables - Configurable HTML tables to store and display data
Geolocation Data - Can be shown on a Google map or other maps with
appropriate freely available keys. This can be used in conjunction with the
Address fields for automatic lookup of coordinates
Image and File Uploads - You can designate what file extensions
are allowable for upload (e.g., xlsx, docx, pdf, png, jpg)
URLs - you can record one URL or a list of URLs with website names
that may be relevant to the protocol step
Tables of Specific Value Types - If you wish to capture a group of a given
data type, then there are tabs that contain given types of data along with an
associated label for each data item. The types of data that are available using
this approach include integers, decimal values, floating point values, plain text
values and date values.
Videos - Videos can either be uploaded to your server and displayed or
they can be displayed from YouTube.
Easy Installation from a Repository
This is the first demo version of this approach where we have released
the full source code on our
repository. This repository is set up to allow you to easily install
your own version of a Drupal based ELN.
This uses an approach that is similar to the approach that many Drupal theme developers use
to deliver an installable version of Drupal that uses their theme along with demo content.
The installation steps are shown on the home README.md file of the GitHub repository.
The installation procedure is also explained in the video below.
Demo Version for Your Exploration
We have also created a demo version of the Drupal based ELN that we intend to update and
This should make it easy for you to try out the functionality of this approach and perhaps
answer some basic questions you might have about a Drupal based ELN. Currently (and probably
at least for the near future) this demo version mirrors fairly well what you will get if you
install a Drupal based ELN yourself from the MyLabBook GitHub repository.
The demo version can be accessed at the following URL.
On the home page you should see information about how you might login as a Student or a Lab Admin.
You will not be able to edit the 2 demo experiments, but you will be able to create new
experiments and protocol steps yourself and see how everything works.
It is our hope that this initial version can be useful for many situations where someone
may want to use this freely available ELN approach for their research. With the
flexibility of having access to multiple different data types, a fairly easy installation
and thousands of additional freely available Drupal modules, there are a great many possibilities
for customizing this ELN to a researcher's needs without too much time or effort involved.
With continued input and feedback and the resulting continued refinements,
perhaps this approach can result in lower costs and improved functionality for researchers
as they continue to bring about appropriate scientific and other research advancements.