M y L a b B o o k



Building a Free and Open Source Electronic Lab Notebook Based on the Drupal CMS

A Solid Foundation Brings Unique Capabilities

Based on a Mature Content Management System and a Decade of Experience in a University Lab

Free and Open Source

The Drupal 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.

Well Documented

One reason that a Drupal based ELN is easy to create is the numerous sources of documentation for Drupal. Whether you want to create your own custom modules, tweak the look and feel or just extend some basic functionality, you should be able to find good books, blogs, videos and online courses to accomplish your task.

Custom Content Types

One of the strong advantages of Drupal compared to other Content Management Systems is the flexibility that you have to create custom content types without any custom programming. MyLabBook leverages this in the experiments and the protocol steps, which make up the core components of the ELN.

Easy to Install

With just a few steps you can install a Drupal based ELN on a regular LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) server. This stack powers over 75% of the web. Most hosting companies offer LAMP at reasonable prices, or with minimal expertise you can set up a LAMP server in your lab.

Powerful CMS Foundation
Recently Acquia, the company founded by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert, received a major infusion of capital in order to continue to compete with the CMS market leaders of Adobe Experience Manager. and SiteCore. Of those 3 major players, only Drupal is open source, however, and provides the powerful CMS foundation for MyLabBook.

Mature and Widely Used

The Drupal Content Management System has been available since 2000. It now powers over 1.5% of the available websites and is widely used by numerous universities (e.g. Harvard, Stanford), governments (e.g., NIH , NASA), healthcare institutions (e.g., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) and high traffic commercial websites (e.g. Tesla, Cisco).

Thousands of Extensions

Thousands of free, contributed modules - data collection forms, workflow, diagramming, analysis, plotting, charting, social networking, media management, geolocation, authentication, authorization, web services, semantic web capabilities and many, many more - provide flexible customization opportunities to enhance your ELN website.

Web Services Built-In

You are not confined to just the thousands of Drupal modules. You can utilize the web service modules in the core of Drupal 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.


Drupal provides a solid and well tested foundation. An excellent security team continually monitors Drupal for flaws in the core as well as in the heavily used contributed modules. The flexibility and maturity of Drupal 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. First of all, it will be fast to deploy. The installation of a Drupal based ELN should only take a few steps. There may be a few additional steps to load sample data. Drupal is also fast in its browser response time for most situations. For larger deployments there are also ways to speed up the response time if needed.


Being free and open source is as cheap as it gets for the software. The only costs will be (1) hosting the software (which can be done on your own server, a virtual machine in the cloud or something similar) and (2) the time cost of maintaining the website and learning software proficiency. Our goal is to make the learning curve very short.

Good-Fast-Cheap... Pick Three!

Usually the trade-off for a product or task is Good - Fast - Cheap ... Pick Two. But the use of MyLabBook will give you pretty close to all three for many scenarios where you have a need for an Electronic Lab Notebook. This will be especially true as this approach continues to grow with more community involvement and matures over time.

UH Biotech Program

The University of Houston's Biotechnology program was one of the first in the nation to combine undergraduate education with research, and from the very beginning we were experimenting with the use of Drupal to help the students with their lab work.

Learning from Others
During the time that we have been using Drupal for our ELN in the UH Biotechnology Program, the use of ELNs in academic and research labs has greatly increased. We continue to learn from the advancements of others and how to leverage Drupal for similar features.


The use of Drupal as an ELN combined with the research generated from the labs of the University of Houston's Biotechnology program has generated numerous publications, beginning in 2009 and continuing through to today.

Grant Supported

Although the 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.