This project had its genesis in the biotechnology program at the University of Houston. For the last 6 years it has been funded by an NSF grant that involved multiple institutions. We have been working on an open source implementation of an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) for over a decade. Initially we used the Drupal CMS for an ELN, but over the last year we have pivoted to using WordPress instead. We used MyLabbook as a project name for a Drupal ELN. But since the objective of making a capable free and open source ELN remains the same, we continue to use MyLabbook for the WordPress approach as well.
MyLabbook is not a product. It is an approach to construct an ELN or whatever type of web site is needed to manage your research project. We focus primarily on how to use WordPress for an ELN in this website. As such, we often mention a “WordPress ELN” when writing about what we are building.
The MyLabBook approach or WordPress ELN than is simply constructed of the following components.
The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) provides the free and open source software on which to build a web platform. WordPress is well known for its ease of installation and its ease of extension through the use of plugins. Because of its popularity (running over 40% of the websites across the globe), it has an extensive ecosystem that provides documentation, consulting services, inexpensive hosting, and very capable plugin extensions. WordPress provides the qualities of Sustainability, Affordability, Flexibility, and Ease of installation and Ease of use. This is another way to say that in many ways a WordPress ELN is a SAFE alternative.
There are over 50,000 free and open source plugins on the WordPress site and many other commercial plugins from different sources. We tried several of these plugins when trying to set up an ELN for our ESRM research project. For our initial iteration, we found that the Directories Pro plugin provided most everything that we needed for an effective ELN. The plugin includes robust tools for data collection, backup, and display. It effectively provided a GUI for Custom Post Types for our data along with other features for data maintenance. We cover this approach in our Knowledge Base.
We are now investigating the use of Formidable Forms as the basis for data collection, as they provide more flexibility in many cases.