Open LabBook

We use an on-line lab book as a complement or substitution to the normal (paper) laboratory book. For us it was very important that the electronic lab book also allows to place photos, pictures and mathematical equations easily. Since it is on-line we can access it from any part of the world and we make it public once the corresponding paper is accepted. It is also a nice tool for collaborative work as all thoughts and data are available daily to all members of a group in a easy way. The posts are automatically organized chronologically, can be commented by the group members, and are searchable for future reference.

We have found that a very easy way, that requires almost no additional effort or computer/scripting skills, is to write the lab book in MS Word 2007 in "blog format" connected to a WordPress blog. The advantage of using MS Word is that it allows direct copy/paste of any kind of picture, such as screen shots, figures/pictures from pdfs, matlab figures, etc. When pressing "publish" the whole word document (with figures) gets sent to wordpress, so no additional image-hosting service is necessary. In MS Word it is also possible to send the post as a draft to your wordpress blog, if you want to revise what it will look like before you publish the post to the rest of the group.

How it works:

1. Each lab member creates an account (free!) on
2. For each new project create a new blog, with its own name.
3. Invite all the lab members working on the project and make them collaborators/administrators.
    Each lab member can of course be part of several different projects (blogs).
4. Set up MS Word with your wordpress account. ("New Document -> New Blog Post", "Blog Post -> Manage Accounts").
5. Each member posts to the corresponding project blog with updates on their work, and preferably add one or more categories to the post.

Delayed Open

We have chosen to keep the current project blogs private for patent and publishing concerns, but once a project gets published, the blog can be opened to the public, for increased transparency and information transfer. Since some projects start out in one way and then grow and branch and diverge, a single project blog can sometimes end up hosting several topics, some advanced or already published and some just starting out. To be able to open up just parts of your (private) blog, we recommend using categories for all your posts, since wordpress export ("Dashboard -> Tools") lets you export posts by a number of criteria, including categories (but not tags). After having exported a category, create a new blog, import your posts, make it public and you're done!

You can find our open lab book for our latest PNAS 2009 paper here. We made no effort to make the Lab Book easy to read for everyone, but we make it public for research transparency.

For file sharing we use Dropbox.and our own server