Introducing OpenLab – Facilitate Collaboration, Promote Innovation

I am excited to announce that OpenLab is now open for anyone to sign up!!!

OpenLab banner image

OpenLab is a simple laboratory collaboration platform, where scientists can upload their data and observations and give and receive feedback on that data. We are super focused on making the experience joyful and appropriate for laboratory environments and hence focus on three things as our priority:

  1. Security and privacy of data
  2. Making sharing and communication easy and delightful
  3. Helping scientists to get even more value out of their data

So why are we doing this? When I was a scientist working in the lab, I realized that the best resource I had was my labmates, but getting input from my peers on my experiments and results was not easy. Some people did this informally, by walking up to individuals and asking ‘hey, what do you think about this data?’ Most people got input in group meeting when they stood in front of the lab every few months and asked for feedback and showed progress. Neither of these methods really made sense to me. One was very time consuming (asking a single person at a time), the other was intimidating and infrequent. So OpenLab was born.

From inception over a year ago, to today, we have learned a lot about lab communication and operations, and hence the three main pillars for this first release of OpenLab:

1. Security and privacy of data: The number 1 concern for a lab is the security and privacy of their data, and hence it was first in foremost in our application design. Having worked in the lab ourselves, we know that there is a need for privacy and security within the lab. So, for every OpenLab lab, we allow the users create groups within the lab instance that are private. Meaning, new members to the lab must be explicitly invited to the individual groups – being a member of one group does not imply permissions to other groups. This allows for interesting situations, like a group where you can be comfortable inviting external collaborators, or giving permission to undergrads for the relevant group alone.

Of course, we also use the highest internet security standards in our application and data transmission protocols.

2. Making sharing and communication easy and delightful: The current methods of communication within the lab are largely confined to in person communication, with occasional emails. However, social media has taught us that online communication can actually be easier and more fun as it is low pressure and you can distribute quickly to multiple people. So we borrow the ‘post’ process from social media as the basic structure of communication within OpenLab, including #tags and @mentions. We made even this specific to the lab: you can directly upload files from almost anywhere (dropbox, onedrive, your PC, and so on) and we have no file type or size restriction!

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3. Helping scientists to get even more value out of their data: The way research works today, most datasets are lost in someone’s notebook never to be seen again. However, with OpenLab, your data is instantly seen by the relevant people in your group and is easily found later with our management tools. Posts stay associated with the group and person, is found and filtered by #tags, and our search makes finding anything super easy!

What’s more? We have a bunch of features coming your way to make managing and using tags even easier and more interesting. As a sneak peak, we will soon allow users to define ‘preferred tags’ to get the lab using the same vocabulary, and other useful management and measurement features.

We are very excited to have you try this first release of OpenLab. Just like any other good scientist, we know that this is just the initial development, and we will work to discover more about how to improve the lives of scientists! So please give us feedback – we reply very quickly! And in the meantime:

Welcome to OpenLab!

(p.s. to learn more, check out our Help Center at ZenDesk)


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