The Rebecca J. Holz series in Research Data Management is a monthly lecture series hosted during the spring and fall academic semesters. Research Data Services invites speakers from a variety of disciplines to talk about their research or involvement with data.
On April 13, 2016, Robert A. Haworth, Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, gave a talk entitled “labElephant: A Metadatabase Application for Managing the Research Endeavor”. You can find the slides on the Research Data Services Speakerdeck page.
Robert Haworth’s talk focused on a software he has developed, called labElephant, to help labs manage the research and discovery process. Many researchers may be familiar with electronic lab notebooks which help manage the research data lifecycle. However, Haworth has designed labElephant to merge the data management element into a larger cycle that includes the knowledge production process and the housekeeping aspects of the lab environment. labElephant provides an interface through which the user can import content from their citation manager, track important information gleaned from papers, conferences, books, etc., and then connect them to synthesize into bigger ideas or hypotheses. The user can then also link the ideas and hypotheses to the related experiments. labElephant is described as a metadatabase because the software itself does not contain any of the experimental data but instead leverages the systems in place by linking to where the data already lives on the lab’s software structures. Through the labElephant system, researchers are able to then track experiments, outcomes, materials used, methods used, as well as link that information back to the initial recorded idea or hypothesis behind the experiment. The experiment information and hypotheses can then also be produced as a report for the user to use as a skeleton for a paper or article.