Cellkulture, the electronic lab notebook for cell culture, closes

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 2.47.24 PMCellkulture (blog post), the electronic lab notebook dedicated to cell culture is closing. In an email sent to his users, Cellkulture founder Dave Pier, explains that all activity will be stopped on the 10th of September 2014:

We are very sorry to announce that CellKulture will be shutting down on 10th September. At that point, CellKulture.com will no longer be available and all data deleted.

It’s our top priority to help you during this transition. Please visit http://CellKulture.com before 10th September to export your data. […]

Unfortunately, the high turn over of startups over is common for such a young industry. New ideas are constantly being tried out and they sometimes do not meet the users or the funder’s expectations rapidly enough. A normal process, yes, but still a problematic phenomena for researchers wanting to adopt these new tools since hours are invested entering data in the tool are simply lost, and the precious data are left without a home.

Cellkulture however. is doing a good job at letting its users down easy. The user’s data can be exported and the project might soon be available as a free open source production so that users can continue with this platform is they wish to do so. Still, this highlights the need for clearer opt-out policies for these young data-based startups. The user’s data should be exportable at all times, and it should be made clear how to read, search or import the data to one of the competitor’s solutions. Ideally, this should be clear right from the start, when adopting a new tool, not when the ship is sinking.

Free cloud-based lab notebook: Hivebench

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at 3.23.25 PMShazino, is with Zappy lab one of the rare developers of high-quality mobile apps for researchers. Shazino offers a lab timer, bacterial colony counter, a paper reference manager and a plasmid-sharing platform, all available on iphone’s iOS.

But Shazino’s flagship product is now a electronic lab notebook, that has a lot to offer: Hivebench. In direct competition with other cloud-based and user-friendly solutions such as Labguru and Labfolder, Hivebench is a serious contender. It offer all the basics of lab notebooks including advanced text editing, and integration of images and videos. And it comes with an iphone mobile app that allows you to view and edit the notebook entries on the go.

When starting an experiment, you first create the notebook that will gather notes from experiments of a project you are working on. When creating a new entry, a template is automatically suggested for you to help you keep your notebook as standardized as possible. There, you can enter what your objectives are, what samples and procedures you are running, and what were the results of the experiments.

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Hivebench lab notebook interface, with a suggested template.

Of course, there is no obligation to follow the template and a few interesting functionalities help you customize your notebook entries. For example, you can display schematics of well plates with a single click and Hivebench makes it easy to add lists of experimental steps that will be automatically accompanied of a checkbox.

A couple more advanced options are also there to give more dynamic documents: inventory and protocols. A list of reagents can be imported or added manually in the Hivebench database then easily referred-to in the notebook. If done consistently, it becomes easy to track each reagent and see when they were acquired, where they are stored, in what experiment they were used, and when they expire.

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Hivebench lab inventory, where all reagent details are listed.

Protocols can also be entered in a database then automatically included in the notebook, avoiding you to re-write routine protocols every time. In addition, similar to the protocols.io initiative, Hivebench allows users to store their protocols in a public and cloud-based repository. Any Hivebench user can then directly import protocols from the repository.

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Hivebench public repository of protocols.

Hivebench also comes with a task manager and a calendar to plan the experiments so that your entire workflow can be managed from this single platform. Collaborative functions are of course well implemented, allowing you to easily share any of the items created in Hivebench. Mobility is now also a must for an electronic lab notebook, and Hivebench comes with a free mobile app for Iphone and Ipads which allows everything from reading your protocols to editing the notebook, right from the bench.

Hivebench is free for up to 10 team members and provides up to 10 GB of cloud storage for free, which is a significant advantage compared to other platforms such as Labguru. Hivebench can also be installed locally, which can be reassuring and economically more interesting for larger structures.