ObjectiveLaboratory notebooks are at the heart of scientific research. Notebooks allow researchers to plan their projects, organize their experiments, and record their results. Notebooks are also used as a long term, legally defensible, record of research, invention, and records management. The signed and time-stamped details provided in notebooks are used as evidence needed for regulatory compliance.
An electronic version of the scientific notebook extends the capabilities of its paper counterpart by allowing scientists located across the country to share the record of ideas, data, and events of their joint experiments and research programs.
Through a multi-lab collaboration, LBNL, ORNL, and PNNL are developing a modular, extensible, electronic notebook framework and using it to produce cross-platform interoperating notebook implementations. The implementations are based on modern object oriented design and allow Web based access to a notebook. The notebook implementations by conforming to a common notebook object and communication mechanism, notebooks can interoperate and to share components for input and display of sketches, text, equations, images, graphs, and other data types, as well as tools for authentication and other services.
ApproachOur electronic notebook research covers the three basic areas listed below. All three of the labs are working together to complete the specified subtasks. Progress is being made in all three areas and documented in a shared project notebook. The accomplishments section describes which tasks are completed.
Notebook Architecture Design
Develop Compliant Notebook Implementation(s)
- Define a standard notebook object as an extensible meta-data object that contains required fields such as author, creation date/time, MIME type of the data, etc. And allows for new meta-data fields to be defined as needed.
- Specify basic functionality that a compliant notebook supports such as adding entries, retrieving a specified entry, and searching.
- Define how the base functionality can be extended through an Editor API and through extensions to notebook objects.
- Specify interoperability between different notebook implementations
Make Electronic Notebooks Available to Collaboratories
- Develop implementations based on the Common Notebook Architecture specification.
- Demonstrate interoperability between compliant implementations
- Expand the base functionality by developing input and display tools that can customize the notebook to specific collaboratory needs.
In addition we have close ties with and participate in meetings of the Collaborative Electronic Notebook Systems Consortium. CENSA's goal is to create and expand the markets for scientific laboratory software.
- Offer prototype notebooks to DOE2000 pilot projects
- Make electronic notebook software available to other collaboratories and interested individuals
- Use feedback from users to refine the notebook design and functionality
Highlights from past 12 months
- Supplied support for Public Key Certificate Authentication of Users
- Akenti security incorporated into Diesel Collaboratory notebook
- Co-authored with ORNL Lab records a "DOE electronic notebook requirements document" and defining an EN distribution and support model Lab Records could adopt to meet their records management requirements.
- Worked with Margret Spurlin in ORNL Office of Tech Transfer on EN
- Implemented performance improvements in implementations
- Studied the refactoring of the sofware using patterns. Reverse engineered some of the code using Rational Rose, generating UML representations of the software.
- Studied Object Store database management system, and the impact of replacing OPM by Object Store. This study concluded that significant redesign would be needed.
- researched and outlined preliminary design of a database management connectivity switch.
- Increased User Base for Notebook Software -- Many collaboratories, industries, labs, and national facilities are now using our software to help support their research.
- Released Improved Notebook Software -- based on feedback from the many users and to meet the evolving specifications of the Common Notebook Architecture.
- PNNL release of version 4.11 notebook
- ELN wizard and WORD/EXCEL macros.
- Digital Signature capabilities within the notebook framework.
- Local client install gives up to 10X faster startup.
- Simpler more powerful user interface.
- LBNL release of version 4.2 notebook
- Paper notes created with Cross Pad can be uploaded into a shared whiteboard and saved into the notebook.
- Instrument data collected from MMC instruments automatically inserted into the notebook
- Capability to regroup elements, moving them from one subtree into another.
- Capability of sending and receiving MIME archivals
- ORNL release of version 1.11 notebook
- Simplified installation
- More configuration options
- Improved sketchpad software
Future and Ongoing ResearchWhile much progress has been made in the design and development of base notebook functionality and interoperability, much research remains to be done before electronic notebooks will be able to meet the needs of the wide user base who stand to gain from the continued improvement in this technology. Below is a list of the most critical research areas identified by users of our prototype software.
- Provide Records Management Functionality -- including pilot tests of electronic notebooks as official laboratory records
- Define Integration Mechanisms for third party software -- Such as commodity editors, real-time collaboration tools, problem solving environments, mathematical packages, instruments, etc.
- Incorporation of Digital Library features such as OCR to archive legacy notebooks in electronic form.
- Investigation of, and support for emerging standards -- such as XML, Web Digital Authoring and Versioning, and Open Document Management Architecture
- Wireless input devices, such as palm pilot and wireless Web devices.
- "Knowledge discovery" language support
- Access to heterogeneous databases via federations
Tool AvailabilityDOE2K notebook software is available and in use by 100's of groups around the country including collaboratories, industry, education, and medical research.
The fact that so many groups have started using our initial implementations underscores the importance and potential impact of this continued research across the entire scientific community.