TITLE: Using Code to Document Lab Procedure AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 29, 2009 7:33 AM DESC: ----- BODY: a lab notebook I've been following the idea of open notebook science for a while, both for its meaning to science and for the technological need it creates. Yesterday I read Cameron Neylon's piece on a web-native lab notebook. It was an interesting read, though it did contain a single paragraph that ran for two pages... After he describes how to use a blog to organize an integrated record of lab activities, he says:
What we're left with is the procedures which after all is the core of the record, right? Well no. Procedures are also just documents. Maybe they are text documents, but perhaps they are better expressed as spreadsheets or workflows (or rather the record of running a workflow). Again these may well be better handled by external services, be they word processors, spreadsheets, or specialist services. They just need to be somewhere where we can point at them.
Procedures are, well, procedures. It would be very cool if we could help scientists record their procedures as code. Programs require more precision than free-form text, which would make sharing scientific procedures more reliable, and they support naturally the distinction between static and dynamic presentation. Neylon sees this opportunity when he talks about recording a procedure as a workflow or as a record of running one. Just another wild-hair idea at the boundary where CS meets people doing their work. -----