Brief thoughts on the future of scientific UIs

I’m not a great fan of the term “ELN” despite the name of this blog, only because it means too many different things to many different people. As such it confuses things rather than aids communication.

Having said that, whilst I believe we’ve done a really good job in PatentSafe replacing the corporate aspects (record keeping, long term records etc.) of the Lab Notebook, scientists still need a place to work. Sometimes that’s a discipline-centric product (sometimes badged as an “ELN”, sometimes something else), sometimes Microsoft Office and other general Knowledge Worker tools.

Looking forward I can’t help but think that tools like Google Wave and WordPress (especially with 2.9’s nifty features) are the long term future. A lot of vendors have “Web based” ELNs which are nothing more than their thick-client products wrapped in a browser – which I’ve always felt is cheating.

But when you look at what people are doing with web-native UIs these days…surely the next generation of Scientific collaboration products are going to come from the blogging or Web 2.0 space, with a little chemistry added to the mix. They’re cheaper, easier to use, easier to deploy, and often more powerful than a typical thick-client “Enterprise” app – and I suspect they’re more capable of dealing with large-scale use than any of the commercial products on offer at the moment (the lack of scalability being the dirty little secret of most ELN deployments right now).

All these tools need – apart from some open mindedness – is a decent record keeping system. Which we would be happy to help with 🙂

What an exciting time…

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