A Protocol for Protocols: Organizing and Sharing Your Research Methods

Every lab has it’s own set of scientific protocols, standard techniques that it routinely uses and that new members of the lab need to learn. Some protocols are fairly routine and can be looked up in a practical manual and followed as they are but often a lot of time and effort goes into developing them. Various protocols might have been tried and combined to produce exactly the right protocol for the needs of that particular lab. Even with standard protocols that work well there is often a need to optimize the preparation of the specimens used, for example in molecular biology protocols the method of extraction for the DNA, RNA or protein will depend on the source. Well written clear protocols are a key resource for getting new members of the lab up to speed. Joining a new lab is a challenging time and there is often much to learn:

  • who everyone is
  • what they do and what they know about
  • where everything is
  • who is responsible for what
  • how to order things
  • what the local rules are for waste disposal
  • and of course new techniques/protocols

Have a Central Electronic Repository of Protocols

A central repository for research protocols makes a lot of sense but paper copies can end up being out of date having been optimized and updated by numerous lab members over time. A central electronic repository that everyone has access to is really the best solution, if protocols are adapted for slightly different purposes different modified forms can be saved. Labguru not only allows everyone access to this vital resource, it is then quick and simple for anyone to look up where the different reagents are stored (If this is not included in the protocol) and the ordering details so that reagents can be quickly and easily re-ordered which can help to streamline laboratory management.

Enhance Lab Communication

Having a resource like this for protocol management helps the lab to run smoothly and even promotes good lab communication, lab members won’t always think to mention that they’ve tried a slightly different reagent or developed a modified form of the protocol but when lab members are encouraged to keep an electronic record of their protocols up to date and accessible, everyone can easily see what’s been tried. With the comment function within Biodata making it so easy to discuss things online and email alerts to let people know something new has been added, everyone will be able to stay up to date with the latest developments of their colleagues.