Friday, May 9, 2014

Two innovations for scientific projects

Two good innovations for productivity lately.

1) Basecamp. I've tried different project management systems over time. Basecamp is pretty good. It's web-based. It allows unlimited users for a set number of projects. It takes care of to-do lists, calendars, discussions, and files. If you have more than 2 people on a project, I'd recommend it. $20 a month is a bargain. This isn't lab-management software, but is a good generic format for projects.

2) Filemaker + iPads. Data entry can be tough. Writing things down can be laborious and introduce transcription errors. For the new project, we've deployed a Filemaker database on the iPads for data entry. Depending on the task, there is a separate data entry window. Syncing can be a bit clunky, but it essentially requires moving the database file to a master computer and then importing the data. Still, this is a scalable approach that let's us record a lot of data and store it in a central database. A big improvement over past options and good enough for who it's for.

The iPad would be even better if we could use barcodes. Just not an option right now. Instead I introduced 4-character unique codes for all of our samples. Each iPad has a keyboard cover that  facilitates data entry. Instead of entering long strings of numbers, a 4-character code is entered. Filemaker checks to make sure it is in the database to reduce any entry errors.

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