The problem motivating the development of e-Labs is the shortage of public benefit from investments in science and public services, due to fragmentation of communities, data and analytical methods. In other words, silos of research that could be more effective and efficient if the researchers had easy ways to find and share resources when they need them. The divisions are common between disciplines, for example social vs. biomedical science investigations of obesity. But they also exist within disciplines, for example between biomedical scientists investigating nutritional v. physical activity components of obesity.
An e-Lab is an information system for bringing together people, data and analytical methods at the point of investigation or decision-making.
We envision three uses of an e-Lab: empirical research; audit; and decision-support. Audit is a special case of research, extended by repeating a research process after a change is made to a process (for example, screening for eye problems in diabetics) in a continuous cycle of quality improvement.
Evolution and phases of e-Labs
Our current work is focusing on the notion of Research Objects, and the definition of basic schemas describing their common aspects, along with an initial collection of services allowing the creation and manipulation of Research Objects. This is being done within the context of a number of projects including wf4ever, Obesity e-Lab, SysMO-DB, ONDEX, Shared Genomics, myExperiment and BioCatalogue.
MethodBox is being developed as an e-Lab for sharing and analysing data.