An essential aspect of scientific reproducibility is a coherent and complete acquisition of metadata along with the actual data of an experiment. The high degree of complexity and heterogeneity of neuroscience experiments requires a rigorous management of the associated metadata. The odML framework represents a solution to organize and store complex metadata digitally in a hierarchical format that is both human and machine readable. However, this hierarchical representation of metadata is difficult to handle when metadata entries need to be collected and edited manually during the daily routines of a laboratory. With odMLtables, we present an open-source software solution that enables users to collect, manipulate, visualize, and store metadata in tabular representations (in xls or csv format) by providing functionality to convert these tabular collections to the hierarchically structured metadata format odML, and to either extract or merge subsets of a complex metadata collection. With this, odMLtables bridges the gap between handling metadata in an intuitive way that integrates well with daily lab routines and commonly used software products on the one hand, and the implementation of a complete, well-defined metadata collection for the experiment in a standardized format on the other hand. We demonstrate usage scenarios of the odMLtables tools in common lab routines in the context of metadata acquisition and management, and show how the tool can assist in exploring published datasets that provide metadata in the odML format.
Keywords: electrophysiology; graphical user interface (GUI); laboratory routines and automation; metadata management; open metadata Markup Language (odML); reproducibility and tools.
Copyright © 2019 Sprenger, Zehl, Pick, Sonntag, Grewe, Wachtler, Grün and Denker.