A System to Easily Manage Metadata in Biomedical Research Labs Based on Open-source Software

Bio Protoc. 2022 May 5;12(9):e4404. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4404.


In most biomedical labs, researchers gather metadata (i.e., all details about the experimental data) in paper notebooks, spreadsheets, or, sometimes, electronic notebooks. When data analyses occur, the related details usually go into other notebooks or spreadsheets, and more metadata are available. The whole thing rapidly becomes very complex and disjointed, and keeping track of all these things can be daunting. Organizing all the relevant data and related metadata for analysis, publication, sharing, or deposit into archives can be time-consuming, difficult, and prone to errors. By having metadata in a centralized system that contains all details from the start, the process is greatly simplified. While lab management software is available, it can be costly and inflexible. The system described here is based on a popular, freely available, and open-source wiki platform. It provides a simple but powerful way for biomedical research labs to set up a metadata management system linking the whole research process. The system enhances efficiency, transparency, reliability, and rigor, which are key factors to improving reproducibility. The flexibility afforded by the system simplifies implementation of specialized lab requirements and future needs. The protocol presented here describes how to create the system from scratch, how to use it for gathering basic metadata, and provides a fully functional version for perusal by the reader. Graphical abstract: Lab Metadata Management System.

Keywords: Data; Database; Lab management; Metadata; Reproducibility; Rigor.