As scientists, we are constantly expanding the frontiers of research and knowledge. Yet, we are also constantly re-discovering knowledge that others have not had the time to publish and improving existing methods without the ability to share the improvements with the world. The mission of ZappyLab is to change this with the protocols.io repository.
Imagine you spend 3 months instead of a week to do a simple DNA transformation in a new species. After much frustration and many cups of coffee later, you discover that you need to do it at room temperature instead of the 42-degree water bath. This is a tiny but critical detail in a common technique. Unfortunately, there is no effective way to let others working with this species know about your discovery.
We started ZappyLab to create a free, central, up-to-date, crowdsourced protocol repository.
We just launched the beta version of protocols.io. This is where you will be able to share and discover changes, corrections, and optimizations of published methods. The trick is to make the sharing easy and crowdsourced. That's why we have built a protocol checklist app, inside our mobile Bench Tools suite on iOS and Android.
We are raising the funds to enable the sharing of protocol modifications from the mobile app with a tap of a button, and to implement the visualization of the edits on protocols.io. So if you discover the need for room temperature instead of 42 degrees, you can tap "SHARE" on your phone and this change instantly appears on protocols.io and is automatically broadcasted to everyone who is using this protocol.
And do keep in mind that we are just getting started. We are bursting with useful features that we want to include in Bench Tools (text-to-speech timer that announces "PCR timer completed" instead of buzzing, ability to troubleshoot your protocol by connecting to other researchers using it in the same species, and many, many others). Our protocol checklist will soon be on Google Glass and we are actively exploring hands-free devices and controls so that in the future, you will be able to use Bench Tools while pipetting in your gloves.
- April 2014 - Make published protocols editable on your mobile device or protocols.io
- May 2014 - "SHARE" button to submit the changes. And interface to visualize all comments/changes on step-level at protocols.io.
- June 2014 - Ability to connect for trouble-shooting to other scientists who are using a given protocol.
Risks and challenges
By far, the hardest hurdle is getting the crowd. Without annotations, a protocol on the most beautiful website repository is no more useful than the original static journal publication.
For two years, we have been obsessively focused on user acquisition by creating free utilities for Life Scientists. We have released a panel of terrific tools for research and lab work . We also built a research-blogging platform (www.pubchase.com/essays) that allows scientists to tell the stories behind their published papers. A month ago, we also launched a career forum with a terrific panel of academic and industry mentors (www.pubchase.com/career/ask). Everything that we make is available for free on iOS, Android, and the web, and thousands of scientists are already using our apps and PubChase.
Our enterprise is an experiment in facilitating a new type of collaboration within the Scientific Community. Scientists have to download our Bench Tools app, have to like it, use it, and then tap "share" on the protocols. Like any research project or startup, there's a risk that this might not be successful, but as Max Planck once said, "Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: 'Ye must have faith.' "
With your support and feedback, www.protocols.io will revolutionize the way we do research. We will spend less time re-discovering, and more of the bench work will go towards breakthroughs and acquiring new knowledge.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)