Anyone who has taken a general laboratory class knows that the lab manual has multiple protocols that one follows in order to complete each week’s assignment. However, while the class laboratory protocol has been thoroughly tested, academic and industry protocols are often changed and improved as new information is gleaned from previous experiments. A new method can be found to improve the purity and yield of a protein purification, or the incubation time of a transformation is discovered to be optimal at room temperature rather than 42o C. While these types of changes can be tracked within a single lab, protocol changes are usually not noted by the general scientific community until the project is published, which can take many years. ZappyLab, a start up that is dedicated to creating science apps for research and benchwork, has created Protocols.io (beta) in order to remedy this issue. Protocols.io requires crowdsourcing for its success as an up-to-date protocol repository.
Crowdsourcing, or the practice of using data and information from a large number of people, has become increasingly popular with technological advances. The internet and smartphones have globalized information and increased connectivity. Websites such as Wikipedia rely on crowdsourcing for the content generation and the content validation. Scientists should be able to take advantage of crowdsourcing and the increase in information connectivity in conducting effective research.
Projects such as Protocols.io or Experiment.com are examples of the new exciting ways that research is improving, whether through crowdsourcing protocols and increasing protocol accessibility or through crowdfunding of scientific research. While software companies and tech companies such as Mathworks and R have been using crowdsourcing as a way to fix bugs and glitches, biotech companies have only recently used crowdsourcing as a way to improve research methods. After all, the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, tablets, and laptops has increased connectivity, and the scientific community can utilize this increased connectivity to promote and improve research. We at Assay Depot have been an advocate of such connectivity in scientific research, through our free platform to connect scientists to over 10,000 vendor services. However, despite the promise of drastically improving the quality of bench research time, ZappyLab acknowledges that the building of a crowd large enough is the biggest challenge for Protocols’ success, especially as scientists may not think of using an app for their research. ZappyLab has been focused on building their user acquisition for their other science applications and hopes that many current ZappyLab users will continue to use and crowdsource Protocols.
Imagine how much wasted time researchers can save if they are able to connect to an up-to-date protocol. One scientist might spend months optimizing a protocol, and now there is a tool where he can share his insights and potentially save another scientist the wasted months. ZappyLab’s Protocols can become a great resource and benefit all research scientists, as the time will be spent on real breakthroughs rather than re-discovering something that someone else already optimized or discovered. This is one app that the scientific research community should keep an eye on, especially as improvements to research efficiency can promote real discoveries.