During a research project, how do you record your data, conclusions and the samples you produce? What about ideas, insights and thought-trains? It would be very useful to have a good system to easily store all of these valuable products of your work and retrieve them when you need to look at your data or your thoughts on a particular problem weeks, months, or years later.
I am a bit of an obsessive about this sort of thing and a few months ago I found Central Desktop, an online facility for managing project data that satisfies even my requirements. . There are other similar sites out there, but for my needs as a researcher, this is the best. It’s very easy to get set up, make project pages and store documents but my favorite features is the facility to easily set-up databases for recording plasmids, strains, references etc. So you can basically set up your own private “web-site” where you can store project documents, keep a journal of your thoughts and results and make databases to record where you have stored your samples.
Another unique feature of this site is that the basic plan is free. I find the basic plan more than sufficient for my own work and we also use it at Bitesize Bio for collaborating on ideas for articles etc.
I recently began a project involving a number of scientists in different locations. We are using a Central Desktop plan as a communal data storage and project management tool. This is where the real strength of the site is since it offers your own discussion forum (which reduces the number of e-mails flying about), project management tools and project RSS feed, amongst other things. If you are interested in giving it a go, here is the link.