I am writing this piece after seeing Prof. David Stephens commenting on twitter in regard to the recent acquisition of LabLife by Biodata:
Now, essentially his question is in place – why should someone pay for a certain service/product if he/she could get similar (but not equal) product for free? and now that Lablife is part of Biodata’s BioKM lab management system, should he venture for a paid service?
So first we should ask a different question – what are the expectations from a lab management tool?
- To increase efficiency of ALL lab members (students, technicians and PIs!)
- To act as a virtual replica of the real lab space – sharing reagents, rooms, facilities, activities, experiments and vision!
- To portray a path to reaching the lab’s goals (much like a mentor or PI)
- To archive the knowledge harvested by the enduring work of tens and even hundreds of students and technicians on a daily basis.
And now one should ask (and answer):
What is the worth of the above mentioned in terms of resources (money, time, energy)?
One antibody? Two enzyme vials??
Now Let’s take it a a bit further down the road and assume that Lablife or any other lab management product would have this above portfolio and you’ll get it for free. Do you trust it? Do you trust someone to work for FREE and also be TOTALLY devoted to maintaining, helping, servicing and archiving your precious data and manage your lab vision? There are no free lunches, and if there are, the quality of your product will most probably be free to degrade at any point or even vanish completely! (It’s free, what are you complaining about anyway??). Do you want to risk that (data, vision, progress, efficiency) for the worth of two antibodies? Just because it’s free??
To sum it up, the question David raised is a fundamental question, crossing all fields of discipline and geographical locations. Is there a hidden value in paid service/product that we’re missing or is it a smart marketing move to reach for our pockets? The answer, as I see it, is quite simple – the knowledge we acquire through research is the most valuable asset and thus should be at our topmost interest to keep it safe. That simple.