RSpace

RSpace is an electronic lab notebook (ELN) system, provided by Research Space. Its roots are in the eCAT electronic lab notebook, which was designed specifically for individual laboratories. RSpace’s functionalities go beyond this, from an ELN for solo researchers to a full, enterprise level offering for institutions.

Provider

RSpace is developed and provided by Research Space, a company based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Licensing and cost

RSpace comes in two versions.  The Community version is free for individuals and groups, and comes with unlimited free data storage. The Enterprise version, which can be deployed either on site, or hosted externally – or in the cloud – involves a one-off setup fee, together with an annual subscription charge (currently starting at £70 per user per year, with volume discounts for larger numbers of users.)

Development activity

Development of RSpace started in mid-2012, initially in response to an RFI issued by the University of Wisconsin, who wanted to roll out RSpace’s predecessor, eCAT, institutionally. Between then and November 2015, when the first commercial version of RSpace was released, Research Space worked with researchers, PIs, IT managers, and research data managers at Wisconsin, and the Universities of Edinburgh and Goettingen, on the development of what became RSpace, believed to be the first Enterprise ELN specifically designed for deployment in academic research institutions.  The current software, version 1.37, was released in August 2016.  New versions, usually with one or two important feature, interface and usability enhancements, are released approximately every five weeks. 

Platform and interoperability

The RSpace client runs in a Web browser, and is therefore compatible with Windows, MacOSX and Linux platforms, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. No ‘installation’ is requirement by the user. The server-side is coded in Java, atop a MySQL database and an Apache Tomcat application server.

Functional notes

The tool is simple to use, offering straightforward data entry and file management. It also enables intuitive collaboration with specifically defined roles for (e.g.) Principal Investigators and Laboratory Administrators; data portability via export options to Word, PDF, HTML and XML; and integration with popular cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and OneDrive, as well as function-specific tools such as ChemAxon for chemistry, Slack for communication, Mendeley for publications, and eCAT for sample management.

RSpace Enterprise adds: support for single sign on, Shibboleth and federated authentication; integration with filestores using SFTP and samba protocols; tiered admin including the ability to create Communities, which are configurable groups of labs, e.g. for a department, school, college or institute; strong sysadmin functionality, and integrations with data repositories including DSpace. Integrations with Dataverse, Figshare for Institutions and ORCID are due to come on-stream in November 2016, and a planned integration with Starfish Storage will enable tracking of locations of all files linked to from RSpace (expected early 2017).

Documentation and user support

Support is provided in the form of inline feature tours, a series of short videos illustrating various capabilities and workflows, and full written documentation.  The videos and written documentation can be accessed at http://www.researchspace.com/help-and-support-resources/.

Usability

RSpace is easy to get to grips with for individual users. The interface and collaborative features are intuitive, and the vendor claims that it is quick and easy for labs to get set up and underway.  

Expertise required

No prior expertise or special computer skills are required to learn to use RSpace for individual users, lab administrators or PIs. 

Standards compliance

As of August 2016, RSpace directly addresses 20 funding agencies' data sharing requirements, including the Wellcome Trust, EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC, and branches of the NFS and NIH.

Influence and take-up

As of August 2016, RSpace has over 3,000 registered users as is used at more than 30 institutions worldwide. Usage continues to grow.

Last reviewed: 
3 October, 2016