Life Science Software -- Why Does It Suck?

Rob Campbell found me by google, and pointed me towards his blog, Science and Software. Funny, well written, and very apropos! Why isn't there more software, commercial or otherwise, for labs?

There has been a lot of local interest (i.e. two or three people have discussed it at various times) in lab notebook software, sequence management software, lab Web site management software, reference management software, and of course the general category of "software that will help me get my shit done better", usually with reference to bioinformatics.

I am, of course, most interested in the last bit, bioinformatics software, which has the benefit of being directly related to research and thus something I might eventually be able to publish...

So why, why, why?

One reason: biology labs are el cheapo. We would much rather spend $5000 on a new batch of antibody (=> publication!!) than on a very useful piece of software. I think this is true of most scientific labs; usually only institution-wide purchases of things like Matlab or Mathematica get software into labs around here.

Another reason: grad students in the biological sciences are generally not very computer savvy. This means that they need to know that the software is very useful and/or very easy to use before they pick it up. How many software programs do you know that fit that bill??

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