OpenWetWare and Google Sites have been effective strategies in curating lab knowledge. I was curious about what are effective ways to create an effective wiki. Factors include:

  • Ease of use and low learning curve
  • Speed of sharing and diversity of shared files
  • Privacy and protection from sabotage
  • Organizational flow
  • Legally sharing papers/manuscripts
  • to protect from sabatoge, make sure that a login is required. May 2, 2012 at 23:32
  • In addition to @David's suggestion, also only accept connection from on campus IPs (you can usually VPN if you are at home). But for security issues such as this, best thing to do is to consult your local IT department to tailor something to your needs. May 3, 2012 at 10:15

2 Answers 2


In one of the labs (about a dozen people) I work with, we use a MediaWiki install given to use by the university that requires log-in to view everything but the front page or to edit. Although the learning curve is not steep (most people already know how to use Wikipedia) it has been hard to convince the undergraduate lab members to use the wiki. It mostly serves as a place for:

  • short project summaries (since the lab has many different projects)
  • notes/minutes from lab meetings, a place to store slides and presentations, and
  • link repository (for instance I maintain a big collection of links to relevant StackExchange questions).

With a former supervisor, we used to have a private MediaWiki install that was used by a our small group (3 or 4 people). Since we worked on theory/math it contained:

  • short tutorials on how to do automated calculations as experiments for testing potential theorems (before trying to prove them), and
  • collection of special cases that we had calculated by hand.

It was relatively well maintained by the prof, and a pretty good guide for understanding some of the work behind his earlier papers.

I also keep a personal private TiddlyWiki, there I keep:

  • notes from papers I've read (although I am slowly moving this over to Mendeley)
  • collections of relevant links from the internet
  • a more structured index of the folders and files on my harddrive (through local links) that is easier to navigate and search than my file system directly.
  • partial documentation of code and notes on partial results of simulations
  • administrative stuff like members of mailing lists, and groups I organize.

For me, the most useful was the private Wiki, the second most useful was the small group wiki because of the good maintenance by my prof, and least useful is the large lab wiki.


A wiki is a platform, which you can use in whatever way you see fit. Personally, I've used them academically for the following purposes:

Lab notebook

I was running cognitive psychology experiments on subjects. I would make a top-level page that contained links to a separate page for all of my research projects. On each research project page, I had links to separate pages for each of the following:

  • Study protocols (behavioral testing, brain scanning, data cleaning, data analysis) - separate pages for each
  • Change log to the paradigm itself
  • Troubleshooting notes... as I encountered problems, write them down here
  • Subjects (one page per subject

Each subject page contained notes on each session, results, general info ("subject performed poorly today, possibly due to stress from midterms"), as well as the results of their data analysis.

Publication repository

This wiki was basically a place for me to store papers. Many wikis allow embedding of pdfs, and I would store pages as follows. The top-level page segmented topics. Each topic page contained links to pages about individual papers, as well as links to ongoing summaries of my reading. This was where I would write down my thoughts and conclusions after reading papers, and made it easier for me to combine my thoughts on multiple papers... after reading a new article, I would review what I had written there and try to somehow incorporate the new article in my ideas (if relevant, more often than not it wasn't).

These are just two ideas, and they were just used by me, not my whole lab. I'm sure you can think of more (managing lab meetings, managing collaborations, managing lab-wide protocols, etc).

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