Protocols are at the heart of experimental research. Protocols describe the experimental workflows to be followed in laboratories. A well-constructed protocol ensures a common understanding of the study; how to go about procedures, quantities for everything involved in the execution of the experimental workflow, the details are in the protocols. Also, protocols are a specific type of scientific publication, one that is widely used and shared in laboratory practices, it is a structural part of laboratory notebooks. Experimental protocols are decisive in permitting the reproducibility and the successful replication of experiments.
Normally, the detailed notes about experimental procedures, the order in which they are executed, implementation, the type of materials and the variety of methods used by a researcher are available only for those inside the research group where the experiment is being carried out. When a laboratory protocol is published, usually the description of the process is sometimes insufficient. For instance, the instruction “Centrifuge for 10 min” does not include the velocity of centrifugation; ambiguity and imprecision are often found, “Incubate at -20°C overnight” . But, how long is overnight? Natural language is excellent for human interoperability but a poor choice for machine processing.
We are proposing a Minimum Information (MI) standard or guidelines to report a laboratory protocol, miProtocol. miProtocol comes from analyzing 100 laboratory protocols published in 9 repositories, namely: Biotechniques, Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, Current Protocols, Genetics and Molecular Research, Jove, Protocol Exchange, Plant Methods, Plos One and Springer Protocols.
Help us to improve our understanding of laboratory protocols. Here is a questionnaire that will make it easier for us to explore this space of information.