EDD Use Cases

This document captures some of the high-level use cases for EDD. It is not intended as an exhaustive guide to EDD’s features, but more of an overview of the expected user base and some of users’ differing needs from EDD’s major features.

Experiment definition

Regardless of the exact process used to define experimental parameters, there’s a need to capture sufficient metadata in EDD to allow the experiment to be fully understood by readers, as well as reproduced later (at least in combination with the associated paper). The standard English description of experimental conditions captured in scientific publications can’t be automatically processed, and is often insufficient to reproduce the experiment later on. Experiment reproducability is a much larger issue that cannot be entirely solved by EDD, but EDD can provide a standard format for capturing experimental conditions, as well as some help in reviewing whether a minimal set of metadata have been captured for posterity.

At the time of writing, its the user’s responsibility to ensure the data entered into EDD are sufficiently detailed/accurate to help preserve the institutional legacy associated with its experiments. Future versions may add curation / review features to help ensure that at least some standard / repeated experiments are sufficiently described in EDD.

Experiment definition in EDD often follows one of two broad workflows:

  1. Automated workflows: JBEI uses cases for Proteomics (and eventually Metabolomics) require users to define their experimental conditions before the related measurements are performed. Lines, Assays, and their metadata are used as input for creating a worklist, which in turn gets used as input to generate instructions or configuration for experimental platforms. Users who populate the experiment definition may not be the same as the ones who later review it and generate the worklist. Another important purpose of experiment definition is to capture and convey experimental design parameters to the researchers who are running the measurement platforms, since some conditions will affect how they do their work.

    EDD users who don’t take advantage of worklists may still want to predifine experimental parameters to save work later during data entry into EDD (e.g. when importing large or preexisting tabular data), or to prevent needing to sift through Lines/Assays to update metadata values following the import process.

  2. Manual workflows: Some users will not want to predefine their experimental parameters. In the case of BioLector and HPLC data imports, for example, Lines and Assays can be created automatically. In cases where Lines are relatively homogenious, and can easily be bulk edited after an import is completed, there is no motivation to predefine the experiment in EDD, and no need for users to learn to operate that portion of its interface.

Importing Data

Scientists need to import their data into EDD in the simplest fashion possible, and with a minimum knowledge of EDD and its internals. Students and postdoc turnover is high at JBEI, and even for long-term employees, many spend most of their time in the lab and will have long gaps between uses of EDD, during which they’re likely to forget part or all of their training.

Measurement Visualization

  1. Guiding experiments / analysis: for cases where simple visualizations provided by EDD are enough, experimenters can view their data directly in the EDD UI and use it to guide decisionmaking for further experiment design, or for where to focus further analysis. Ideally, some experimentors will be able to export publication-quality results directly from EDD’s user interface without the need for other tools. EDD’s goal is to support the most common \~80% of visualization needs, and experimentors who need less commonly-used visualizations should use or create other tools developed for that purpose.

  2. Filtering exports: another common use case for EDD’s visualization tools is to filter down just the data of interest for export, or for automated definition of follow-up experiments based on data already captured in EDD. For example, researchers may do an initial experiment to search the paramater space for likely areas of investigation, use EDD’s visuals to identify further required experiments, and then use the visualization filtering options to clone a subset of lines into a new study to avoid duplicate data entry.

  3. Reviewing results: paper reviewers internal and external to JBEI may want to review experimental measurement data during the process of reviewing or attempting to reproduce experimental results.

Metadata Visualization

  1. ‘Omics-as-a-service pipelines: Measurement / analysis pipelines in place at JBEI use EDD’s experiment metadata to capture and communicate important experimental conditions in a standard format. For example, before conducting Proteomics experiments on behalf of JBEI researchers, Chris will often review the experiment setup and and provide guidance to the researcher before creating a worklist or performing any measurements.

  2. Curating institutional legacy: There is a need for researchers, and sometimes PI’s, to review experiment definitions entered into EDD to make certain that the important experimental conditions and measurements have been captured for posterity. This process is currently supported only by manual inspection of Line, Assay, and Metadata definitions. Future versions of EDD may include support for helping to curate this data, especially for commonly-repeated experiments, but due to the unique nature of many experiments, it is unlikely that software can always enforce entry of all the required contextual information. Until automated support is in place for metadata curation, there is also a need for POC’s (e.g. Chris for Proteomics and Edward for Metabolomics) to help ensure that duplicate data entry / inconsistent naming conventions in Biology don’t cause redundency or hamper data comparisons in EDD.

  3. Reviewing results: readers of JBEI publications may want to review the actual measurements and experimental conditions captured in EDD to understand publications or to help in reproducing experiments. They may also want to compare experimental conditions between similar studies.

Exporting Measurements / Metadata

  1. Creating a worklist: user is in posession of a defined experiment (Lines/Assays/Metadata are defined) and needs to generate a worklist. Since the person generating the worklist may not be the same person who defined the experiment in EDD, there’s a need to:

    1. Review the experiment from a scientific viewpoint to see whether it makes sense. This is currently a manual process based on other existing parts of the GUI. A future update may introduce an automated process and/or present data in a consolidated view for this purpose.
    2. Review the experiment for consistency / completeness / compatibility with automated workflows. Like the previous item, there are no dedicated GUI components for this purpose at this time.
  2. Exporting data for analysis: user wants to analyze data using other programs, but is often only interested in exporting a subset of the experiment. The subset of data experted is often based either on inspection of the line/assay definitions and meta-data, or on selective filtering of the plot. Common/anticipated use cases at JBEI are:

    1. SBML export: SBML is a standard format used to describe metabolic networks. SBML’s purpose is to model organism metabolisms, so it has applications outside of Synthetic Biology. EDD’s support for the format is evolving along with the standard.
    2. CSV export: for a variety of other uses, including custom analysis. Common analysis tools are: Excel, R, MatLab, or iPython notebooks.
    3. REST API export: for consumption by advanced users with more specific needs, by the EDD GUI, or by other software. This is partly available in the current version of EDD, but needs additional work and documentation.