CERF (software)

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CERF (Collaborative Electronic Research Framework™) is electronic lab notebook (ELN) software designed to collect, protect and categorize laboratory data, promote collaborative research and assist with intellectual property compliance.[1][unreliable source?] CERF uses semantic metadata technologies and an advanced[unbalanced opinion] search engine to allow managers or data specialists to locate specific knowledge assets from within the entirety of the centralized data repository.[2] CERF was originally developed by Rescentris, but is currently developed and supported by Lab-Ally LLC.[3] CERF is used as a content management system for research and development resources and workflow management by universities,[4] non-profit research organizations,[5] and commercial[6] companies in a multi-disciplinary range of sectors[7] (including life sciences (Biotech and Pharma), food science, petrochemicals, biofuels, energy, food science, materials sciences and consumer products).


CERF is client-server software that supports web clients,[8] multi-platform desktop Java clients (Windows, Mac OS X), and iPad clients.[9] Workflow automation is also supported through Java-based automation clients. The server may be hosted on Windows or Mac servers in a web server environment (Apache Tomcat) and uses the Hibernate framework to support a variety of relational databases (e.g., Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, or PostgreSQL).

Key technologies[edit]

CERF is based upon semantic web technologies and uses Web Ontology Language (OWL) to define ontologies and Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) to represent controlled vocabularies. Instance data are stored using Resource Description Framework (RDF). Ontologies and instance data are queried using the SPARQL query language. RDF, OWL, SKOS, and SPARQL are all public standards maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The public domain (Apache) Jena semantic web framework is used as the implementation for RDF, OWL, and SPARQL.

Extended functionality[edit]

  • CERF provides both automatic and user-initiated messaging among users to enable collaboration and collaborative workflow.
  • CERF provides extensible semantic data modeling to represent components of the research process (experiments, samples, data, and bibliographies).
  • Semantic modeling of resources and their relations enables semantic search.


CERF was designed to be an intuitive[attribution needed] system to address user adoption[10] when making a transition from “traditional” (paper) notebooks to ELNs. By allowing users to create and edit content with any application they currently use, CERF attempts to minimize the learning curve. Furthermore, the CERF system displays content from many applications (both scientific and non-scientific) natively, and allows users to customize the visualization.

Basic workflows[edit]

  • Users create and add various types of resources (documents, forms, images, data files) to notebook pages.
  • Resources are checked out for editing, annotated, finalized, and signed, with appropriate witnessing.
  • Notebooks are printed and archived according to customer policies.
  • Searchability of information is streamlined using both simple full-text indexing as well as advanced metadata and tagging models


2012 Bio-IT Best of Show for Best Web-based Software, Bio-IT World Conference and Expo[11]

2009 Bio-IT Best in Show for exceptional technology innovation in Knowledge Management, Bio-IT World Conference and Expo[12]

2008 Bio-IT Finalist for Best in Show in Life Science Informatics Programs, Bio-IT World Conference and Expo[13]

2007 Bio-IT Best in Show for Notebook & LIMS software, Bio-IT World Conference and Expo[14]

2006 TopCAT Outstanding Technology Service Company of the Year, TechColumbus TopCAT Awards[15]

2006 CENSA Best Knowledge Management Platform for Biological Research and Development Award, IQPC ELNs Conference, London[16]

See also[edit]