So you want to build a database?
Occasionally, researchers who are familiar with Babase may express interest in building a "Babase-like" database for their own study population. If this is true for you, thank you! It's very flattering to have our work be so appreciated.
To assist you in finding a solution that works best for you and your study population, we have a few words of advice:
First, consider your most immediate and essential needs, not the larger vision of a database. Most likely, the most immediate needs would focus around a modest number of tables to start with: a table of study subjects, which would include all the basic biographical information for each one, and then several tables that would join with that one, which would contain multi-dimensional information for each subject, including biological sample info.
- In other words, keep it as small as possible to begin with. Keeping it small, and adding to it only as you need, will help ensure that you end up in the long run with a database that suits your needs well.
Second, begin by investing in Microsoft Access, Filemaker Pro, or a similar off-the-shelf database program and start with that, rather than a custom database. This may sound counter-intuitive, but hiring a database programmer at the start of your database endeavor is likely to greatly increase the time investment you make in building the database, with no added benefit in terms of database design or usability.
- This is because a database programmer won’t know how to build a database for you until you yourself have a very intimate and detailed understanding of what you want. The best way to get that is to build the first version of your database, the first essential tables, yourself. This will allow you to learn what works and what doesn’t, and exactly what you need.
- In fact, you may find that you never need a custom database or a programmer — you may be able to meet all your needs this way, adding tables one at a time in an Access or Filemaker database. That would be by far the best outcome.
Third, for pre-tenure, tenure-track researchers, it is best not to invest too much time in building a custom database until you have tenure. Building a custom database is very time intensive. This is why so many researchers don’t have them. It’s a huge investment in something that will not move you towards the tenure line at all. Better to save the bulk of it for after tenure.
If you’ve read the above and still feel that a custom database like Babase is right for you, we are happy to share our technical specifications (including the pocket reference), best practices, and our source code. Good luck!