An electronic research notebook like Orson can be used in a number of different ways:

  • privately for capturing data, charting project progress, documenting practice and developing research ideas
  • as a web resource for writing up research or supplementing other research outputs with a fuller context
  • in a team for sharing resources and co-operative development
  • as a web resource for sharing research processes with selected audiences
  • as a data source for other research projects
  • combinations of the above


Some principles guide the way Orson is structured, and its feature-set.

  1. Easy to use and set up. It shouldn't require a large budget and technical expertise to create an Orson instance. It should be easy to set up, and tear down, encouraging experimentation, innovation and where appropriate, collaboration, at small scales as well as by organisations and institutions.
  2. Content is the focus. The user interface should be customisable enough to make it comfortable in use for a wide range of people, but the emphasis is on building and sharing knowledge, not website design or branding.
  3. Support open scholarship. Orson is free-to-use software. It tries to use open and future-proof data formats, and to follow FAIR[1] principles.
  4. Support multiple perspectives. Orson was made as part of a research project exploring how digital tools can be used to support transparency in research. The software is designed to help fill out context by showing, where possible, the evolution of research proposals and the assumptions behind them. It's structured to make content reusable and reconfigurable as much as possible, to allow for the exploration of hypotheses from different perspectives.

Next steps

Get started with the Guide


  1. 'Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable.' Fair Principlesopen in new window ↩︎