Software Framework for Controlling Unsupervised Scientific Instruments

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Software Framework for Controlling Unsupervised Scientific Instruments

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Title: Software Framework for Controlling Unsupervised Scientific Instruments
Author: Schmid, Benjamin; Jahr, Wiebke; Weber, Michael; Huisken, Jan

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Citation: Schmid, Benjamin, Wiebke Jahr, Michael Weber, and Jan Huisken. 2016. “Software Framework for Controlling Unsupervised Scientific Instruments.” PLoS ONE 11 (8): e0161671. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161671.
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Abstract: Science outreach and communication are gaining more and more importance for conveying the meaning of today’s research to the general public. Public exhibitions of scientific instruments can provide hands-on experience with technical advances and their applications in the life sciences. The software of such devices, however, is oftentimes not appropriate for this purpose. In this study, we describe a software framework and the necessary computer configuration that is well suited for exposing a complex self-built and software-controlled instrument such as a microscope to laymen under limited supervision, e.g. in museums or schools. We identify several aspects that must be met by such software, and we describe a design that can simultaneously be used to control either (i) a fully functional instrument in a robust and fail-safe manner, (ii) an instrument that has low-cost or only partially working hardware attached for illustration purposes or (iii) a completely virtual instrument without hardware attached. We describe how to assess the educational success of such a device, how to monitor its operation and how to facilitate its maintenance. The introduced concepts are illustrated using our software to control eduSPIM, a fluorescent light sheet microscope that we are currently exhibiting in a technical museum.
Published Version: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161671
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