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The best apps for researchers and scientists

Scientists are severely overburdened—too many responsibilities, too many opportunities, and too much information.

Researchers need all the tools at their disposal to cut through an endless sea of online information, to circumvent the severe burnout crisis affecting scientists nationwide, allow them to execute experiments that require unprecedented expertise and precision, and write compelling research articles that communicate new ideas in an overcrowded publication landscape.


The 8 best iPhone apps of 2021 - CNET

Fortunately, there are apps that help with each one of these issues. In the lab, in the office, at the literature review stage, at the writing stage—no matter what step is taxing you in the process of getting science done, there’s literally an app for that.

Here we review eight great apps for scientists in four areas—literature review, managing a lab, writing papers, and general productivity—and how they can make a difference in improving your scientific output, efficiency, and ease of mind.

The literature review stage

Maximise Your Research Efficiency with R Discovery App

R Discovery – An AI companion for literature search

This free mobile app is targeted towards scientists looking for an easier way to keep up with scientific articles in their field. The Reading Feed identifies articles based on the user’s designated interests and delivers recommendations into a simple feed. Its database includes over 150 million peer-reviewed journal papers from 32,000+ journals, over 40 million of which are open access.

Key features

  • AI learns your reading interests and finds matching papers
  • Provides key highlights, summaries, plus research roundups
  • Prime subscription benefits ($5/month) include audio transcription of papers, automated translation, and reading list collaboration with lab-mates
  • Can integrate with reference managers such as Zotero and Mendeley
Researcher app celebrates one million users -
Researcher – Paper discovery

Researcher is another mobile app that aims to simplify research discovery. But rather than using R Discovery’s AI-powered auto-recommender, Researcher has a simple social media style feed that shows papers and data from your selected journals. A search bar still allows scientists to discover new papers from 20,000+ sources, including peer-reviewed journals, preprints, blogs, university news, and podcasts. Researcher also displays trending papers in 10 major research areas, from arts and humanities to physics and mathematics and everything in between.

Key features

  • Users can set up custom filters to see the most relevant research
  • Syncs across web, Android, and iOS; also integrated with reference managers
  • Allows users to sign in with their institution details to access full papers from journals that their institution subscribes to

In the laboratory

Elemental Machines Announces Edward Seguine As New Chief Executive Officer
Elemental Machines – Smart laboratory operations

Elemental Machines is an intelligent Lab Ops platform. It links a portfolio of devices that monitor critical lab components—refrigerators, liquid nitrogen tanks, incubators, and overall lab environment (humidity, temperature, air pressure)—to a simple dashboard app for smartphone or tablet. This allows scientists to know what’s going on with the lab and its equipment at all times.

Key features

  • A system that connects with nearly any piece of equipment, regardless of manufacturer or era
  • Can monitor any metric for the various pieces of equipment: light, vibration, usage, and even compliance and quality-assurance metrics
  • Time stamping and user authentication processes means the tracking systems also meets electronics record requirements
  • Allows for integration with existing third-party systems and applications, including electronic lab notebook (ELN) and laboratory information management systems (LIMS)
Smart Lab Information with eLAB - Eppendorf
eLABInventory – Smart laboratory inventory

This “flexible” lab inventory management software allows scientists to visualize their entire laboratory, optimize storage organization, and maintain a full audit trail for every sample. Specifically designed as a sample tracking software for small companies and individual academic labs, the tool is built for researchers with limited resources but who still need flexibility.

Key features

  • Set notifications for when chemicals, samples, and consumables run low in stock
  • Scan barcodes to print labels for sample tubes, boxes, and devices
  • Set up an unlimited number of user roles and assign customizable permissions per role
  • Integrate with software tools and add-ons

For article reading and writing

Mendeley - Wikipedia
Mendeley – Making bibliographies 

Mendeley reduces the painstaking burden of drawing up a reference list and formatting in-text citations and references. This reference management app automatically generates bibliographies as you write by organizing and importing your references. Users add papers directly from their browser, from which the app generates references, citations, and bibliographies in a wide range of journal styles in just a few clicks.

Key features

  • Mendeley Notebook allows users to collate highlights and notes from multiple PDFs together in one place
  • Offers other services such as the Web Importer to add academic papers directly from online databases; Premium plan available to increase storage
  • Integrates with literature discovery apps including R Discovery
PaperShip (@papershipapp) / X
PaperShip – Annotating and sharing

This iOS and Mac app allows users to annotate, manage, and share research papers from anywhere. Annotation includes text highlighting, notes, and other drawing capabilities, all of which are preserved in the PDF formatting to share with other readers. Papership also keeps articles organized and synchronized with Zotero or Mendeley libraries and from iOS to Mac. 

Key features

  • Free version of the app available on iOS
  • Can share annotated PDFs with non-Papership users
  • Provides quantitative measurements of the significance of a publication; measures both peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed sources

General productivity

LabArchives | Villanova University
LabArchives – Electronic lab notebook

This electronic lab notebook organizes scientific data in one place, helping researchers search and share their data and research. Available for web, Android, and iOS, LabArchives has a wide range of functions that allows scientists to either use it to generally organize their research activity, or target a few niche functions, such as data management with custom identifiers and metadata, or real-time collaboration with team members on notebook pages. Users can make notes, store images and data, keep track of their research activity, draw sketches, annotate images, and more.

Key features

  • Scientist-specific functions such as chemical sketching, calculators, and DNA file browsing available
  • Users can create custom page templates to suit their specific needs
  • Has data security parameters that allow researchers to determine file access and sharing limitations
Trello Review | PCMag
Trello – Task organizer

Based on the useful productivity approach known as Kanban boards, Trello enables users to create work boards. Each different project can have its own work board, so users can sort tasks into categories that can be easily identified. When researchers are involved with large projects across multiple labs, universities, and even countries, Trello is a useful tool to sort out what needs to get done, by who, and by when. The Trello Board can be transformed into multiple views: Timeline, to see how all the moving parts and deadlines fit together, Calendar, to see the team’s tasks for each given week or month, and Map, to view location-based data in context, particularly useful for conducting field work.

Key features

  • Users can add comments, attachments, due dates, and more to task items
  • Create as many custom boards and overviews as you need
  • Offers integrations for Slack, GitLab, and more

There are many other useful web-based applications for scientific research, but this list of apps alone can enable an empowered and proactive approach to research from start to finish.

One comprehensive web-based solution comes in the form of NewsRx’s BUTTER. This research tool helps scientists stay on top of discoveries in their field and find groundbreaking research, offering concise research summaries for millions of articles from tens of thousands of peer-reviewed and global sources. Users can set up keyword alerts, follow specific topics or journals, and export shareable PDFs full of the best studies that fit narrow search criteria. Dive deep into NewsRx’s 30-year database of research coverage today to discover groundbreaking research that matters.