Five Reasons Why Your Lab Needs An Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN)

An ELN is a vital tool for your laboratory that can streamline processes while reducing costs.

If you are a scientist feeling overwhelmed while searching for last year’s experimental protocols. Or if you are an exhausted team lead trying to read the lab notes of the members of your research group. Or even if you are a researcher whose paper lab notebook got wet or burnt in a recent incident. An electronic lab notebook (ELN) offers a viable solution to all your problems.

ELN is a digital form of the conventional lab notebook, where one can document and store experimental results. Moreover, it provides a space for real time chat and the exchange of ideas among the research team members, while facilitates collaborative ideation sessions. This means that as the researchers record their data, their group members can provide feedback in a timely manner, all within a single platform.

The following are five ways an ELN can streamline your lab:

Allows for easy access, sharing, and reuse of data

ELN allows for the accessibility, sharing, and analyzation of data using a sophisticated software platform that enables users to gather valuable experimental results into a digital place, which is convenient to search, locate, and reuse for proceeding experiments. Surprisingly, the accessibility and documentation of research is falling behind in this digitally dependent world that we live in. Many companies and labs continue to use paper notebooks to document integral steps taken in the experimental process, meanwhile, the lack of digital traceability of pertinent information not only results in unnecessary allocations time and money but enables the ongoing issue of reproducibility. Alternatively, the use of electronic lab notebook software meets this requirement by including the most powerful instrument data capture and searching facilities available in the electronic lab notebook software market. Any data stored in notebooks may be easily searched across your organization to improve research and discovery efforts. With the ability to generate interactive visualizations, one can also easily visualize experimental data in a variety of ways. Data analysis is also possible with the help of some of the best ELNs.

Prepare tidy notes with enhanced clarity and security

Handwriting can sometimes be difficult to comprehend, especially if the person who wrote it was in a hurry. If readability is a primary concern, switching from handwritten notes to an ELN can prove to be beneficial. Regardless of if the research team involves scientists who have different habits and styles of taking notes, an ELN can facilitate legible, tidy, and organized documentation. Digital notes in an ELN are displayed in a common format, making them easy to read for everyone [1]. Furthermore, handwritten notes are also vulnerable to destruction from spills, such as those that occur within laboratories. It would be difficult or impossible to recover these notes if water or dangerous substances were spilled on them.

Alternatively, handwritten notes can be viewed by anyone that are physically accessible to. Security precautions are implemented with ELNs to ensure that only authorized employees can view and/or edit data. Meaning that while ELNs contribute to the safety and accuracy of data results, they also provide levels of accessibility and, in turn, protecting and securing your company’s research property.

Customized solutions for laboratories

Although there are several note-taking applications, including Evernote and Microsoft OneNote, ELNs are manufactured specifically for scientists working in the lab. Electronic lab notebooks offer a wide range of solutions for all types of research work: ranging from drawing an atomic structure of a molecule, to preparing a document on nuclear waste disposal, to creating and testing constructs for a genetic screen of a gene of interest.

Currently, ELNs perform various functions to suit a broad area of scientific requirements. They are used widely in scientific laboratories of various sizes, academic research, corporate research, and government or private scientific endeavors. Natural research start-ups and government projects with diverse scientific investigations rely on ELNs.

Accessibility across the globe

Think of yourself in a situation where you are to present at an international conference, and you are trying to recall a particular formula that you had written in the electronic lab notebook while you were experimenting. The good news is you can access the ELN from anywhere across the globe just by logging on to the electronic lab notebook software. In addition to this, electronic lab notebooks allow for seamless collaboration on a single experiment, or an entire project, regardless of the collaborator’s locations around the world.

ELNs initially were just digital equivalents of traditional paper lab notebooks. With time, ELNs have evolved to offer features and services using digital technology’s full potential, transforming these record-keeping mechanisms into the vital instruments of researchers that they are now [2]. Hence, the use of one of the best electronic lab notebooks must be implemented in research laboratories.

Enhanced collaboration among team members

Several ELNs support multiple researchers working on the same experiment simultaneously. The team lead can assign other scientists to collaborate with them on the experiment. Researchers can then work together on the experiment by writing notes, adding new data, editing existing content, and more! No longer is there the need to check in and check out lab notebooks, blocking others from accessing them.

Frances Arnold, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, revealed at the start of 2020 that she was retracting a manuscript since the study had proven unreproducible. “Careful investigation of the first author’s lab notebook then showed missing entries and raw data for important tests,” according to the accompanying statement [3].

As previously mentioned, incidents such as this further support using ELNs to increase reproducibility while promoting transparency among lab experts by storing crucial information and findings in an accessible location. Performing each experiment phase in a concentrated space gives researchers a thorough understanding of each lab operation. An ELN also functioned as data management software since it helps to track where a particular data item came from and when it was changed during an experiment.

References

  1. Goraai, R. (2022, April 11). What is an Electronic Lab Notebook, and Why Might You Need One?  Trotons.
  2. Huchet, B. (2021, March 30). 2021 Review of the Best Electronic lab notebooks. Labs Explorer.
  3. https://retractionwatch.com/2020/01/02/nobel-winner-retracts-paper-from-science/
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