Electronic Laboratory Notebooks

Every scientist knows the importance of keeping track of procedures and observations made along the way. An Electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) makes it possible for other scientists to share your notes and successfully reproduce similar results in an experiment or build into your research in your absence.

If you’re a scientist, chances are you already use a digital lab notebook to keep track of your experiments. But, if you’re just getting started or need a refresher, you’re in the right place. In this post, you’ll learn how digital lab notebooks work and whether they’re right for you.

How to use an ELN

Using an ELN should be a smooth transition if you have used computers before. It is essential to understand that an ELN can be accessed through any device for as long as it is connected to the internet. Notes that could have been recorded on paper notebooks before ELNs are then entered through a text editor that resembles a word document.

The user-friendly interface allows seamless importation and exportation of documents, allowing you to format and organize notes as you wish. ELNs can organize information in different formats like graphs and tables to quickly analyze and understand data. 

Information can be accessed through office-based data-sharing platforms. 

For team activities, an ELN allows the user to create groups and subgroups based on what information they want to share. 

Functions of an Electronic Laboratory Notebook

1.      Data Management

An ELN manages data by allowing the user to create, store, share and retrieve vital information in various digital formats. Multiple tools like the text processor and spreadsheet tool have been installed to allow the electronic notebook to serve its data management functions.

2.      Data Storage

ELNs provide cloud storage options that have no set-up costs, little administration required, and guaranteed reliability. You can also use your server to have complete admin control on security protocols. 

3.      Team Administration

The electronic lab notebook allows the user to create groups and control information access. The admin can assign user rights to different group members during a group project. Scientists can also revoke access to other users and still keep the data. 

4.      Data Integrity and Security

The timestamp functionality allows users to see when data was created and if any modification was done. User-level restrictions limit the ability of users to edit entries. User rights and roles also control the ability of users to view or edit data. 

Advantages of ELNs

  • ELNs provide reliable digital record-keeping solutions to scientists. 
  • Human error is reduced as ELNS capture and analyze data automatically
  • Time is saved as scientists can easily access data through the quick search engines
  • Information is secure as data owners can encrypt and control who sees what.  
  • ELNs offer IP protection as experiment activities accessed can be tracked by checking the digital audit trail
  • Data loss is avoidable as ELN allows the user to retrieve and trace lost or deleted file.
  • ELNs enable the users to meet the regulatory compliance requirements by using the electronic signature and stamping function.

ELN Wrap Up

So, are ELNs recommendable for researchers? With the above advantages, it is safe to say digital lab notebooks are convenient and very helpful to researchers. A lot of effort is saved by the great functions found on ELNs. Information can be retrieved and accessed at any time with almost no difficulties due to the search engine function that utilizes keywords to locate data. 

The technology world is only getting better, and new systems are being invented to make work easier for everyone. Therefore, researchers should go for ELNs that offer the latest updates on data management, security and sharing functions.