Image shows a lab technician using an Electronic Lab Notebook to assist their research.

Guide to Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN)

Have you been wondering what and why you need an electronic lab notebook for your research projects? If the answer is yes, you have come to the right place.

In this post, we will cover more details concerning electronic lab notebooks. Read on to find out the benefits of utilising it for writing down any lab data that needs recording. Additionally, this post provides valuable tips and guidelines for selecting an electronic lab notebook for your lab.

So, what is an electronic lab notebook?

An electronic lab notebook is an electronic computer program used by researchers in any discipline to document their procedures, observations, conclusions and any other information from their projects. These electronic lab notebooks are designed to replace paper laboratory notebooks because they offer several benefits to both the user and the organisation.

Benefits of Electronic Lab Notebooks

  • Helps researchers stay organised – Electronic lab notebooks offer several tools that can help you organise your research work. For instance, the search feature can help you find any stored data without having to peruse page-by-page through written materials.
  • Makes sharing of information easier – With typical paper notebooks, sharing research records can be a little tricky, especially if the researchers are in different geographical locations. Electronic lab notebooks have a sharing feature built-in in the program, making it easier for researchers to collaborate in research or group projects.
  • Ensures safety of your research information – Electronic lab notebooks can be password protected to restrict access to your recorded information. With the typical paper notebooks, you can easily lose your lab data as anyone can pick it up or steal it from your laboratory.
  • Convenient access to your lab notes – With an electronic lab notebook, you can access your lab data virtually anywhere in the world, depending on how you configure it. If you store your electronic lab notebook on a cloud service, you can easily access it from another device provided you have an internet connection.
  • Ensures plasticity in recording lab data – Compared to their paper counterparts, these electronic lab notebooks are flexible in plenty of ways. Besides the fact that there are many different programs to choose from, these electronic lab notebooks allow you to add information such as charts and graphs directly from the instrument used to obtain them.

Tips for Selecting an Electronic Lab Notebook for Your Lab

With plenty of options to choose from, selecting an electronic lab notebook for your lab can be daunting. Before you make a choice, you first need to determine what your lab needs. Therefore, you need to answer the following questions to determine the right electronic lab notebook for your laboratory. ELN provider Sapio Sciences offer a comprehensive ELN service.

Does your lab need to keep both digital and paper records?

Before you choose an electronic lab notebook, it is essential to determine if you may need to print out the stored information at some point. Choose an electronic lab notebook with print-out features to ensure you’ll be able to use it whenever you need to.

Do you need the ELN for collaborative or individual projects?

When choosing an electronic lab notebook, it is essential to determine the number of people using it. While some ELNs support a large number of users, others allow smaller teams to share the platform. Therefore, it is a good idea to consider the size of your lab team while anticipating future growth before choosing an electronic lab notebook for your laboratory.

What types of files do you intend to import and store in your ELN?

The primary role of electronic lab notebooks is to make it easier for you to organise all your research work in one place. Research data can include images, figures, PDFs, among other different file types. An ELN is suitable for your lab if it allows you to import and save various files for your research projects.

Is it easy to use the ELN?

Since the primary purpose of an electronic lab notebook is to make your work easier and not vice versa, it is crucial to choose one that does not require intensive training or complex integration before you are ready to use it.

ELN Wrap Up

With experimental data management solutions such as electronic lab notebooks, there has never been a more exciting time to be a researcher. These ELNs offer lots of benefits for researchers, ranging from data organisation to accessibility and convenience. However, you need to select the best electronic lab notebook to enjoy full benefits.