An electronic lab notebook (ELN) or digital lab notebook is a software system designed for scientists and lab workers.
These are digital notebooks that can be used to document research work, experiments, and other laboratory data.
As the volume of data increases, it becomes difficult for lab workers to keep track of an overwhelming number of sheets of paper and to find the right one at the right time.
Electronic lab notebooks are the perfect solution for all labs. Here are a few reasons why:
- They make sharing and reproducing information easy
- They reduce the risk of data misplacement
- They reduce transcription responsibilities
Key features of an ideal electronic lab notebook
A basic ELN will have a text processor allowing you to write and edit notes. It will also let you import and edit Microsoft Word documents.
Electronic lab notebooks make it easier to create tables, graphs and perform calculations. You can also import and export Microsoft Excel files.
Import images and add annotations
Not only text, but most Electronic lab notebooks also support popular image file formats. Annotations can also be added as an image overlay.
Electronic lab notebooks come with certain templates that you can use and re-use on repetitive tasks. Along with increasing productivity, this saves time and energy as you do not have to type the same things over and over again.
Mobile and tablet compatibility
Electronic lab notebooks can be easily used on mobiles and tablets. This makes them more preferable as you can access all your data on the device that you are comfortable with.
Easy data retrieval
Rummaging through the countless papers to find what you are looking for is frustrating, especially when the need is urgent.
Electronic lab notebooks save you from such annoying moments by providing a simple and effective search experience.
You simply need to type the particular author, unique ID, tag, or textual content, and you will find what you are looking for in, literally, seconds.
Picking the right ELN
“One size fits all” might be the case with your cardigan but not with electronic lab notebooks.
Given below are the steps that you should follow to get the perfect electronic lab notebook that fits your unique requirements.
Jot down your needs
Every lab has different needs, and you have to find an electronic lab notebook that fulfills all your needs.
Note down the specific features and functionalities you need. This will narrow down the options and make it easier for you to choose an electronic lab notebooks system.
Research and educate yourself
Look for the possible options. There are enough resources and comparison studies online which will give you all the pros and cons, giving you an exhaustive look and making it easier for you to decide from the vast sea of options.
Figure out finances
The cost of electronic lab notebooks services will depend on the size of your lab. Usually, paid versions cost anywhere from $10 to $20 per month.
Some companies also offer a free version to those in academia. These versions are for one user, though, rather than the whole lab and have a limited amount of storage space.
Consider the add-on features
Apart from the mainstream features that are similar in most of the electronic lab notebooks, you should also look for the minute add-on features.
These include compatibility with various devices, data shareability, and software integrations. These minor features have a major impact on users’ experience.
Rank and test them
After the previous four steps, you will have a fair idea of which electronic lab notebook will work for you and which will not.
You can sign up for a free trial or request a demo of the electronic lab notebooks system that you have shortlisted. After this, you will definitely be able to pick a system that is right for you.
Just remember that all electronic lab notebook systems come with a learning curve, and it might be frustrating not to get everything in the first attempt. However, you will get the hang of it after using it for some period of time.
Benefits of electronic lab notebooks
- Electronic lab notebooks are flexible. There are a lot of electronic lab notebooks to choose from, and you also have the liberty to add pictures, charts, tables, videos, and graphs.
- There are a ton of tools in electronic lab notebooks which help you stay organized. For example, you can tag your experiments and organize them into categories.
- Rather than looking page-by-page through written notebooks, in electronic lab notebooks, you can search for what you want by typing the specific keyword or topic.
- Unlike paper notebooks, electronic lab notebooks are ideal for group projects, and research collaborations as the notes documented on electronic lab notebooks can be easily shared through Dropbox or emails.
- With an internet connection, you can access your notes from anywhere in the world. If you use cloud service for storage, all your data is backed up and can be accessed from any location and any device.
Drawbacks of electronic lab notebooks
- Security is one of the prominent fears of electronic lab notebooks users. Although your notes are password-protected, there are still chances of data breaches as they are stored on the cloud.
- The transition from handwritten to digital notes can be challenging.
- The unsettled market is another major concern. Electronic lab notebooks market is rapidly changing, and you would not know which interface will survive even ten years from now.
- Cost also becomes a concern for some users. Most electronic lab notebooks have a monthly or annual fee. The cost of upgrading may also tip the scales against electronic lab notebooks.
The best ELN system in the market
SapioSciences offers the perfect electronic lab notebooks for all types of labs. Scientists can use their ELN system with zero training. This easy-to-use software is compatible with all leading browsers.
Unlike traditional ELNs, this Exemplar electronic lab notebook system is an integration of SDMS (Scientific Data Management System), LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System), and ELN. This makes it a single comprehensive solution that covers all your lab requirements.
Technology is taking the whole world by storm and making lives easier for all. Electronic lab notebook systems are a living example of the same.
Electronic lab notebooks are not only popular as the replacement for papers, but they are also lauded for storing data more systematically, safely, and efficiently.
If you are a lab worker, you can opt for these digitized notebooks to document your data, organize, and access it from anywhere and at any time.