Why do so many scientists still record data in paper notebooks in this day and age? The answer is that although technology permeates every aspect of our lives and is often incorporated into laboratory management systems, there are several perceived advantages to relying on paper laboratory notebooks. Paper can be easily used to jot down notes or draw scientific diagrams, providing the kind of flexibility required by complex experiments and simplifying documentation for time-pressed researchers. Paper is also very cheap, meaning that even academic laboratories struggling to afford advanced laboratory management systems can purchase virtually unlimited quantities of it. And most importantly, the low cost of paper means that spilling chemicals on your paper notebook is so inconsequential and common, that a chemistry TA once took points off my lab report because my paper notebook was too clean.
The risks of using paper notebooks
But using paper to record scientific data comes at a cost. Paper notebooks are extremely difficult to search and share – especially if the notebook owner’s handwriting is illegible. This means that while a scientist looking for his or her old data may end up wasting hours sifting through paper notebooks, a scientist looking for a colleague’s old data will most likely fail to locate decipherable information. In practice, this translates into boxes of old paper notebooks, whose contents are effectively unusable, lining the cramped shelves of all established laboratories. Paper notebooks are also seldom backed up, and laboratory fires or similar incidents can easily destroy them and all the information they contain. Although some of the data in paper notebooks is manually digitized, this process tends to be so tedious and time-consuming that any data deemed unworthy of reporting tends to be left behind, leading to the loss of invaluable information that possesses the potential to prevent much repetitive work.
The Labguru Lab management system
The Labguru electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) provides an informatics software solution to all of these problems and streamlines research projects from start to finish. It facilitates digital note taking and management and seamlessly incorporates instrument data and analysis results, eliminating all manual transcription steps. This translates into human error-free data, as no mistakes resulting from forgetfulness, misreading, or approximation can make their way into an experiment’s documentation. Data is securely stored and can be accessed on a variety of local and remote devices, including mobile devices, facilitating compliance and promoting the reproducibility that is so crucial to everything from publishing articles to scaling up production. Additionally, the collaboration and dissemination of ideas that are so vital to scientific breakthroughs are enhanced by the ease with which ELN data can be shared and analyzed. Labguru’s ELN also provides intellectual property protection and saves time, freeing scientists to focus on innovation. In fact, Keren Gueta Milshtein, R&D Manager at MyPlant Bio and an avid Labguru user, estimates that the Labguru ELN saves 20% of her company’s work hours.
Paper laboratory notebooks may be popular, but the risks associated with using them to store valuable scientific data easily outweigh their advantages. The Labguru electronic laboratory notebook provides the perfect solution for quick digital note taking and secure data storage while simultaneously integrating instrument data and analysis results, eliminating human error and saving time.
To learn more about how the Labguru ELN can transform your research