Life science research is evolving, using more and more advanced methods and technologically improved equipment. Surprisingly, record keeping in academic laboratories tends to stay old-fashioned — many labs still use paper notebooks to track their experiments and results. The appeal of paper notebooks is clear: they’re portable, easy to use, and above all — we’re used to them. Switching to an electronic solution can seem daunting, because it means learning to use a new software. The benefits, however, vastly outweigh the cost.
So, Why Should You Switch to an Electronic Lab Notebook?
Data Security and Centralization
A research project in academic labs can last years, and so it’s important to be able to search through records and find historical data. Paper notebooks can easily be lost or damaged, and it’s hard to find specific necessary information in them. An electronic lab notebook keeps your research information saved on highly secure online servers, preventing loss or theft, and making it easy to search through past records.
Members of academic labs tend to switch often, people arriving and leaving. Sometimes labs even receive help from students who only arrive for a few months. It’s important to ensure data continuity, so that research can be continued even when the people running it change. Electronic notebooks keep all data in one place, allowing access to all lab members.
When collaborating with other labs, especially labs that are physically distant (sometimes even in different countries), paper notes just don’t do the trick. Sharing information becomes a complex procedure, involving typing and uploading individual notes. With an electronic lab notebook, researchers from other laboratories can be given viewing permission to experiment records, project plans and protocols.
ELNs also improve collaboration within teams — they can be used to schedule and plan experiments, assign tasks to team members, create collaborative files and projects and more.
We all want to focus on science, but sadly there’s the whole world of logistics to take care of. There’s equipment that needs calibrating, an inventory to run, a storage to organize, and all of this needs to be done within a budget. A good electronic lab notebook will include modules for all these functions.
You can use an ELN to register all your equipment and set the required maintenance and calibration types for each instrument. The ELN will notify you when a maintenance event is due.
An electronic lab notebook tracks the amounts and locations of all supplies, notifying users when stocks run low. This makes it easier to tell exactly how much of which supplies need to be ordered. A shopping list can then be created directly from the ELN (and all lab members can request items). This saves money, as nothing is wasted on unnecessary items, and makes your grants and funds last longer.
ELNs can also be used for storage organization — you can set an exact location for each supply or sample, so that you can always find what you’re looking for. Some ELNs can also be used to print QR-coded and barcode labels for supplies.
Having all the logistic side of lab management taken care of, you’re left with more time for actual research.
When all the data is kept in one place, it’s much easier to process it, receive insights, see the bigger picture and reach conclusions. Gathering results for writing articles becomes simpler as well. Some ELNs will offer the option to run analysis on information directly from within the ELN software, so you can analyse information from different sources and different data types in one place.
Labguru ELN for Academia
Labguru is an all-in-one research management solution that includes ELN, LIMS and laboratory informatics tool, made by scientists for scientists. Labguru is favoured by some of the world’s leading research institutes, including The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, The Radboud University Medical Centre and The Francis Crick Institute. Our team of specialists can help you customize the system to the needs of your laboratory.
Become a smart laboratory with Labguru ELN.
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