An electronic lab notebook, or ELN, can take the place of a traditional physical lab book, but it can also do so much more. The best ELNs on the market include additional functionality that contributes to greater data integrity, easier collaboration, regulatory compliance, and even lab management.
Today, many labs in both academia and the private sector are implementing an electronic lab notebook solution to make their laboratories more efficient.
Unprecedented Control Over Data
The problem with physical lab notebooks is that your data is stored in one location. Sharing that data with classmates, colleagues, or another lab across the country requires finding a good way to digitize that data and share it electronically. Depending on the kind of data, you may even have compliance issues to worry about. And when sharing data with other labs, there may be concerns with data ownership.
Modern electronic lab notebooks make it far easier to share data, making collaboration a much smoother process. What’s more, they generally include protections which track data provenance and ownership, as well as making sure that regulatory compliance remains intact.
A good ELN system will store your data securely in the cloud and allow you to access it remotely from different devices (assuming there are no concerns about proprietary information being accessed outside the lab). This can be especially convenient in 2020, as the flexibility to work and access data from home can allow you to spend less time in the lab and more time collaborating safely and remotely with your labmates.
The Importance of Collaboration
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the ability to share data and collaborate. Whether labs are working together on a project, or using the same data set for vastly different ends, it saves everyone a lot of time from having to “reinvent the wheel.” Labs and scientists are able to be more efficient when they have access to high-quality data shared by other groups around the country and the world.
When multiple labs use the same electronic lab notebook solution, it makes it easier to share data and collaborate. Transfer of knowledge is quick and efficient, and there’s no concerns about compatibility. When everyone is using the same system, collaboration is efficient. There’s no time wasted trying to find the same information in different systems.
An Important Part of the Lab of the Future
As we move into an increasingly digital and collaborative world, an electronic lab notebook will be an important part of lab functionality. Systems that can automate lab functions will allow scientists to become even more efficient, spending less of their time on mundane tasks and more time making discoveries.
Some ELN systems incorporate elements such as inventory tracking, automatic recording, and project management capabilities. An ELN can serve as a sort of dashboard for the entire functionality of a lab, streamlining things and making sure that everyone has exactly what they need to complete their important work.
In many ways, the lab of the future is already here today.