ELN – Electronic Lab Notebooks – They’re here now!

  Have you ever tried to look through someone else’s research notebook (or maybe even your own)?  Even with the neatest of notebooks finding specific information or protocols is a time consuming event.  A good table of contents helps alot.  But what if you could search you notebook for a certain word, just like you search a document on the computer or the web?

Pros
  Templates – why write you procedure or make tables for your results over and over again.  Just pull up a template with your protocol and/or a table to fill in with your results.
  Collaborate – Using Onenote and a network everyone in a lab (or in two or more labs around the world) can have instant access to experiments being run.  Or your research pages can be webpublished (example: www.e-lab-book.com) to a research ‘blog’ where collaborators can instantly comment/give suggestions on research.
  Data Access – You can always have your research with you on your laptop (or Samsung NC10
netbook), or (via the web) you can call it up from anywhere with inernet access.
  Organize – You can create easily navigatable flow charts of your research (example: http://e-lab-book.com/?p=138).  Rather than flip through page after page, you can read flow chart – click on a page – click back.
  Data Backup – No more hours copying your notebook pages on a photocopier.  Publish to the web, backup your files, there are many options that don’t require the copy room.
  Super Calculator – Use a spreadsheet to instantly calculate yields or quantities to be used in a reaction.
  Infinite Colored Pens – Change the color of your ink instantly :)  No searching for a specific pen.
  Camera – Some have built in cameras!  A great way to document stuff.

Cons
  $$ – The paper notebook still is less than a buck :).
  Write Speed – Open a paper notebook and start writing.  Current tablet pcs can come out of standby mode in seconds, so it’s not a huge difference.
  Battery – If your battery dies and your in the field – back to paper.
  Scanning – If you get pictures in the lab that you would normally cut & paste into your lab book, you have to scan them.
  Chemical Spill! – Although paper notebooks get just as ruined, a tablet pc is not as easy to replace.  

Do you have more Pros/Cons come to e-lab-book.com and post your suggestions.  Lets get this working!

6 thoughts on “ELN – Electronic Lab Notebooks – They’re here now!”

  1. We have been using tablet PC based notebooks for SOP’ed type of work. They have proven to be very convenient, well, until the next windows crash. However, for pure research, when you need a lot more flexibility and freedom, I could not find them very helpful, at least with software that’s installed on our tablet PCs.

  2. ‘for pure research… I could not find them very helpful’?  I don’t understand that.  I have used Onenote to take notes for classes, it’s more flexible than a regular notebook.  I don’t get what your saying?

  3. I’d have to agree although I no longer work in a lab, I still remember trolling around the bench with a stained and smudgy “real” lab book that used to stink out my sports bag on the way home.

    db

  4. spm38910 and db,

    I guess you never worked in GMP environment for pharmaceutical company :) I have used Onenote and I presently use another notebook software on my Mac; however, none of these applications can be used in the pharmaceutical lab due to strict regulatory guidelines imposed by FDA.

    So, special software with multiuser access and permissions, second scientist reviews, electronic signatures, audit trails, and etc has to be developed by a third party. The end product normally works well for QC and some development labs.

    But, when it comes to research you find yourself unable to perform some very simple tasks with ELN. For instance, you cannot reweight a chemical without authorization of your superior because the balance is linked to ELN and would not accept a new number without the override since this action would consider a deviation from the research protocol.

    Yes, these things can be adjusted by IT department or the company that developed the software but my initial encounter with ELN was not pleasant.

    If they just gave a regular tablet PC with Onenote running on it, I would not have a problem.

  5. Interesting point about the regulatory impact on the ELN market from the pharma perspective.

    db

  6. There are some free ELN’s out there but you get what you pay for. I work for Rescentris Inc who make CERF, the only ELN that is both Mac and Windows compatible and fully 21 CFR 11 compliant. Obviously I am biased, but we believe our product is the best. Unlike some of the other systems described here it is infinitely flexible, extensible, and customizable. Check it out at http://www.rescentris.com

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