A scientific lab notebook (also known as an electronic lab notebook, or ELN) is a simple yet powerful tool that you can use to make your research more efficient and is a unique and powerful tool for any researcher. Whether you use it to collect information for your research or as a notebook to track your daily activities, it’s an important part of any modern research and lab practices.
But what exactly is a scientific lab notebook, and how can it benefit your research? In this post, we’ll explore ELN’s in more detail, specifically what they do & how they can help you.
What Is an Electronic Lab Notebook?
An electronic Laboratory Notebook is a digital version of the typical lab notebook. A lab notebook is an inclusive record of the laboratory techniques, reagents involved, observations and the relevant rationale behind the observation to enable other scientists reproduce them. The content of a lab notebook includes the methods and results of the experiment, references and background information, and an explanation of the reasons for carrying out the experiment.
A lab notebook also serves as a legal document: If your laboratory discovery needs to be patented, your lab notebook must be analysed to ascertain your claim to the discovery. Additionally, it can be used for defence to validate your work and proof that you went through the required processes in case of fraud allegations against your published work.
Electronic lab books software programs that eliminate various barriers of the traditional notebooks.ELNs are searchable and reusable, they possess sophisticated features for accessing, sharing and analysing experimental data. Their flexibility and numerous benefits have made them popular in the scientific community, making the use of manual notebooks obsolete.
Reasons to Keep a Laboratory Notebook
Lab notebooks are a vital tool for research. The following are some reasons why you must keep a clear laboratory notebook:
Keeping track of your work
A properly maintained lab book can enable you to record the step-by-step developments of the experiments you perform. With each step clearly noted, it is easy to progress from where you left when you take a break. Your ideas are readily accessible, and you can always double-check your work before a new phase.
Recording future tasks
It is essential to note down ideas and experiments you wish to conduct in the future, otherwise, you risk forgetting them. A notebook can help you keep record of these ideas and plan out the experiments in advance.
Scientific experiments require to observing certain protocols. When planning your experiments, you can have the right protocols for your upcoming experiments lined up in your notes. You can also keep note of protocols of experiments you have done in case of future reference.
Some complex experiments require a team of scientists to work collectively to attain results. Portions of such projects may carry on in the absence of some team members. Laboratory notebooks help all parties keep track. Double-checking each other’s records ensures accountability among the partners in case of any mistakes.
If your scientific research results in a new discovery, your lab notebook can help protect your intellectual property by patenting. The patent process involves scrutinizing your record to check your schedule and ensure you followed the required procedure.
Advantages of The Digital Lab Notebook
The increased use of computers for acquisition and analysis of data among the scientific community has intensified the need for data storage. There is a high demand for secure, accurate and reliable ENL solutions. Digital lab notebooks have multiple benefits, they include:
- You can access your documents from any internet connected device.
- Flexible and customizable.
- Digital storage of data in safe web-based platform making it easy to access.
- They provide integral, centralized data management.
- They enhance precision and order of data and metadata.
- Electronic lab books facilitate collaboration among scientific teams.
- Easy to add other files, graphs and external links.
- Elimination of excess documentation and eligibility issues common in traditional lab books.
Using an Electronic Lab Notebook
Like most digital software, digital lab books have user-friendly interfaces through which you can access the available features. ELNs allow you to import your documents and spreadsheets to a centralized computer system, where you can easily access them from any internet-connected devices.
Data entry in electronic lab books is done by a text editor, whose operation is easy to learn, they include images, tables, annotations and graphs. Advances digital laboratory notebooks are capable of analysing specific types of data. They also allow you to format and organize your documents.
Collaborative ELNs allow you to control who has access to the scientific research; you can choose to selectively share notes with the team or keep them private. They are equipped with searching technologies through which you are able to interrogate various kinds of data.