Document your research with electronic lab notebooks

Laboratory notebook are an essential component of the scientific research process. They are used to document hypotheses, experiments and results, and can also serve a role in protecting intellectual property, among many other functions. However, their use is limited when a large number of researchers are working on a same project, and pasting digital results in the era of big data can be challenging.

Electronic lab notebook to the rescue

Electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) were first adopted by the pharmaceutical industry, and are now progressively (but slowly) entering the academic research area. Now several open-source and commercial solutions are proposed to researchers. There main advantages include long-term storage, optimization of data reproducibility, support for collaboration and sharing, and the ability to directly add raw data from instruments, replacing the time-consuming task of printing and stapling them on paper. However, some barriers still hinder their wide use by academics, such as their cost, ease of use, or data compatibility (Kanza et al.).

Some popular ELNs

  • SciNote: SciNote is a free open-source ELN enables the user to store samples, protocols, and results online, work on private projects or share projects with co-workers, a keep the data safe. The code for SciNote is freely available in Github here.
  • Labfolder: Labfolder is an online tool with smart productivity features such as templates and advanced search. It permits users to store every type of data, making it a flexible ELN. Labfolder can be tested for free witout time limit for up to 3 users.
  • eLabFTW: This ELN is free and open-source and can be installed on a server or a computer. eLabFTW features include inventory management, scheduler, timestamps, and more. Molecules can be drawn and added with Chemdoodle, and the application allows any kind of data to be uploaded.
sciNote-Lab-notebook-omictools
Example of ELN with sciNote.

 

Electronic lab notebooks will probably replace traditional paper ones in the future, increasing productivity, reproducibility, and sharing of scientific data.

Reference

Kanza et al. (2017). Electronic lab notebooks: can they replace paper?. J Cheminform.