Modern technology has changed our lives and our careers in many ways. Can you even imagine doing your job without email? Do you remember how hard it was to get in touch with people before cell phones and text messages? Beyond these ubiquitous forms of tech, there are also specialized solutions revolutionizing industries. Within scientific fields, one recent advancement is the invention of the electronic lab notebook, or ELN.
What is an Electronic Lab Notebook?
An ELN is a software platform that not only recreates the function of a physical lab notebook, but also incorporates other useful features. Some systems include lab manager tools, project management capabilities, or inventory functions. They allow laboratory teams to be more efficient and more connected, even when working across distances.
Electronic lab notebooks are currently in use in academic and professional settings and are expected to become more common as more labs look into becoming “smart laboratories.” So let’s look at some of the reasons why an ELN is awesome.
Penmanship Doesn’t Matter
Does anyone write anything by hand anymore? With almost all of our writing done on computers and mobile devices, even those of us who used to have decent penmanship might find that our handwriting is sloppy. Not to mention, once you’ve gone a while without holding a pen, it’s easy to find your handwriting stamina is completely gone and your fingers hurt within minutes of taking notes the old fashioned way.
An electronic lab notebook lets you record your lab experiments the same way you record everything else: digitally. No squinting at last month’s notes trying to decipher your own terrible handwriting. “Is that a 2 or a 7?” is never a question you should be asking about important scientific data.
Available Whenever, Wherever You Need It
Have you ever had an “ah ha!” moment about your research while you were just doing your grocery shopping, while the data you needed to confirm that theory was tucked safely in your notebook back at the lab? Well, the best ELN systems are cloud-based and can be accessed from your mobile device. That means you can access your data anywhere you have signal.
That means even if it’s 3am and you wake up suddenly with a nagging question about some results, you can immediately set your mind at ease by looking at the data on your phone.
Sharing is Caring
One of the best things about having your lab data digitized is that it is easier than ever to share with collaborators. Whether you’re participating in a group project as part of a university course, or working with multiple other labs on a major groundbreaking project, you and your fellow researchers can share data, while the system keeps track of the provenance of the information shared.
With all of these great capabilities and more, it’s easy to see why an electronic lab notebook is quickly becoming a necessity for a modern laboratory. An ELN makes it easier than ever for scientists to record, share, and make use of their data.