Digital Lab Notebook: How to Choose the Right ELN

Digital Lab Notebook: How to Choose the Right ELN

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By Shane Garcia

A digital lab notebook (also known as an electronic lab notebook) is the best way to keep track of lab results and lab activities. And it’s so simple to use!

An ELN is a piece of software that assist researchers in documenting experiments and generally include features like protocol templates, collaborative tools, electronic signature support and lab inventory management.

In this post, We’ll look at some of the main features of a digital lab notebook and how they can help you succeed in your research.

Picking the Right ELN for your Research Solutions

The presence of a plentiful variety of ELNs in the market can make it pretty challenging for researchers to settle on a particular software for their research solutions. However, to make things easier, here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing your electronic laboratory notebook, especially suitable for career researchers in the digital sector.

1. Educate yourself on the available ELNs

There are a plethora of resources online that can help you study and understand the market dynamics for ELNs. You will find crucial information like the support for computing platforms, data storage, and cost tiers if you are keen enough.

2. Calculate and understand the associated costs

Most tools, software and data solutions for digital lab notebooks aren’t free for users. Therefore, you have to be ready to pay for something. For instance, most ELNs used for academic research cost averagely about US $10-20 monthly.

Users need to pay some more for the paid versions instead of the free versions because they tend to be restricted. You may need some more storage to store your experimental data, but you will realise that free versions will limit you. To raise some of these request limits, you just have to pay me.

3. Iron out any pending legal issues

When you carry out some in-depth research on some of these ELN solutions, you will realise that some funders opt to restrict the location of data storage. Therefore, this is something that you might have to look into when you evaluate any cloud-based ELN.

If you are a scientist and use mostly use data sets falling within EUGDPR’s (European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation) scope, you should find out whether the data storage is in compliance with the stipulated rules.

Furthermore, you should keep in mind that choosing an ELN system with the ability to let completed pages stay locked and signed electronically could prove to be vital, especially if the credentials are required to defend a team of researchers against instances of fraud or any other case.

4. Ensure you evaluate the ELN stability

As a researcher, it is only wise to want to assess the product’s stability, especially by assessing the manufacturer’s chances of survival.

According to a research data management librarian working at the University of Utah located in Salt Lake City, Daureen Nesdill, it is important to consider this when choosing an ELN. You have to ensure that there is a sense of continuity. The best way to do this, according to Nesdill, is to go for companies that are at least five years old, enjoy stable funding and enables users to enjoy full access while keeping data security in mind.

5. How about the aspect of mobile platforms?

One of the features that you should look out for when choosing ELN solutions is the ability to be used on mobile devices. When performing experiments to collect experimental data, tablets and smartphones might come in handy.

The portability of these devices is what makes some of the ELNs more desirable than others. For instance, you can collect your notes using a touch pen on your tablet or record videos and take photographs of results using your mobile devices. A stylus could also come in handy when annotating images.

6. The aspect of software integration is just as important

A link to your favourite digital lab notebook could be something to tip the scales, especially of scientific researchers. For instance, organic chemists tend to lay their preference on the PerkinElmer Signals Notebook over other ELNs because they can integrate with ChemDraw, a chemical-structure drawing tool.

Another company that has embraced ELNs with software integration is ResearchSpace. They use ELNs that integrate other tools like Github, a software development platform.

Digital Lab Notebook Wrap up

Inasmuch as you might consider all these things while choosing an ELN for your research solutions, it is important to commit to change because most of these tools are dynamic. That is why the element of acclimatisation will come in handy.

Shane Garcia


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