In the past decade, the use of digital applications has grown exponentially, replacing paper as the primary means of record keeping in almost every field. The life sciences field is no exception—the use of digital laboratory notebooks is growing in both academia and industry. However, there are still many life scientists who are unwilling to make such a change, which is understandable.
As a thriving biotech company, you probably have a number of tools you use to make your workforce more efficient and productive. But are you using an electronic lab notebook (ELN)? If not, it may be time to consider one. There are numerous advantages to implementing an ELN at your biotech firm. Read on to learn more.
Benefits of an Electronic Lab Notebook
An electronic lab notebook recreates the function of a traditional paper lab notebook, but with numerous additional features that allow you to get the most out of the scientific data generated by your firm.
Modern ELNs don’t just record experiments and their results. The best, most comprehensive systems offer a full suite of smart laboratory capabilities, which can help your lab automate, streamline, and overall operate in a more intelligent way.
Digitizing lab data makes it easier for your teams to collaborate with each other, even across different locations. When data silos are reduced or even eliminated, you also reduce or eliminate wasteful duplication of labor. When all of your data is automatically entered into a digital system, it’s also easier to take advantage of big data analytic opportunities, or to perform audits to ensure data integrity.
The electronic laboratory notebook does a good job of providing tools to maintain the functionality and organization of the laboratory notebook. A key feature that allows this is that ELN is searchable. When you need to find a procedure you followed in an experiment conducted six months ago, you can simply search for the topic and find it in a few seconds instead of looking through a written notebook page by page. If this alone doesn’t make you excited about digital notebooks, most ELNs also allow you to label experiments and data and organize them into categories.
Implementing an ELN with project management capabilities can better empower your project managers. A purpose-built scientific project management system gives PMs more detailed insight into the status of all research and development happening on their teams.
Many electronic lab notebook solutions also include inventory management modules. Such a module can put a stop to over- or under-ordering of reagents, preventing delays or wasted funds spent on unnecessary supplies. They can also track samples, ensuring time isn’t wasted looking for specific samples.
Paper notebooks are almost impossible to effectively use for group projects or research collaborations-usually, each member of the team has its own notebook. It’s easy to share notebooks with electronic lab notebooks. Many platforms allow multiple users to edit a single notebook, and sharing is usually a built-in feature of the program. You can also share files by uploading the ELN to Dropbox or converting it to a PDF that can be printed or emailed. Depending on the software you choose to use, it can also be shared in a variety of other file formats.
It’s also common for ELN systems to include equipment calibration capabilities, allowing lab managers to ensure that all equipment is being properly maintained.
The Importance of Staying on the Cutting Edge
Implementing purpose-built software solutions for research data and lab management is important not just for improving efficiency, but also for attracting and retaining top talent. Researchers and lab managers want to work in well-equipped labs. They want to have access to the newest and best tools. No one enjoys having their work hindered by old, inefficient solutions and nearly-obsolete tech.
If you’re considering adopting an ELN at your biotech firm, it may be worth conducting an employee survey to identify common pain points in their work. Where do they encounter delays, inefficiencies, wasted time and effort, or other frustrations?
Once you have an idea of what can be improved in how your firm operates, you can identify the features that would be most beneficial in an electronic lab notebook. This will help you decide which of the many solutions on the market will best serve your needs. You don’t want to implement a solution which has a surplus of options you don’t need, or which is lacking key functionality requested by your team.
With a little research and forethought, you can implement an ELN that will improve both productivity and employee morale. Though implementing ELN will depend on the level of data security that you are looking for and you should have the ability to adapt and embrace the technology change.