Electronic Lab Notebooks – Pros and Cons

Title image Electronic Lab Notebooks - Pros & Cons

Electronic Lab Notebooks – Pros and Cons

09:35 25 November in Review
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ELN or Electronic Lab Notebook, the revolutionary digital platform that has made laboratory and research work effortless and precise, goes beyond its traditional use as a replacement for paper-based lab notebook systems nowadays. Modern laboratories are accepting it as the ultimate way to automate scientific activities, be it an academic laboratory or an industrial-grade one. 

It is handy, saves a lot of time, and makes the experiments digitised. But you cannot get the fruits of it unless you have precise information about both the pros and cons of ELNs. 

Do you need to gather comprehensive knowledge about this digital platform to use it precisely? Though few, the Electronic Laboratory Notebook system does have few downsides you should be aware of but the benefits massively outway them.

I’ve gathered here both pros and cons of ELN with some cutting-edge software suggestions to offer you a comprehensive guide so you can pick the best one compatible with your laboratory needs. 

What is ELN?

ELN, a software platform, is essentially a replacement of paper in laboratory works that has surpassed its traditional use by offering secure, methodical, and effectual data storage and interpolable data distribution to facilitate experimental tests in a lab.  

Most of the advanced ELNs are cloud-based nowadays that ensures:

  •  Efficient accessibility
  •  Real-time collaboration
  • Data sharing and
  • Accuracy

Pros of ELN

The pros of an ELN system include:

Easy Organisation

Manual lab notebooks come with so many hassles while organising the collected data. They make the process difficult-to-organize and messy. 

Here comes the need for an ELN that provides the facility to save the information in a well-organised manner. 

ELNs have:

  • Data organising tools 
  • Easy searchability
  • Timestamping

Thus you own the opportunity to keep yourself free of the tension of losing any information and easily find them even they are input long ago just by:

  • Searching for the test
  • Tagging the data and tests
  • Employing categories to keep them organised
  • Using automated timestamping for repeatability

Easy Configuration

An ELN is easy to configure and implement to facilitate the research. From streamlining the workflow to report generation, a sophisticated Electronic Laboratory Notebook can handle everything efficiently through:

  • Producing the experimental tests from a configured or blank template
  • Executing the research integrating lab devices
  • Collecting data from external sources
  • Designing the workflow 

Flexibility

Electronic Lab Notebooks are flexible, handy, and offer so many features to facilitate data research for scientists. 

It exhibits the facility to include:

  • Diagrams
  • Texts
  • Photos
  • External links
  • Graphs
  • Equations

Users also have the facility to integrate the lab instruments straight to this platform to load the data. Some advanced ELNs also offer an interface for manually transcribed data. Thus you can keep the handwritten version or turn them into texts for easy searchability. 

Security

The most concerning topic when it comes to digitising your lab works using an ELN is the protection of the information stored. ELNs encrypt your data through password protection. It enables various authentication methods to ensure only verified user access, and no one else can enter the information stored in the software and steal it. 

Global Sharing

Paper-based notebooks are always a hassle when you require to share the data with the group members. With the modern Electronic Lab Notebooks, data sharing even globally has become a matter of a click nowadays! 

Today’s ELN:

  • has a built-in sharing feature
  • Allows group collaboration
  • Allows to edit one interface by a group of users simultaneously
  • Has printing or various format facility for easy sharing

Most of the ELNs feature a messaging tool that enables scientists to communicate with each other via messaging. They can set alerts or deploy SMS service to get a reminder when a specific step of an experiment needs to be executed. 

Accessibility and Storage

Cloud-based ELNs provides smooth accessibility via the internet using any device: whether it is a tablet, laptop, or phone. It also has an installation facility on the hard drive of your personal computer to use it locally. 

Data storage of the laboratory operations was never so easy before switching to an ELN service. They come with data security as they offer the facility to save essential information both on the device or cloud, ensuring backups. 

Cons of ELN

With the facilities, modern ELNs also come with some minor cons:

  • Though ELN secures the scientific data through password encryption, there remain the chances of hacking. Cloud-based platforms are stored in the database, and the protection the provider is offering may remain unknown sometimes.
  • Some ELNs only support PDF formats for data extraction that restricts the users to transport the data to another platform.
  • The ELN business is changing over time to make the software compatible with the dynamic research requirements. Thus, an interface available today may no longer be accessible in the future, resulting in data losing risks. Preserving your lab works in PDF, HTML, plain text, or CSV format can provide a solution to this dilemma.
  • Today’s advanced and feature-some ELNs come with fees. Some obviously support free accounts, but they are restricted in features. 

Best Electronic Lab Notebooks

To assist you in picking a quality ELN compatible with your laboratory requirements, I am offering a comprehensive list. 

Exemplar ELN: Sapio Sciences

Exemplar ELN, a SaaS-based integrated software interface developed by Sapio Sciences, promises to make the lab activities digital and seamless with its surpassing yet affordable features.

The characteristics of Exemplar ELN:

  • Combines the efficacious machine data capture and searching mechanisms
  • Easy searchability for all information stored (Structured and unstructured)
  • Supports various data visualisations for fruitful data analysis
  • Supports discussion and communication facility among the researchers when the experiments are running
  • Requires zero codings and zero training to implement complex templates
  • Allows multiple researchers to work on the same interface at a time
  • Effortless team collaboration with no requirement for check-in and check-out

LabCollector ELN: AgileBio

LabCollector is another efficient ELN system designed by AgileBio that can handle the lab works intelligently. 

The features include:

  • A hybrid ( Electronic and paper) solution offering electronic signature
  • Features thorough customisation
  • Facility to upload multiple files and pictures at a time
  • Ensures security and efficient data backup

Labii ELN: Labii

Labii ELN is a SaaS-based free ELN service with advanced paid features developed by Labii that can handle the research data efficiently.

The features include:

  • Specified for biotechnological applications
  • Uses Natural Language Processing technology for data extraction
  • Easy customisation facility for personalised experiments
  • Supports efficient inventory management

Best ELN Software

All the above three ELNs offer unique and handy features, but Exemplar ELN comes with the most excelling facilities. It is an integrated system that gets adaptable to any research needs and laboratories. 

You can access it from all leading browsers via the internet from any device requiring no IT infrastructure. Exemplar ELN is handy, featureful, comes within your budget, obviously the best one out there, making your laboratory smarter and more advanced!

Conclusion

ELN is a smart notebook system that enables researchers and scientists to concentrate on the experimental task by handling data organisation and storage, inventory management, and report generation automated and accurate. 

The above information I have summarised here would be a great advantage in selecting the best service suiting your laboratory requirements. 

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