Published on January 7th, 2021 | by Bibhuranjan


What is an ELN, or Electronic Lab Notebook?

Researchers in a variety of scientific disciplines have long used a laboratory notebook for recording their experiments. These notebooks provided a codified way for recording the parameters and results of every experiment. This codification and recording is incredibly important for the integrity of the scientist’s work, as it helps them refine their hypothesis and continue working until they either get results or realize that they’ve reached a dead end.

In some modern research labs, the traditional paper lab book has been replaced by an ELN, or electronic laboratory notebook. This piece of technology not only allows for the digital recording of the same datasets that were once trusted to a paper book, but also often adds other functionalities that can help researchers with their work.

The Benefits of an ELN

While some people still prefer the tangible experience of recording data in a physical notebook, there are many benefits to the adoption of an electronic lab book.

One of the primary benefits of an ELN is that all of the data is stored electronically, often in the cloud. This prevents the data from being lost. While most researchers do their best to keep their lab notebook safe, there is always the possibility of an accident or disaster resulting in the loss of all the data recorded in that physical medium.

Another benefit is that when data is stored electronically, it is easier to share. Collaboration is an important part of scientific research, as different labs work together on a large project, or share datasets for unrelated research on similar topics. With an electronic lab notebook, it is easy to record the data and then share it with authorized parties.

Some ELNs also either include other systems for lab management, or integrate easily with existing systems. This is a boon for any research facility looking to develop a smart laboratory. Such a system can do things like track reagents used, or the status of various samples in the lab inventory, sync with equipment, and even feature project management tools such as Gantt charts for tracking the status of research.

Who Uses Electronic Lab Notebooks?

ELN systems are already in use at universities and at various privately held research firms. They are used in the pharmaceutical industry, bio tech, and other cutting-edge fields that want to ensure their data is recorded and stored in the best way possible.

Some students are already using electronic lab notebooks in their classes. These systems can usually be accessed from students’ existing laptops or mobile devices, meaning it’s one less thing they have to carry from class to class (and one less thing a forgetful young student can misplace…). At this juncture, it’s beneficial for students who are working towards a career in research to be familiar with both a traditional paper lab notebook and an electronic system, so that they can be prepared for whichever method is used by their employer. However, over time the paper lab books will likely become less and less common, as the benefits of an electronic system outweigh the resistance to adopting a new system.

Photo by Sonia Radosz on Unsplash

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About the Author


Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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