In our last blog post, we looked at the history of the electronic lab notebook and how its concept has actually been around for a lot longer than we ever imagined.

However, scientists are still slow to adopt electronic notebooks in preference for their paperbound notebook, a staple in the lab for many years. Can technology change this habit? As laboratories become more digital, an electronic alternative to these paperbound notebooks seems an appropriate next step in supporting scientific research.

So, we thought we might try and convince you to give an electronic lab notebook a try with our top five facts! 

  1. An electronic lab notebook is more than just a notebook. Imagine having all of your science needs in one place and having everything linked to the information in your lab notebook. An electronic lab notebook can function as an integrated tool linked to analysis software, laboratory informatics systems, scientific data management systems, modeling and simulation programs, chemical inventory systems and other scientific databases.
  2. By using an electronic lab notebook you can save time and money. We have all had a situation come up where you can remember that a former postdoc or grad student in the lab did a particular experiment and it seemed to suggest something interesting and now you cannot remember what it was exactly that they found. Your PI then suggests that you look through their lab notebook to find the experiment. Always a painful task! With an electronic lab notebook you can virtually eliminate the trouble this causes. Searching and finding information entered into the electronic notebook is easy and fast. This will save you time and also save your PI money by not have to perform unnecessary repeat experiments.
  3. You can still write down ideas and create drawings. When brainstorming or wanting to remember new ideas scientists often want a pen a paper. With many electronic notebook applications being run on tablets they are often integrated with stylus and note-taking applications that support free-hand entries. These can be imported into the lab notebook and even turned into text making them searchable.
  4. Electronic notebooks can be lab friendly. You might be fearful of taking your tablet to the bench with you thinking, “What if I spill something on it and damage it or what if I drop it or knock it off the bench while working?” To alleviate this issue there are now very durable cases available that prevent damage if the tablet is dropped, and there are also waterproof covers to protect against spills and with these the touch screen even works with gloves on.
  5. Collaboration and communication with colleagues can increase. The data collected and stored from each lab member’s electronic notebook is centralized and can be accessed by other lab members. This means that data can be shared quickly and more frequently. In addition, some electronic lab notebooks are even equipped with messaging systems for instant communication between colleagues.

Time to Chat

Now that you know more about electronic lab notebooks are you ready to give it a try?

Or perhaps you already adopted one that you like and would like to share your experience? Do let us know and provide pros and cons. If you are still fearful let us know what your hesitations are! And please let us know what type of notebook you use via our poll!