What is an Electronic Lab Notebook, and why should I use one?

…so begins this recently published guide to Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs), from the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge.

The short answer is that ELNS are “a software system for documenting your research work”, which can replicate a hard-copy notebook and add benefits of being searchable, shareable and having safeguards of security and backup.

kenyon_5.1.07_083 by ydylg https://flic.kr/p/2WbiUE

The guide was put together following a trial of various ELNs and provides a great source of information if you’ve either never heard of them before, are in the process of working out if they could work for you, or know you want to try one but don’t know which will best suit your work.

As with other technologies, there are many ELN products on the market, all of which do the same sort of thing but with a wealth of other features that vary between them.

To help make sense of all of this, the guide:

  • poses some key questions to ask yourself to decide which ELN would be the best fit for your work
  • lists the functions and features to consider when evaluating them
  • has a quick reference checklist of 25 current ELN products

There’s also a discussion forum where ELN users can share their experiences, and where prospective users can ask questions.

For further reading you can also find a blog about the ELN workshop held in Cambridge last year.

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