Moving to electronic lab notebooks

Folks, it became very clear when packing up the lab in Cleveland, that our paper lab notebook system was not ideal. I wish I had pictures of the horror of loose pages and undated printouts I sorted through. *shudder*

But, it made me think about just how outdated paper notebooks are, and that though we try our best to make hardcopies, and to keep track of our work in a notebook, we are in a digital age. So much of our work is done on the computer, that keeping paper copies of big datasets, database updates, and analyses is extremely cumbersome. NIH recognizes this too, and their recommendations/requirements for scientific record-keeping are best met by electronic lab notebooks.

Thus, though it’s tough to change ones’ habits, we decided to make the move to eNotebooks. The lab move to Tufts was the perfect opportunity, and so we took the plunge. Everyone in the lab was onboard, which is critical for a major change in routine.

After researching several options, we chose to trial the SciNote electronic lab notebook. We went with SciNote because of it’s extreme versatility and user-friendly interface. It’s also free. 🙂

SciNote helped us transition with an hour-long Skype session to go over the software, and answer any questions. They have also checked in periodically to see how we were doing, and have helped us troubleshoot. We actually haven’t had many issues transitioning. As a PI it’s lovely to be able to check in on projects from afar, and see data. I don’t need to worry about summer students taking off at the end of the internship with their notebook in hand as a souvenir. And all of the digital data is there in one place, with timestamps when it’s updated. Everything is tracked. Peace of mind.

We are currently working out the sample inventory feature on SciNote to assist us with our freezer organization, and also allow us to easily link analyses to sample information.

There are good blogs and articles out there on how to choose eNotebooks for your lab, features to keep in mind, pros and cons. We don’t have much experience with other platforms, but we are certainly happy with SciNote so far and would recommend it to colleagues as a user-friendly option.

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