Innovation leads to more innovation. That’s certainly been the case with electronic lab notebook (ELN) technology. Originally designed to create a digital version of the paper notebooks which have been used in science laboratories for years, leading examples of ELN software have expanded their offerings to include lab inventory management (including the ability to order more reagents), equipment calibration management, and tools for long-distance collaboration, among other things.
What can a cutting-edge ELN do?
One of the main benefits of a well-designed ELN is its ability to integrate with the other software and hardware a lab uses. While many electronic lab books strive to be an all-in-one solution, that really only works if they can interface with the rest of the lab: connecting to equipment in order to calibrate it, or even the simple act of connecting to the printer to quickly and easily create barcodes for inventory management.
A good electronic lab notebook will also facilitate integration between labs, by making it easy to share data and collaborate. This is how a digital lab notebook truly leads to more innovation: when labs can easily work together, with multiple brilliant minds tackling the same problem, or using the same data set for wildly different ends, they are able to make discoveries more quickly than ever.
The ability to collaborate remotely has proven to be especially important in 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic causing even labs who normally work together in person to have to limit their time together. The right software makes it easier for labmates to continue collaborating, from wherever they are quarantining. The best solutions offer easy cross-platform compatibility so that scientists can access their data on different devices.
Enabling remote lab management
Electronic lab notebooks may also include lab manager software capabilities. By combining lab book technology with project management concepts, lab managers can keep track of the status of all ongoing projects and experiments within the lab, manage inventory, order new reagents, review data, and more. Provided the rest of the lab is being compliant with using the system to record their data, update their projects, and scan reagents used, this allows the lab manager to reduce the amount of time they need to spend physically in the lab in order to keep things moving smoothly.
Creating the lab of the future
This technology creates the lab of the future, where everything is integrated, where collaboration can happen across continents, and where routine tasks can be automated. ELN technology allows scientists to be more efficient, spending more time experimenting and innovating and less time on mundane data entry or lab maintenance. Electronic lab notebook software, inventory management, and equipment calibration software are just more ways that technology is allowing us to do more with our time and energy, working towards a better world where innovation moves at the speed of thought, and where our brightest minds can work together to find exciting new discoveries. As more labs implement this technology, in both the private and public sector, we’re sure to see more exciting developments.
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