The Value of Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) Technology
It can be argued that the recording of scientific observations dates back as early as 3500 BC in the Mesopotamian era. Man has always had the quest for recording his observations in “written” form, though these early forms were merely that – observations without any associated empirical or experimental method. Once evolution occurred to the period of Alchemy, these early “scientists” used paper and ink to describe their work and findings as the common form for recording and sharing this information with others. The paper methodology has remained the constant and accepted method of communicating this information for centuries since.
Why do R&D scientists really keep records?
They want to be able to peruse information, view it to perhaps reach new conclusions, and use them to protect their invention. They want to leverage work already performed and not reinvent something that has already been done. They want to share information with others knowledgeable in their field. The importance of collaboration amongst peers has evolved along with the science to where we are today – teams of researchers working on projects around the globe in a 24 x 7 world. The timeliness of creativity and recording of this information has never been more critical than in today’s competitive environment. Paper has worked for centuries. Why change now?
The primary role of a scientific notebook is and has been to protect the ownership of the invention.
But the primary role of the researcher has been to invent. So enter the electronic world, and a host of possibilities are created. Instead of staff meetings and peer reviews, those involved in R&D now have a mechanism to easily share that information and foster more of a team approach to research. While meetings and reviews aren’t entirely eliminated, they become more focussed and efficient. An enterprise ELN facilitates collaboration by supporting workflow coordination across geographic and business boundaries. The ELN is adaptable to meeting the needs of multiple disciplines in a collaborative R&D environment, and is a strategy for improved success, increased Return on Investment (ROI), enhanced productivity and protection of intellectual capital.