A More In-depth Look at Electronic Laboratory Notebooks
As more and more scientific data is being created in digital formats, the need to be able to link together the data with the methods used to obtain it becomes ever more urgent. Digital data without the context provided by the notes we typically collect in our paper notebooks is meaningless. Electronic notebooks have the potential to revolutionise the way that scientists record their research. Not only can electronic notebooks enable us to create better links between the research activities recorded and the data they produce, but they are also easier to read, easier to search, enable sharing and collaboration, and can improve quality and efficiency in working practices. Despite the benefits, the majority of scientists are still relying on their trusty paper notebooks to capture the record of their research. In this chapter, we take a more in-depth look at electronic notebooks, and Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELNs) in particular. We take a look at the numerous benefits of electronic notebooks over paper notebooks and discuss a number of different ELNs to provide examples of differences and overlaps in their capabilities and target audience. We also look at some experiences of using an ELN from different disciplines, and how an ELN can facilitate and support scientific research in different ways. We also take a look at what some of the potential barriers are to the adoption of ELNs and why some scientists are reluctant to use them.