Interfaces for Capturing the Experiment Record
Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELNs) have many features that can support the work of scientists, but their main purpose is to replace the paper notebook in the laboratory. When we capture notes in a paper notebook, we have the flexibility to record our research in any format we choose. When we capture notes using an electronic notebook, and particularly using ELNs, the way that we capture information changes. Many ELNs make use of templates to encourage the capture of standard information and provide the opportunity to prompt users to capture items of interest that they might otherwise omit or forget to record. Using the cues provided by the formal structure, templates should improve the consistency and quality of records. There is, however, the possibility that templates may have negative as well as positive impacts because they may restrict the content that is recorded, and information that is not specifically prompted for in the template may be omitted, even if it is significant to the record. In this chapter, we will examine research into the impacts of different kinds of interfaces on the information that is captured in the laboratory. We also take a look at the role of mobile applications in bridging the gap between paper notebooks and ELNs, and how other kinds of interfaces may better support users in capturing their research in electronic form.