Lab managers have many responsibilities. They must keep a record of everything that happens, including their findings. However, the manual method of paper notebooks or Excel spreadsheets is becoming obsolete. This is why many lab managers are now turning to Electronic Lab Notebook software

Also known as ELNs, this kind of software can streamline various operations, make note-taking much easier, simplify compliance management, and even present a new way to collaborate with staff in your lab. In some cases, ELNs are even implemented on an institution-wide scale. 

Core considerations for lab managers when choosing Electronic Lab Notebooks

There are several software options when equipping yourself and your laboratory with Electronic Lab Notebooks. However, some can provide a better overall experience than others. Below, we look at important considerations you shouldn’t overlook when picking an ELN. 

Streamlining lab operations

One of the most critical reasons lab managers turn to Electronic Lab Notebooks is to optimize their operations. However, if you opt for an ELN that feels overwhelming and obstructs your ability to get through your daily operations, it may become a hassle instead of a helpful tool. 

Some of the elements to consider when you want to make sure that Electronic Lab Notebooks can help streamline your lab operations include:

  • Keep in mind your existing laboratory setup. Consider whether the Electronic Lab Notebooks you’re looking at can integrate with the software and elements you already have in place. 
  • Easy access to your data on the ELN is another critical consideration. This will help ensure that you can quickly pinpoint the location of specific data, such as managing a sample inventory and tracking sample lifecycles.
  • Filters and search functions can be helpful when streamlining lab operations, such as assigning tasks and tracking completion. 

Collaborative research environment

Collaborating with your team is extremely important in a laboratory. So, choosing ELNs that make this collaborative process easy is an important consideration. 

One of the first things you can look for is Electronic Lab Notebooks that use cloud-based storage. This means your data is stored in the cloud, making it easily accessible in real-time, even when you’re not at the lab. However, security also becomes a concern, so you must ensure that the software integrates the proper encryption methods and verification technologies to avoid data leakage. 

In terms of collaboration, finding an ELN that enables you to work with your team members on the same notebook and allows for internal communication can be very beneficial.

Data integrity and compliance

As we’ve mentioned, security is essential when choosing an ELN. However, more factors should be considered regarding how the software handles your lab data, including data integrity. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already released updates to its data integrity policies for various medical fields. This means that there are specific regulations you need to comply with. 

The ELN software you’re interested in must comply fully with the laboratory regulations you manage.

Permission-based access to the data you store on the software can also contribute to security, integrity, and compliance. Choosing an ELN that allows you to assign different roles is vital and then deciding which roles can access each data point.

A version control system can also be beneficial. This helps ensure you can easily track data back to previous versions. You’ll also find that creating audit trail reports is easier when you have a version control solution in your ELN platform

Scalability and user-friendliness

Other important considerations are scalability and user-friendliness. 

The last thing you want is to open up your ELN and struggle to find what you’re looking for. You want a system that is easy to navigate and shouldn’t feel cluttered. Features such as a customizable dashboard can help put the data you need most at the front of the software. The ability to quickly navigate to different areas, such as notes, reports, user management, and other features, is also essential. 

A responsive design is also vital. This allows you to access the software on mobile and desktop platforms. 

In terms of scalability, you have to make sure you can easily add new users and increase the amount of data you can store on the platform. When there are fixed limitations you cannot raise, you may run into serious problems once you reach them. This means that you won’t be able to add new data to the Electronic Laboratory Notebook software, or you’ll have to delete older research data that you may require in the future. 

Some ELN software options will also allow you to add extra features as your lab and needs continue to grow.

A user-friendly option will also mean that staff who will be using the ELN will need less training. This can save you time and ensure minimum downtime when training lab personnel on the new system.

Integrate Sapio ELN software into your lab today

Something that sets the Sapio ELN apart from many of the other ELN software options is our platform’s science-based approach. With Sapio ELN, scientists get access to rich data search, visualization, and analysis, allowing them to quickly find structured and unstructured data across your entire organization. Scientists can then bring their data to life in interactive, scientific visualizations—all without ever leaving the Sapio ELN.

Sapio ELN makes integrating a complete Electronic Lab Notebook into your laboratory easy with minimal hassle and setup time. The best way to get started is to request a demo. This will show you precisely what our ELN can do for your lab and team.

FAQs for Lab Manager Seeking Electronic Lab Notebooks

  1. Data Migration and Integration: Electronic Lab Notebooks typically offer tools for data migration and integration capabilities. The specifics depend on the ELN provider, but most modern ELNs can integrate with existing laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and import data from standard formats used in other systems. ELNs facilitate a smooth transition from legacy systems to ensure continuity and data integrity.
  2. Customization Capabilities: Electronic Lab Notebooks often feature customization options to match specific laboratory workflows and protocols. The level of customization can vary, with some ELNs offering modular setups that labs can tailor to their needs, from workflow automation to specific data entry forms and report templates. This flexibility helps ensure the ELN enhances lab efficiency without disrupting established processes.
  3. User Training and Support: Providers of Electronic Lab Notebooks typically offer comprehensive training and support to ensure users can maximize the system’s benefits. This support might include online tutorials, in-person training sessions, and responsive customer support. Ongoing support is crucial for troubleshooting and helping users adapt to updates or new features in the ELN.
  4. Regulatory Compliance Features: Electronic Lab Notebooks are often designed to comply with various scientific and medical regulatory standards, such as Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), and FDA’s 21 CFR Part 11. Features commonly include audit trails, time-stamped entries, electronic signatures, and secure data management practices to support compliance and ensure data integrity.
  5. Cost Structure: The pricing structure of Electronic Lab Notebooks can vary significantly between providers. Some may charge a flat fee per user, while others offer tiered pricing based on the features and storage needs. Costs can include initial setup fees, monthly or annual subscription fees, and additional charges for extra modules, increased storage capacity, or advanced features. Lab managers need to understand ELN pricing and the total cost of ownership when evaluating an ELN.

Lab Manager – Electronic Lab Notebooks – Electronic Lab Notebooks

University of Chicago – Electronic Lab Notebooks