An electronic lab notebook, or ELN, is an important tool for today’s research lab. If your organization is looking to implement an ELN this year, you’ve probably got some questions.
How do you make sure you’re choosing the best electronic lab notebook for your needs? There are a lot of options on the market, and you want to make sure you get the right one for you.
Determine Your Organization’s Needs
Every research lab has different needs. The best electronic lab notebook for you will be the one that meets your lab’s needs, without having a lot of superfluous options. Before you can choose an ELN, you need to have a clear idea of your must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Some labs are content with an application that simply digitizes the functionality of a traditional paper lab notebook.
However, most ELNs have additional functionality that can make your lab more efficient and organized. Consider which options might be nice for you.
Look at what functions you’ve already digitized or automated, and what functions are still being done the old-fashioned way. What would you like to automate? What would be more efficient if it was handled via an application?
For instance, if you’ve already adopted an electronic inventory management system, you won’t need your ELN to handle that — but you may want an electronic lab notebook that will easily communicate with your inventory system, so that your researchers can reference where the relevant samples for each experiment are stored.
Another option incorporated into some systems is scientific project management capabilities. This can be incredibly useful for your lab manager, as it keeps them updated on each experiment’s progress as the researchers update their lab notebook. However, if you already have a project management system in place, you may not want to switch over.
Schedule Some Demos
The best way to find the best electronic lab notebook is to “test drive” a few options. See if you can schedule a demo or download a trial version of the software. That will let you explore the interface and see if you enjoy using the application, if it is user-friendly and intuitive, and if all the features you need are present and work as advertised.
If possible, get several members of your team to test the software, to make sure that everyone likes it and feels like it meets their needs.
The Best Electronic Lab Notebook for You
In the end, you can read lots of reviews and customer testimonials, but choosing the best electronic lab notebook comes down to what your lab needs, and what you like in a software application. Because there are some great options on the market, you shouldn’t have to settle for an ELN that doesn’t meet your needs.
Do your research and test a few options. Just like buying a new car, you might love the first one you look at, or you might be surprised by what you ultimately decide on. Soon, your research team will be enjoying more efficiency and better access to their data thanks to your new software solution.