FITT Toolbox: Laboratory Notebook


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The laboratory notebook is an essential working tool for the researcher. It is used for documenting and dating any experiments, work, research results and original ideas. Laboratory notebook is the memory of the researchers (traceability) and an element for excellence and professionalism in the field of scientific research. Additionally, it can be considered as an essential tool to protect the research results and as a key element in the technology transfer policy. This laboratory notebook established by the LIEU network was adopted simultaneously by all the French speaking universities in Belgium in 2005.

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FITT Toolbox: Laboratory Notebook

  1. 1. Laboratory Notebook FITT– Fostering Interregional Exchange in ICT Technology Transfer – www.FITT-for-Innovation.euExcept where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
  2. 2. Laboratory notebook in general  The laboratory notebook is an essential working tool for the researcher. It is used for documenting and dating any experiments, work, research results and original ideas.  In general, it is an important source for: •  understanding how the experiments were conducted •  understanding how the conclusions were formed •  understanding how the results were deduced  The laboratory notebook establishes the precedence of results or inventions from an intellectual property standpoint. It therefore constitutes evidence in the event of disputes relating to scientific publications or patent applications in the European Union and United States ("first to file" for EU & "first to invent" for USA).2 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  3. 3. Laboratory notebook in practice: What is laboratory notebook?There are two hardware versions available:• Paper Laboratory Notebook (PLN)• Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN)Historically the PLN medium has been used and employed by researcher fromthe beginning. As a matter, codex from Archimedes (287BC – 212BC) andLeonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) have been found, retracingtheir experiments.Only recently, in the 1950s, research institutions and universities obliged andregulated the usage of the PLN since a properly kept laboratory notebook canbe used in proving a company or universitys right to obtain a U.S. patent.Since the development of IT sector for 1990s and more recently during early2000s the interest grew-up with the first worldwide Laboratory Informaticsforum(*) (*) | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  4. 4. Laboratory notebook in practice: What to record in both ELN and PLN? •  Title of the experiment in process and date • Every new working hypothesis of execution • Advance in a research •  Precise description of handling, as one • Batch number of used material or products goes along the execution, even if they did not reach. • References of used methods and devices •  List of measurements • Partners participation •  Noticeable facts or observations (good & • Working discussions bad) • Copy of electronically stored data, with •  Interpretation and comments about the identification and localisation of the files. obtained results •  Review of the results, ideas of handling to improve and complete the results4 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  5. 5. Paper Laboratory Notebook5 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  6. 6. Laboratory notebook in practice: What is Paper Laboratory Notebook?  Sewed notebook, without mobile sheet. •  bound notebook and numbered pages  One cover page •  Research Unit, Name of the project, Name and signature of the user(s), Name and signature of the manager, Number of the notebook  Table of contents (first sheets)  Pages to fill in •  Footer space reserved for signatures  Description of the procedure before the table of contents6 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  7. 7. Paper Laboratory Notebook in practice: How does it look like ? •  Cover page •  Table of content •  Page to fill in7 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  8. 8. Who?  Who can use the ‘PLN’? •  Every people who realize researches in a research unit. •  Ideally, one notebook per person, but can also be allocated to a project or an equipment. •  The notebook is the property of the laboratory. All information contained in the notebook is confidential and is the property of the University.  Setting up the PLN in a research unit •  Responsibility of the unit director •  Responsibility of the researcher -  Order the notebooks via the -  Ensure the confidentiality of his responsible person researches -  Define the notebook allocation rules -  Follow the practical advices for the use of the notebook -  Ensure the archiving -  Keep his notebook in an appropriate place8 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  9. 9. Where and When?  This paper laboratory notebook established by the LIEU network was granted by the Walloon Region and the European Union.  It was adopted simultaneously by all the French speaking universities in Belgium in 2005.  The use of the notebook is mandatory within the framework of research convention financed by the DGO6 (Service public de Wallonie - Direction générale opérationnelle de lEconomie, de lEmploi & de la Recherche)9 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  10. 10. Why to use the laboratory notebook Scientifically: memory of the researcher and of the laboratory •  Prevent from reinventing the existing •  Time saving / Simplification of the work -  For the research of information -  For publications / reports / patents writing -  For experimentation reproduction •  Avoid the loss of information -  Loss of sheets -  Walkout of a researcher10 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  11. 11. Why to use the laboratory notebook  Juridical: results protection •  Mean to define the know-how of the laboratory at a given time •  Interest for contracts -  clearly identify the confidential information and the exact contribution of each •  Proof in case of litigation -  Demonstrate the originality of an idea •  Interest for patents -  Patent application can lean on these recorded data (on condition that they were not publicized before the patent fill in)11 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  12. 12. Lessons Learned @ LIEU A satisfaction survey was organized in 2009. Interesting lessons were learned with this feedback from the users: •  There is a need for frequent awareness sessions:-  Other types than the LIEU notebook are still in use. Uniformity is not yet accomplished.-  Some labs do not use any notebook.-  Procedure of use is not always well understood and applied •  Interesting remarks about the design of the notebook that can be adapted for the next printing.-  Spiral-bound notebook for easier manipulation (with an unanswerable spiral), margin reduction (for more place for the content), A4+ format (to glue an A4 doc without the necessity of cutting it),… •  Too many labs criticize the price of the notebook-  Solutions are under investigation to reduce the costs. 12 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  13. 13. Lessons Learned @ TudorThe test was conducted following this agenda :We can divide the test in four phases :- Understanding Tudor specific needs- Designing a paper prototype based on previously needs The complete PLN test took 4 months- Implementing and testing of the paper prototype- Feedbacks from the implementation and testing 13 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  14. 14. Lessons Learned @ Tudor Modification for Tudor implementation: • A4 + layout to past printed paper without cut/paste • Witness (more flexibility: list unnecessary) • 1 Lab notebook per person and per project • Different format (number of page) • Spiral-bound laboratory notebook for easier manipulation • Merge research project name and title of research topic, too confusing  keep research project name only • Signature of the page once completed (not at the end of the day) • Delete the team or project manager name (confusing) To be defined (organization policy): • Language • Define the witness identity (function and status) • Access and conservation rules (location, time ??? ) • Index (validity)14 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  15. 15. Pro’s & Cons  Pro’s •  Laboratory notebook is -  The memory of the researchers / the laboratory (traceability) -  An element for excellence and professionalism in the field of scientific research -  A key element in the technology transfer policy -  An essential tool for the process of protection for the research results (proof mean)  Cons -  The procedure of use in the lab must be clearly defined -  Sometimes it is considered as a too heavy addition of work -  Need for frequent awareness sessions by the TT officer -  It still happens that no notebook or other type of notebook are still in use: it can cause problems in IP management.15 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  16. 16. Electronic Laboratory Notebook16 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  17. 17. What is Electronic Laboratory Notebook?An electronic laboratory notebook (also known as ELN) is a software program designedto replace paper laboratory notebooks. ELN in general are used by scientists andtechnicians to document research, experiments and procedures performed in alaboratory. An ELN is often maintained to be a legal document and may be used in acourt of law as evidence. Similar to an inventors notebook, the lab notebook is alsooften referred to in patent prosecution and intellectual property litigation(1)However an ELN can be accepted as a legal proof in the USA for patent applicationunder certain conditions i.e. compliant with 830-1984 - IEEE Guide for SoftwareRequirements Specifications and the FDA General Principles of Software Validation;Final Guidance for Industry and FDA Staff.In European Union such certification does not yet exist and is not used since the patentdate validation is based of the filling date of the patent and not the invention date.Nevertheless we should still be prudent considering the juridical validity of notes in theELN(2) (1) (2) | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  18. 18. How does it look like ? Is there different type of ELN ? When it was first developed at the beginning of 2000s’ two types of ELN appeared : specific and cross-disciplinary ELN • Specific ELN are those made for one department with specific needs related to its research subjects e.g. microbiology tailor made ELN • Cross disciplinary ELN are developed for the whole company and its domain e.g. physics & chemistry & biology etc… Nowadays most of ELN products are modular. You will find specific tools made for your original needs. Then you can extended the software possibilities thanks to modules. What do you pay? There are two models: • General software (deployed on internal servers) with a Licence + annual fee for maintenance • Cloud solution with a monthly rate per user18 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  19. 19. Electronic Laboratory Notebook in practice: Which solutions ? (non exchaustive list) The main ELN on the market are : • Accelrys : Symyx Notebook 6.6 ELN • Cambridgesoft : E-notebook ultra 12.0 suite • Cognium Systems : iPad • Contur Software AB : iLabber • IDBS : E-workbook suite : • Labage : Benchsys • Labtrack : ELN Version 4 • Labtronics : Nexxis ELN • Starlims : Electronic Notebook • Velquest : SmartLab : • Tracelite : Sibio :, ditributed in Benelux by BioXPR • $19 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  20. 20. What arguments in favor of the ELN:Those companies advertise the following arguments in favor of their solutions :• To handle complex processes• User friendly interface• Customizable interface• Share the work (user rights possibilities)• Research in the work• Automate and standardize the research processes• Intuitive tools• Compatibility towards other scientific software• To go paperless (Eliminate illegibility problems created by hard to read hand writing)• Eliminate the waiting while someone else uses your paper notebook• Eliminate paper storage and retrieval costs• To insure conformity with organization rules• Create templates easily20 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  21. 21. Electronic Laboratory notebook in practice: What to record in the laboratory notebook? In addition to what is usually recorded in a laboratory notebook (see slide 4) and based on the test realized during one month on a prototype version of Labage software we can say that : • Products description • Machine description • Media or any kind of data format Can all be linked and saved in the ELN solution that we tried out. The versioning system is automatic (date – name). In addition different views of the software windows can be customized by the user himself to better identify what data to record.21 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  22. 22. Who?  Who can use the ‘ELN’? •  Every people who realize researches in a research unit. •  The ELN is the property of the laboratory. All information contained in the ELN is confidential and encrypted in the software and is the property of the University.  Setting up the ELN in a research unit-  The setting up of the ELN has a strong and deep impact on the organisation structure. Not only researcher behaviour must change but the whole processes in place might be impacted by the software.-  As a matter of fact, features of such software are way above the PLN features and impact not only the research unit and staff but can also impact the admin staff responsible for stock management. 22 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  23. 23. Where and When?  This ELN test was realized by the CRP Henri Tudor with the support of Labage software, LIEU and the European Union.  We are currently evaluating other solution and will attend the 8th Forum on Laboratory Informatics Conference for further research.  The use of Laboratory Notebook (electronic or paper) is not yet a requirement but soon might be.23 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  24. 24. Outcome Plans for the future:As in the 1980’s when the accountant world shift from the paper accounting toward theelectronic accounting, the scientific word is today moving toward the ELN.There are two major trends which address two different markets:•  cloud solutions•  duo server/client based solutionsSmall and medium research company can accommodate with the cloud solutionwhereas big players will prefer to control and modify themselves their software.Current PLN solution are still good but our recommendation is to move toward electronicsolution. However, juridical and legal validity should be validated by a patent attorney ofthe European Patent Office.24 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  25. 25. Pro & Cons between ELN and PLN Criteria PLN ELNOrganization impact Easy DifficultJob impact (learning curve) Middle HighTraining Minimum LongUse (writing) Manual Semi-automaticData research Slow InstantlyStorage (back-up) Risky SecuredData availability Minimum Permanent & parallelFollow-up (witness, manager) On the spot 24h/7dCost Less expensive short term Less expensive long term25 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook
  26. 26. Suggested Reading  Link to code book •  LIEU •  Research result •  Invention •  Intellectual property •  Patent  Other •  Taylor, Keith (2006), "The status of electronic laboratory notebooks for chemistry and biology", Current Opinion in Drug Discovery & Development 9 (3): 348–35326 | April 2011 Laboratory Notebook