Electronic Lab Notebooks


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An overview of the current state of electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), pros and cons of using an ELN, and important considerations for adopting an ELN.

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Electronic Lab Notebooks

  1. 1. ELECTRONIC LABNOTEBOOKS (ELN)Kristin A. Briney5 December 2012
  2. 2. Aims of this Session• Examine the state of the field• Cover pros and cons of ELNs• Review UW-Madison ELN pilot• Demos• Adoption strategy
  3. 3. UW Data Stewardship Policy• UW-Madison policy to keep research data for 7 years • Data must be ‘in sufficient detail’ • Original data preferred• PIs are stewards of data• http://www.grad.wisc.edu/research/policyrp/rpac/documen ts/PolicyDataStewardship.pdf• Federal and Wisconsin funding requirements • All data generated must be stored in US
  4. 4. State of the Field• 1st generation electronic lab notebook (ELN)• Lots of options, no clear winner• Companies coming and going• Definite movement toward ELN adoption • More adoption in industry than academia • UW-Madison ELN pilot
  5. 5. Many Notebook Types • Blogs • Wikis • Note taking software • Document management systemsRubacha, M.; Rattan, A. K.; Hosselet, S. C., A Review of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks Available in the Market Today. Journal ofthe Association for Laboratory Automation 2011, 16 (1), 9.
  6. 6. Many Notebook Types• Software openness • Proprietary • Open source• Cost • Free with limited features • >$1000 per person per year• Data storage • Cloud (US and international hosting) • Local server • Either cloud or local
  7. 7. Staying with Paper Notebook• Not searchable• Divide between handwritten notes and digital data• Lost records• Damage to paper (spills, fading ink, etc)• Notebooks not backed up• Legibility issues• Language issues
  8. 8. Adopting an ELN – Pros• Searching• Linking between pages• Add data files to ELN• View data files in ELN• Sharing • Different access permissions by role • May be able to share across institutions• Interoperability • Read data from instruments directly• Built in testing
  9. 9. Adopting an ELN – Pros• Audit trail • Revision history • eSignatures• Drawing tools• Plugins• Access outside of the laboratory • Mobile version• Record more than lab notes • Procedures, citations, research ideas, etc.• Reduce redundancy in record keeping• Range of customizability
  10. 10. Adopting an ELN – Cons• Possible lack of desired features• Bugs, upgrades, and other digital issues• Effort to transition• Using files in 10 years• Data storage • Location and ownership issues• Data security and backups • Need to have reliable system in place• Unsettled ELN market
  11. 11. UW-Madison ELN Pilot• Tested 2 notebooks, CERF and eCAT • 55 users, majority never used an ELN before• CERF • Pilot organizers liked this software • Did not live up to expectations in the lab • Did basic record keeping but other functionality disappointing• eCAT (will demo) • CALS installation supporting >30 people • Users found easy to use and liked interface • Users liked level of customization, though general template worked • Majority felt they kept better records than before
  12. 12. UW-Madison ELN Pilot• At end of pilot, 91% of respondents wanted to continue using an ELN • 60% of CERF users wanted to try a different ELN• Required <12 hours to learn interface • Users employed training sessions and trial and error to learn• Users liked linking and adding data files• Drawing tools and mobile versions did not live up to expectations• http://academictech.doit.wisc.edu/ideas/electronic-lab- notebooks
  13. 13. Demonstrations• eCAT • CALS-supported installation from UW ELN pilot • Pilot testers liked this ELN • DoIT looking into possibilities to expand • Has limited free version which I will demo • http://www.researchspace.com/• LabArchives • Was not part of pilot but an option that DoIT is currently looking into • Has limited free version which I will demo • http://www.labarchives.com/
  14. 14. Demonstrations Caveat• I am showing free versions of software• Free versions have limited features • No data sharing goes against data stewardship policy • Data security and storage issues • Limitations on other features• Testing with free versions • May need to test with fake data • Don’t plan to use free versions in long term
  15. 15. Demo: eCAT
  16. 16. Demo: LabArchives• Interested in testing this software for a few months? • Contact DoIT Academic Technologies
  17. 17. How to Adopt an ELN• Figure out your needs• Test out software• Have an adoption plan• Have an exit strategy
  18. 18. Questions to Ask Before Purchase• Do I have any special needs?• How much do I want to integrate the ELN into my workflow?• How much customization do I want?• Do I need to share? • PI should have access to all notebooks at very least• Where should the information be stored? • If cloud-based, look for secure US-based hosting• Can I support a local server hosting the ELN?
  19. 19. ELNs and Patents• Some ELNs are acceptable for proof of patent • Depends on functionality• Important features: • Audit trail (includes data files) • User verification • Controlled data sharing• ELNs can make best practices more achievable• WARF a great resource on this topic• Note: patents require data retention of at least 26 years
  20. 20. What to Look for in Software• Note taking and searching ability• Adding external files• Adding links between pages• Log of revision history• eSignatures• Access permissions• Ability to export
  21. 21. Test Software• Can be big financial investment• One ELN software package will not work for everyone• Ask to test before purchase • Ideally a week-to-month long test in the lab • Use as a notebook and look at features in depth • Keep both paper and electronic records during test• Takes time and effort to test but very important • Won’t buy a car without a test drive. Same for an ELN.
  22. 22. Adoption Plan• Large shift in workflow in adoption of ELN• For gentler adoption • Easier to adopt at beginning of a project • Rolling adoption with new students• Or just plunge in!• Put someone in charge of installation• Get software support• Get IT support • Backups
  23. 23. Exit Strategy• No guarantee that 1st generation ELNs will be here in 5 years• Ideally, write files to an open file format • PDF common • XML • HTML • Word (.doc/.docx)• At worst, need to be able to print out all pages • Useful to have a batch method to do this
  24. 24. Future of ELNs• ELNs will become the norm in research in the future• Graduates going into industry may be using ELNs now• May be 5-10 years before market coalesces • Enterprise ahead of academic market • Good product available now• UW-Madison wants to help with this transition • DoIT Academic Technologies offering support
  25. 25. Recommendations• Test the software out before converting • Not all software works for all researchers • Keep both electronic and written records during test• If you adopt now, have an exit strategy • Pick an ELN that writes to an open file format (HTML, XML, PDF)• Lots of benefits and some risks in adopting an ELN • Keeping a paper notebook has risks but they’re different • Need digital infrastructure to support ELN • If risks too big, wait a few years
  26. 26. Resources• DoIT Academic Technologies • http://academictech.doit.wisc.edu/ • http://academictech.doit.wisc.edu/ideas/electronic-lab-notebooks• WARF • http://www.warf.org/• Research Data Services • http://researchdata.wisc.edu/
  27. 27. Thanks• Jan Cheetham, DoIT Academic Technologies• Victoria Sutton, WARF• Ariel Neff, UW-Madison Chemistry Library• Bock Laboratories• This presentation available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license