Choosing the right Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN): Key considerations for lab managers

Laboratory managers have several responsibilities, including keeping a record of everything that happens, especially their findings. However, manually tracking reports and data using paper notebooks or Excel spreadsheets is becoming obsolete. This is why many laboratory managers are now utilizing Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) software

Choosing the right Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN): Key considerations for lab managers

Image Credit: Sapio Sciences

ELN software helps simplify different lab-based operations, streamlining note-taking and compliance management processes. In some cases, ELNs are implemented on an institution-wide scale, which presents new ways to collaborate with staff in and out of the laboratory. 

Various software options are available for installing Electronic Lab Notebooks in the laboratory. However, some offer a better overall experience than others. This article covers key considerations when selecting the right ELN for your laboratory. 

Streamlining lab operations

Laboratory managers often turn to ELNs to optimize operations. However, if the chosen ELN is not well-suited to a particular scenario, it can become obstructive and impede daily operations.

To ensure Electronic Lab Notebooks streamline laboratory operations, the following points should be considered:

  • Existing laboratory setups should be evaluated to ensure compatibility between Electronic Lab Notebooks and the existing software and elements. 
  •  Easy access to your data on the ELN is needed. This will facilitate quickly pinpointing specific data, such as tracking sample lifecycles and managing a sample inventory.
  • Filters and search functions can be useful when streamlining lab operations, such as allocating tasks and tracking completion. 

Collaborative research environment

Collaboration and teamwork are essential in any laboratory. Therefore, it is essential to select ELNs that simplify these collaborative processes. 

Electronic Lab Notebooks that utilize cloud-based storage make data easy to access in real-time, even when staff are not on-site at the lab. However, this could also present security concerns. Therefore, the software must be able to integrate secure encryption methods and verification technologies to prevent data breaches. 

In terms of collaboration, installing an ELN that facilitates teamwork and collaboration on the same notebook and accommodates the necessary internal communication channels can offer significant advantages to the workflow. 

Data integrity and compliance

As previously mentioned, security is vital when it comes to ELN selection. However, additional factors, including data integrity, should be considered when the software handles laboratory data. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently updated its data integrity policies across various medical fields, which must be adhered to.

Any ELN software integrated into a laboratory setting must comply with laboratory regulations.

Implementing permission-based access to the software's data can bolster security, integrity, and compliance. Therefore, selecting an ELN that can assign each user unique access privileges to each data point is crucial.

A version control system has advantages, as it helps ensure data can be easily traced to previous versions. Moreover, generating audit trail reports is easier when a version control solution is integrated into an ELN platform

Scalability and user-friendliness

Scalability and user-friendliness are important considerations when selecting an ELN. The last thing a user wants is to open up their ELN and suddenly find it difficult to locate the relevant data.

ELN systems should be easy to navigate and free from clutter. Features such as a customizable dashboard allow users to place key data at the front end of the software. It is vital to quickly navigate to different areas, such as reports, notes, user management, and other features. 

A responsive design is also crucial. This grants users access to the software on mobile and desktop platforms. 

In terms of scalability, the capacity to easily add new users and increase the amount of data stored on the platform is important. Any fixed limitations that cannot be adjusted may present serious issues. This means users may be restricted and unable to add any new data to the Electronic Laboratory Notebook software, which may mean deleting older research data that may still be relevant. 

ELN software options that allow users to add extra features to meet the growing demands of the modern laboratory are available.

A user-friendly option also means that less training is needed for staff who will be using the ELN. This can save time and ensure minimum downtime when lab personnel are being trained on the new system.

Integrate Sapio ELN software into your lab today

Sapio ELN’s science-based platform sets it apart from other ELN software options. Scientists can access rich data search, visualization, and analysis, enabling them to quickly find structured and unstructured data across the entire organization.

Scientists can then animate their data in interactive, scientific visualizations without leaving the Sapio ELN.

Sapio ELN makes integrating a complete Electronic Lab Notebook into the laboratory easy.

ELN overview for lab managers

Data Migration and Integration: Electronic Lab Notebooks provide the tools necessary for data migration and integration capabilities. The technical requirements depend on the ELN provider, but most modern ELNs can be easily installed as they are compatible with existing laboratory information management systems (LIMS). They can even import data from standard formats used in other systems, facilitating a smooth transition from legacy systems and ensuring data integrity and continuity in the laboratory.

Customization Capabilities: Electronic Lab Notebooks typically feature customization options to align with specific laboratory workflows and protocols. The depth of customization can vary, as some ELNs offer a modular assembly that laboratories can fine-tune to meet their needs. From workflow automation to specific data entry forms and report templates, the flexibility specific ELNs offer can boost lab efficiency without disturbing established processes.

User Training and Support: Providers of Electronic Lab Notebooks generally offer extensive training and support to ensure users can maximize the system’s benefits. Support may include in-person training sessions, online tutorials, and responsive customer support. Continuous support is key when troubleshooting and helping users get accustomed to new features and software updates in the ELN.

Regulatory Compliance Features: Electronic Lab Notebooks are 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 usually include time-stamped entries, electronic signatures, audit trails, and secure data management practices to meet compliance and ensure data integrity.

Cost Structure: The pricing structure of Electronic Lab Notebooks can differ substantially between providers. Some may charge a flat rate per user, while others lean toward a tiered pricing system based on features and storage needs. Costs can include initial installation fees, monthly or annual subscription fees, and charges for extra modules, increased storage capacity, or advanced and custom features. When evaluating and selecting an appropriate ELN, laboratory managers must fully understand pricing structures and the overall cost of ELN ownership.

About Sapio Sciences

Sapio Sciences' mission is to improve lives by accelerating discovery, and because science is complex, Sapio makes technology simple. Sapio is a global business offering an all-in-one science-aware (TM) lab informatics platform combining cloud-based LIMS, ELN, and Jarvis data solutions.

Sapio serves some of the largest global and specialist brands, including biopharma, CRO/CDMOs and clinical diagnostic labs across NGS genomic sequencing, bioanalysis, bioprocessing, stability, clinical, histopathology, drug research, and in vivo studies. Customers love Sapio's platform because it is robust, scalable, and with no-code configuration, can quickly adapt to meet unique needs.


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Last updated: Jul 10, 2024 at 5:35 AM

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