Setting up a good lab notebook or lab equipment booking system could be a big task, and is usually challenging for every lab founder and manager regardless of the industry.
Many questions arise among the clients we have at Pillar Science. From medium size research labs to Fortune 100 users around the world. Some of them are: I’ve got an electronic lab notebook, so now what? How do you make sure it’s actually useful?
You surely know that a good notebook helps you keep track of your experiments, but the way you set up the best electronic notebook impacts its performance.
Often you would ask yourself if you’re all set to success and do exactly what you need it to do? In this article, we’ll discuss 10 tips for keeping your electronic notebook organized so that it helps you not only record data but also keep track of analytical cycles and discoveries.
1 Have a naming convention for your ELN projects
Sounds obvious, but as soon as you start your lab by adding your team members to your fresh ELN, along with new collaborators and even procedures the information could be hard to find. Even by using the best electronic lab notebook or lab equipment booking system, if your team doesn’t have a naming convention, finding and sharing information could be messy.
- Use a consistent naming convention.
- Make sure others can understand it.
- Make sure you can use it consistently, and that it’s easy for you to remember.
2 Put your lab equipment booking system in the cloud
One of the best ways to keep your electronic lab notebook safe is by putting it in the cloud. That way, if anything happens to your laptop or desktop computer, whether it’s stolen or destroyed, your work isn’t lost forever. Normally the best electronic lab notebook uses the cloud by default. Make sure you’re connected to the web to guarantee the best results.
Cloud storage also makes it easy for you and other people who need access to your notebook (like collaborators) to access it from anywhere with an internet connection. Which leads to the next point:
3 Make sure you’re using the safest ELN Lab equipment booking system in the market
From the simple two factor authentication and authorization to a secure data encryption it’s extremely important to choose a safe technology for your lab.
Some of the things you would like to review is if the ELN you will adopt has a detailed cloud infrastructure security and compliance program If you want to know more about the specific features we can provide to guaranteed your lab’s security, download Pillar Science Security Overview.
4 Keep safety documents and project plans in one section
When a lab is running tests for a long period of time, the tendency of lab members is to move the files, documents or projects to a new section more accessible from their current simultaneous projects.
In order to keep the information accessible and organized in your electronic lab notebook you might:
- Keep safety documents and project plans in one section.
- Keep safety documents up to date. If the file or document has a new version, keep the latest version and avoid accumulating multiple copies.
- Review the lab’s safety plan on a regular basis, at least once per quarter or after any major changes to your experiments or setup. This is especially important if you have new members joining your team who may not be familiar with all of the lab’s procedures, or if you are planning any changes to how things are done in your particular lab space (e.g., moving equipment around). It’s also good practice to review this document before any new experiments begin so that everyone knows what they’re working with when they start their workday!
5 Make a standard template to use for each experiment
A good ELN lab equipment booking system should allow you to take notes of all of the information you need to record from your experiments, including:
- Date, time and location of experiment.
- List of materials used (including reagents).
- Procedures followed in detail, including temperature changes and times at which they were made, any problems encountered during the procedure and how they were solved, etc.
6 Use charts to keep track of data
You can use charts to keep track of data. You can also use charts to summarize or show relationships between data, show trends over time, make comparisons between different sets of data and make predictions.
7 Use both text and drawings to record data
One of the best ways to explain results, or even procedures is using both text and drawings to record data.
Drawings are a great way to record data, but they may not be your first choice. If you’re new to this method of recording your work, try using both text and drawings together until it feels more natural for you.
Using only words can make it hard for others (or even yourself) to understand what was done and why; using only pictures can make understanding difficult as well–you need both! As with all things in science, there are many ways of doing things–but this is one way that works well for our clients.
8 If you’re working alone, at least report on what you wish you’d discussed with a lab partner
The key to communicating effectively is to do it early and often. If you’re working alone, at least report on what you wish you’d discussed with a lab partner. If there are multiple people working on an experiment or project, make sure everyone meets regularly to discuss progress and problems as they arise.
The more often these meetings occur and the more detailed they are, the easier it is for all parties involved to stay on track, catch mistakes before they become major obstacles in the project timeline, and avoid unnecessary delays later down the line.
A good advice to follow is that if someone asks “Why didn’t we talk about this sooner?” then there was probably something wrong with how communication was flowing between team members earlier on in their work together.
9 Organize your information so that there are no loose ends or dangling questions at the end of an analysis cycle
It’s important to keep track of your data, but it’s also important that you have a method of organizing the information so that there are no loose ends or dangling questions at the end of an analysis cycle.
What do I mean by this? Let’s say you’re performing an experiment on a new drug candidate and want to see if changing its formulation has any effect on its bioavailability (how much gets absorbed). You conduct three separate experiments: one with the original formulation, one with this new formulation, and another with yet another different formulation.
After running all three experiments and analyzing their results together in Excel or some other software program, you find that only two out of three showed improvement over the original–a 50% success rate! What happened? Did we run out of time? Were they errors in our calculations? Or did something else go wrong during testing which caused these two particular samples not work as well as expected?
10 Good organization is key with you Lab equipment booking system!
Good organization is key to success in the lab. A well-organized electronic lab notebook will help you keep track of your experiments and data, as well as make it easier for others to understand what you’ve done and how they can replicate your results.
The first step in organizing your ELN lab equipment booking system is deciding on a structure for it. There are many ways to do this: some people prefer using separate notebooks for each class or project; others choose one large book with sections devoted to different types of work (e.g., safety documents). You may also want to consider using folders as part of your organizational system–these can be helpful when working with large amounts of paper documents like safety information sheets, project plans, etcetera!
As you can see, there are many strategies to organize an electronic lab notebook and keep track of your experiments. You may have started off with just loose paper jotted down in a notebook or folder, but now that you’ve learned about the benefits of using a cloud system as an electronic lab notebook and why it makes sense for scientists today, we hope you’ll consider making the switch to an ELN.
Pillar Science ELN provides an easy system to manage your research. It’s based on collaboration, fully compliant with the international regulation, and can be adapted to your needs.
Our product offerings are designed for regulatory compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11 through comprehensive audit trails and electronic records support. Our security program aligns with ISO 27001. Additionally, we work with customers to develop features to optimize adherence to recognized standards.
No matter what kind of research you’re doing, Pillar Science can help you get it done faster and more efficiently than ever before. Book a consultation or request a demo and let us help you centralize your research,