Poster Open Access
Anyone who has his academic background in a natural science subject is already familiar with it: the lab notebook. Even in times of digitization, the most common type of laboratory documentation can still be found on paper. But what happens to these books when they are full? When the researcher changes the workgroup? Or if there simply is no longer a contact person for this lab notebook? Deciphering handwriting is not always the easiest task for man and machine, much of the collected knowledge is lost, many experiments are made over and over again instead of focusing on innovation.
All this can be achieved with the use of an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).
Electronic lab notebooks are a perfect tool to work collaboratively in the lab. In doing so, they are in no way inferior to their ancestor in paper form: general principles of scientific work are pursued (at the appropriate time the work follows the existing, generally recognized professional standards ("lege artis", state of the art), results are documented and the own outcome can be consistently challenged). All work steps are logged on the basis of a data record, data deletion is not possible, immutability is guaranteed by timestamps and all this is digitally searchable across different experiments. With the right archiving overtime in the laboratory can be prevented and the organizational structure in the daily laboratory routine is standardized, resulting in a better quality and more transparent collaborative work can be.
We at the Heinrich Heine University in Duesseldorf have a laboratory share of 70% within the new buildings of the natural sciences, and we have found out in talks with scientists that you have to start there already.
The laboratories must be equipped with appropriate technology, the interfaces of laboratory equipment to the ELN must be established, and the phrase "bring your own device", which is commonly used today, can make it possible for everyone to participate in the conversion to electronic laboratory work. It is also difficult to positively influence the willingness of scientists to move away from their usual paper book to the electronic version. Young scientists are the point at which to start, preferably at the beginning of the curriculum.
With the goal of creating a cultural change towards electronic laboratory books, for example, in the field of biology master students of the course "Cellular and molecular analysis of brain function" can be introduced into the laboratory notebook software with video tutorials and the first steps in fluorometric imaging can be learned under laboratory conditions, i.e. how data should be generated and evaluated. In close cooperation with the teachers, the lab book can be optimized for teaching purposes, and the integration of this subject area offers real added value for students. This is how young scientists learn how to use electronic lab books at an early stage and will continue to apply these new standards in research.
But also in other subjects, such as medicine, physics, chemistry, pharmacy, psychology and engineering can be set early in teaching to establish standards in research. As a building block to strengthen data and information literacy, the use of ELN in the natural sciences can be seen in the humanities and social sciences analogous to the use of e-portfolio systems such as Mahara.