Considerations when moving to an ELN
With paper notebooks, each lab member is usually is assigned their own notebook and only one lab member can write in it at a time. However, with an ELN, the situation is somewhat different since multiple lab members can record in a notebook at the same time and is easy to share contents of the notebooks. When you are setting up the ELN for your lab, you will want to consider what the organizational framework will be for notebooks (e.g. by project, grant, theme, research question, etc.) and whether individual or multiple user notebooks will be used.
Individual versus multiple-user lab notebooks?
In many cases, notebooks that are used by multiple lab members in an ELN system make sense. For, example multi-person notebooks can make it easier to:
- Search and retrieve all entries related to a project
- Use standard notebook structures, folder hierarchies, sets of supporting documents (such as protocols, inventories, etc.) across multiple lab members.
- Share information between lab members and avoid replicating the effort required to set up and manage groups, roles, and rights in individual lab members’ notebooks.
However, using individual notebooks on the ELN platform may make sense in labs where individual lab members work on very different projects or do not need to collaborate or share data.
Naming conventions in an ELN
Consider adopting a naming convention for folders and notebook pages for your lab. For example:
- Userinitials-YYYY-Projectname (convention for notebook title)
- LabName-Experiment#-Name-UserInitials-YYYYMMDD (convention for notebook pages)
A meaningful convention – any descriptive convention – will make it much easier to find and search your data later on. If you give your pages and folders generic names that don’t provide a context eg. “experiment1” , “raw data” , “cell culture” it will be almost impossible to see which page relates to which experiment without checking every page. Naming conventions can also be used for attached files. Eg. STX23-RNA.xlsx or STX23-COL1A1.rex; STX23-OsteoCellsDay3x200.jpg. Then, when you or your team search for a result, it’s obvious where the file belongs.