Every scientific breakthrough from the 18th Century to today has been recorded in a laboratory notebook. Until recently, these have been traditional paper notebooks. These days, pharmaceutical companies, universities, and other scientific research organizations realize that they must modernize procedures to reduce human error and ensure the reproducibility of lab results. Research notes and data must move to the digital era, where this valuable information can be more efficiently stored, retrieved, shared and secured.
Benefits of the Digital Lab Notebook
Let’s look at the benefits of the using an electronic lab notepad (ELN) which offers a digital alternative to the centuries-old paper predecessor:
- Enhances collaboration amongst staff and stakeholders
- Automates many of the manual aspects of documentation
- Simplifies record-keeping and improves organization and legibility of data
- Consolidates and centralizes data management
- Provides better governance of standards and protocols
- Supports 21 CFR Part 11 compliance with audit trails and tight access controls for inspection
- Simplifies consolidation of samples, reagents, lots, plates, barcodes, order numbers, order tracking, and sample tracking
- Secures lab research archives
- Simplifies change management for IT services and documentation
CDD Vault noted, “One massive problem facing today’s science is reproducibility. When experiments are not reproducible, everyone suffers — from wasting time pursuing a result that was not real to creating products that end up not working. It’s a significant and important issue. Multiple factors feed into the reproducibility crisis, but correctly recording and documenting experimental procedures and results is the key to improving reproducibility.
Additionally, not creating digital records of data accounts for 17% of data loss and is a major cause of delays and setbacks in research. With an ELN, your experimental data becomes searchable, and all the results are at your fingertips.”
Common Worries about Going Digital in the Lab
Whereas converting to using electronic lab notebooks offers significant efficiencies for your organization, there are still risks. Your organization may be worried about:
- Security – Digital data could still be susceptible to hacking.
- Implementation process – The conversion from paper/manual processes to digital technologies may be difficult for staff to adopt and implement.
- Accident risk – Electronic devices may be damaged from chemicals used in the lab.
- Market trends – ELN providers have been changing rapidly over the past few years which could jeopardize your processes or staff efficiency.
- Costs and compatibility – With numerous vendors jumping into the ELN market and offering a variety of pricing options including free subscriptions, there could be risk to continued support and compatibility with other documentation and IT systems. (Nature)
The best way to secure your paper research documents and ensure that they can be used productively into the future is to apply the right technology solution. Work with a professional who has the extensive expertise with managing and securing both paper and digital lab research assets.
With decades of experience providing paper and digital solutions for research organizations, NEdocs understands your need to preserve and archive unique content contained within books and laboratory notebooks alike. Organizations that wish to protect their manual notes and lab books find that scanning is the best and perhaps the only way to ensure the longevity of their documents.
The Right Equipment and Experience Count!
Not all scanners and methods are created equal. You don’t want to damage aging books and manuscripts. Nor do you want to work with a scanner bed that is not large enough for the material being scanned. You do want to work with a company that has only skilled and specialized scanner operators. And of course, certified security protocols are paramount which is why a number of pharmaceutical researchers use NEdocs to digitize their lab notes and documents.
One of our scanning experts recently noted, “Most museums, universities, and other reputable organizations rely on the use of v-shaped scanning methods. By placing books at a 120-degree angle, both pages of a book can be captured simultaneously as 2 individual images. This type of scanning is not only safe for book bindings (which become increasingly fragile over time), but it also eliminates issues caused by curved pages – resulting in a detailed and completely flat final product.”
Preserving your paper lab notebooks and other research papers could be an important part of scientific discovery! For further information about using 21st century technology that can make your research team more productive and preserve the accuracy of your research data, contact us online or call us at (603) 625-1171 to speak with scanning & document management expert.