Electronic Lab Notebooks


Paper lab notebooks have many advantages ( accessibility, ease of use in controlled conditions, not overly prescriptive, ease of drawing diagrams). After a day in the lab notes may be typed up to expand on researcher-specific short-hand, to allow for the insertion of figures and file paths and to cross-reference other experiments, lab inventory records and COSHH forms. However, this approach is cumbersome and brittle as it involves much copy and paste.

An alternative to typing up paper notes is to adopt an electronic lab notebook system and add records during and/or after lab sessions. Such systems offer the ability to:

  • Electronically document experiments in a structured (protocol-oriented) or more free-form way;

  • Link to inventory/sample records;

  • Use protocols for record templates;

  • Link to / insert data (imaging, tabular etc);

  • Search all of your lab documents and those of your collaborators;

  • Structure records hierarchically or by tag;

  • Control read/write/sharing permissions;

  • Finalise and digitally sign records.

AgileBio ELN

ELN (Electronic Lab Notebook) is one such system. It is a plug-in for the AgileBio LabCollector lab inventory management system (LIMS). LabCollector logo

To trial ELN, INSIGNEO have acquired 50 user licenses for a cloud-based LabCollector instance set up for the TRIBBLES Research and Innovation Network (TRAIN; coordinated by Dr Endre Kiss-Toth). These licenses, access to the service and support are now paid for until November 2020.

The aims of this trial are:

  • Evaluate the potential of ELN for wet-lab researchers and for computational researchers.

  • Assess how best to integrate ELN with current UoS infrastructure (i.e. lab environments, storage)

  • Start to develop best practise guidelines for lab notebooks (in conjunction with the Research Data Management (RDM) and Research Software Engineering (RSE) teams).

Further information can be found at http://insigneo-labcollector.group.shef.ac.uk/.