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From Lab Books to Laptops

Feb 20th, 2019 | Blog

Although it has only been three years since I joined Ingenza, I have witnessed many significant changes in the way our company functions. Our move to the Roslin Innovation Centre has, of course, changed almost every aspect of our daily activities. But our transition from paper lab notebooks (PLNs) to SciNote electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) has been no less significant. Considering that we live in the digital era, leaving behind the archaic PLN and embracing an electronic replacement felt like a natural progression for us to take. After all, why would anyone want to keep using non-searchable, sometimes illegible (yes Scott I mean you), cabinet-filling, slow and tedious to write up paper notebooks? However, switching to ELNs proved to be a challenging period, during which we had to make tough decisions and adapt many aspects of the way we work.

Our transition started with the daunting realisation that there are dozens of ELN providers, offering countless different features, service contracts, security levels, user interfaces, etc. How were we meant to choose the best one for us? We started by making a list of our non-negotiable requirements. This allowed us to significantly reduce the number of suppliers to look at, while prioritising what was most important for us – an ELN that is flexible, easy to use and provides the level of electronic records and signatures regulation that we need. This was when we came across SciNote, an open source, browser-based ELN that was the perfect fit.

Considering that we live in the digital era, leaving behind the archaic PLN and embracing an electronic replacement felt like a natural progression for us to take.

With the help of the SciNote implementation specialists, we set up our own trial team, trained them and put the software to the test using relevant examples from our varied projects and departments. We found this trial to be crucial to the success of our transition, since it allowed us to pick and choose which features of the software worked best for us and to define a company-wide method for recording data. SciNote then trained all our staff, and we gradually transitioned every project to ELNs. Although it wasn’t a completely smooth process, we managed to find a system and, most importantly, a way to use that system which works for us. The fact that we work collaboratively between molecular biologists, chemists and fermentation scientists – who may understand each other but think and work very differently – didn’t make it easier, but the SciNote team was always on hand by email or phone to guide us and help find common ground between departments.

Following the implementation, we have found that we can record results faster and more efficiently, with all our digital data

Following the implementation, we have found that we can record results faster and more efficiently, with all our digital data – spreadsheets, FASTA files, analytical results, academic papers, etc. – integrated in one searchable location. Surprisingly, SciNote also turned out to be a great project management tool that we didn’t know we needed. The programme prompts you to create workflow diagrams, which you can then populate with due dates and users. This provides a comprehensive project overview for every team and user, detailing everyone’s responsibilities and deadlines.

We believe our switch to SciNote has been a truly positive change, bringing our workflow up to speed with the digital age while massively reducing our paper waste (and paper cuts)!