Electronic lab notebooks: can they replace paper?
Journal of Cheminformatics, May 2017
Samantha Kanza, Cerys Willoughby, Nicholas Gibbins, Richard Whitby, Jeremy Graham Frey, Jana Erjavec, Klemen Zupančič, Matjaž Hren, Katarina Kovač
Despite the increasingly digital nature of society there are some areas of research that remain firmly rooted in the past; in this case the laboratory notebook, the last remaining paper component of an experiment. Countless electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) have been created in an attempt to digitise record keeping processes in the lab, but none of them have become a 'key player' in the ELN market, due to the many adoption barriers that have been identified in previous research and further explored in the user studies presented here. The main issues identified are the cost of the current available ELNs, their ease of use (or lack of it) and their accessibility issues across different devices and operating systems. Evidence suggests that whilst scientists willingly make use of generic notebooking software, spreadsheets and other general office and scientific tools to aid their work, current ELNs are lacking in the required functionality to meet the needs of the researchers. In this paper we present our extensive research and user study results to propose an ELN built upon a pre-existing cloud notebook platform that makes use of accessible popular scientific software and semantic web technologies to help overcome the identified barriers to adoption.
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