2019-12-13 What Should You Do When Your Scientists Don't Keep Their Lab Notebooks Updated?


Every day, scientists perform a wide variety of experiments worldwide in both labs and the field, from testing Alzheimer’s drugs to measuring the effects of nutrients on algal blooms. Regardless of the research subject, most scientists maintain a lab notebook, where they can detail procedures, results, to-do lists, and other notes. Lab notebooks provide a centralized location to store protocols and results, which will support future research and publications. Information in lab notebooks can be used by others in the lab, ensuring consistent methodologies and the ability to reproduce data. A lab notebook also represents a legally valid, permanently written record of a lab’s research, which can be used in a court of law in patent investigations. Because of their inherent flexibility and utility, lab notebooks are one of the most important tools to a scientist. Every scientist may know accurate documentation of their procedures in a lab notebook is important, but many scientists are also guilty of not maintaining their notebook. Some scientists may feel that they don’t need a lab notebook, to begin with, thinking that they will remember their procedures when the time comes to reproduce their results. Others may simply forget or neglect to record their notes when they are working long hours in the field or lab. Or, they may think they will remember where to pick up the next day. Even for scientists that do attempt to maintain a lab notebook, recording methods and results by hand is both tedious and time-consuming. Additionally, handwritten lab notebooks can be illegible and disorganized. Handwritten lab notebooks are also easily damaged or destroyed by accidents in the lab or field, or may even be lost or stolen. Regardless of the reason - whether due to lack of effort or lack of technology - a poorly kept lab notebook can lead to non-reproducible data, hindering scientific advances. What can you do to ensure lab notebooks in your lab are well maintained?

  1. Enforce accurate and regular recording of notes in a lab notebook. For example, some companies require sign-offs on lab notebooks every day when a scientist leaves the lab.

  2. Set up an electronic lab notebook system that you like. Recording notes will be significantly less tedious if you are working in a system that makes sense to you.

  3. Use an electronic lab notebook (ELN), such as Labii’s ELN, which reduces the amount of work required to document lab procedures and results, ensuring well-maintained records.

Labii Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) is an industry-approved, time-saving approach to secure electronic notebooks. Labii’s user-friendly ELN can be tailored to your lab’s specific research goals and objectives. Search features are also customizable, keeping your data at your fingertips. Templates are available for repetitive experiments, and Labii is the only ELN that provides full-scale Workflow management. Labii ELN even stamps every activity in the notebook and supports video recording from your smartphone. To learn more, schedule a meeting with Labii representatives (https://call.skd.labii.com) or create an account (https://www.labii.com/signup/) to try it out yourself. Natalie Burger

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