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Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) The opinions of physical chemists Isobel Hogg and Alisa Becker January 2015.

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Presentation on theme: "Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) The opinions of physical chemists Isobel Hogg and Alisa Becker January 2015."— Presentation transcript:

1 Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) The opinions of physical chemists Isobel Hogg and Alisa Becker January 2015

2 Today’s aims Introduction to the project Methodology Results Barriers to implementation Impressions and conclusions Next steps

3 What is an ELN and why are we interested? “An electronic lab notebook (also known as electronic laboratory notebook, or ELN) is a computer program designed to replace paper laboratory notebooks.” 1 Interest in ELNs in place of paper lab notebooks has increased in recent years, most notably in the pharmaceutical industry e.g. Accelrys and LABTrack Faraday Division Council expressed concerns that ELNs may not meet the needs of physical chemists We decided to interview a range of members of the physical chemistry community to assess their needs for ELNs 1

4 Methodology 20 telephone interviews with physical chemists All academics 50% supervisors, 50% group members (post-graduate students & post docs)

5 Location of interviewees

6 Areas of research

7 Interview themes 1.Problems with current ways of working 2.User experiences of ELNs 3.Attitudes to data sharing 4.Suggested requirements for ELNs 1.Practicalities 2.System design (interface, archiving, narration) 3.Features

8 1. Problems with current ways of working There is often a lack of narrative and poor levels of note taking (90%) Difficult to find previous work / no effective data management system (75%)

9 Lack of narrative and poor levels of note taking 70% of supervisors and 80% of group members said this Suggested reasons included: o Illegible handwriting o Time consuming o Not considered a priority at the time o Not realising how difficult it would be to remember what the work was until it was too late o Being partially sighted o Laziness Researchers found this to be a problem with both their own work AND that of former group members

10 Difficulties finding previous work “I’m quite worried that when I come to write things up it is going to be a struggle” “Very few people leave behind one comprehensive source where all their data is” “We have stacks of lab books but they are often hard to decipher and not very well organised” “We have big issues looking at other people’s work once they have left” “I often end up repeating work”

11 2. Experience of ELNs and current use Breakdown of the 30% who had experience: The “experience and don’t use” were all group members The “experience and use” were all supervisors

12 Experience of data management systems/ELNs DM Systems: General digital notebook (i.e. OneNote) Spreadsheet Database

13 Requirement for a data management system

14 Quotes from researchers on the prospect of using an ELN “I’d be very open to the idea of using one [an ELN] but none of the teams I’ve worked in have had them” “A better archiving process would save me hours of time” “A software version where you can move all your data around and keep it in one place is very appealing” “I need a program that makes recording and managing all information related to my research easy and quick” “It makes more sense to make the whole thing electronic” “I’d definitely be open to the idea of using one”

15 User experiences of ELNs Benefits 1.Good to have a central data storage place for everything 2.Improved accessibility to data “It works really well in terms of getting the dialogue and discussion”

16 User experiences of ELNs Difficulties 1.Great idea but performed really badly 2.Many well developed ELNS are unaffordable for academia “The big hurdle is getting people to not write notes in lab books on the side” “Inability to write equations is what stopped us using it” “Poor ability to tabulate data”

17 3. Attitudes to data sharing 20% yes were group members 10% yes were group members

18 4. Suggested requirements for ELNs Practicalities System design (interface, archiving, narration) Features

19 Practicalities 1.One comprehensive source which keeps everything together (65%) o One central place (i.e. like Dropbox) through which they can access all their work, including data. 2.Portable with flexible accessibility (60%) o The ability to move the lab book around the lab and for themselves and their group to view the information from anywhere 3.Affordable with reliable and well maintained IT infrastructure o Funding for hardware and software o Ongoing costs need consideration o Must be available on different operating systems (60%)

20 System design 1.Effective interface design – both flexible and structured templates, easy, intuitive, effective & quick to use interface with a systematic logging system (95%) 2.Easy way to record narrative and improve note taking (90%) 3.Improve organisational structure of own work with an easy to use data archiving/storage system that is searchable (60%)

21 Features 1.Different access rights, a digital time stamp, electronic signatures, and track changes/roll-back functionality 2.Ability to create links to outputs from experiments 3.Ability to draw graphs, write equations, enter tables, experimental set-up sketches digitally and with a hand stylus/ drawing tool

22 Features continued… General FeaturesPhysical FeaturesAbility to link to.. Molecular graphic system Equation writerPhysical portability around the lab Mathematica, Matlab, Labview Automatic graph drawing Electronic signature /Digital time stamp Hand stylus/ drawing tool Jpg files, ASCII files, potentio stat files Automated storing of equipment parameters Mark/flag/tag files like in Outlook VideoPDFs, instrument manuals, group presentations, posters TemplatesHover-over definitionsWebcam Spectra Automatic file name generation Security/password protection Chemical resistant/waterproof (tablet case) Literature Suitable for different operating systems Different access rightsVoice recording/ recognition Screen prints “Free” interfaceRoll back systemPhotoshop TablesSearchable

23 Barriers to Implementation 1.Timing of the switch will effect how easy it is for researchers to change their way of working 2.It might not be possible to implement all suggested features e.g. Photoshop and being affordable A handwriting tool and being searchable 3.When work is visible to others, it may affect what researchers record 4.Costs and infrastructure may affect use in academia

24 The physical chemistry community have limited experience of ELNs There’s enthusiasm and positive attitude towards: –the concept of an ELN –a data management system –improvements in narrative recording and organisation of data It isn't enough to develop an electronic version of a paper notebook – there are other requirements Impressions & Conclusions


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