1. Scientists don’t want to use clunky software…
When scientists would rather use a paper notebook than an electronic lab notebook, you know there’s a problem. Perfect compliance is hard to come by, but when software looks like it’s 10 years old and works like it’s 20, there’s definitely room for improvement.
2. …especially if it doesn’t support modern ways to collaborate.
ELNs are from a different era, when scientists were far more insulated and a standalone tool was all they needed. Today, the days of the lone wolf scientist are long gone. A modern notebook has to be web-based and make sharing easy to accommodate complex workflows.
3. Organizing data in ELNs is too difficult…
Research documentation involves more than just text. With ELNs, it’s harder to keep track of files like results spreadsheets, images, and slides than it is to print them out and tape them into a paper notebook. A lab notebook should support more than text and disorganized attachments.
4. …and they don’t even help you plan out your work.
A notebook isn’t just a place for research in the past tense; it should help you plan and keep track of all your ongoing and upcoming experiments. A glorified Word document isn’t going to help you schedule experiments in day-to-day tasks any more than paper.
5. At the end of the day, it’s just mimicking paper.
J Brew via wikimedia.org
Since ELNs try to recreate paper notebooks in software, the perfect ELN is hardly ever more useful than paper. But software should do more than try to mimic a physical tool.
Benchling is a new type of lab note-taking software. The Benchling Lab Notebook does more than record notes; it stores structured results, is integrated with our Bioregistry for sample management, links to DNA and protein sequences, offers in-line spreadsheet functionality, automatically generates calendars for each experiment, includes rich protocol features, and more – all in a sleek, user-friendly interface.