Protecting Intellectual Property: An ELN Provides Effective Storage and Security for Laboratory Data

Digital Solutions

The main purpose of a laboratory notebook is to record and document everything that is observed and discovered within the laboratory. For laboratory managers, the thoughts and ideas that are recorded within these notebooks are like crown jewels, since they contain the building blocks of the organization’s intellectual property. However, in order to utilize and profit from this intellectual property, it must be accessible and usable by individuals internally, while also protected from external competitors. A look at the past shows that, historically speaking, this goal has been difficult to accomplish.

Alexander Graham Bell
Bell’s laboratory notebooks are interesting to review, but difficult to read.
Courtesy of wikimedia.org

One of the most common problems with laboratory notebooks is legibility.  For example, Alexandra Graham Bell religiously kept a laboratory notebook in which he recorded his thoughts and ideas. When he died, his notebooks were turned over to the Library of Congress for preservation. A few years ago, the notebooks were digitized and made available online for anyone to review.

Flipping through the notebook proves that Bell had a scientific mind that was constantly producing new ideas. Most of the pages include drawings and technical sketches that clearly illustrate his innovative nature. However, the same cannot be said about his writing. Although Bell writes in an extremely flowing and clean manner, it is surprisingly difficult to read. Even worse, sometimes it is difficult to understand exactly what he was trying to convey within his writing. Without the pictures, his ideas get lost in translation. If anyone were to need to access important information from his writing, it would prove quite challenging.

Another great scientist who also produced an illegible notebook was Leonardo Da Vinci. However, Da Vinci intentionally wrote illegibly in his notebook because of the second issue regarding laboratory notebooks: the security of the content.

Da Vinci notebooks pages
Da Vinci’s encrypted his own notebook to prevent competitors from deciphering his findings.
Courtesy of wikimedia.org

History shows that the laboratory notebook is not efficient at ensuring the availability and legibility of ideas, as well as guaranteeing the security of the content. Fortunately, the digital age has provided us with some better alternatives.

An Accelrys Notebook  is designed to ensure both the availability and the security of the content stored within it. This is done in the following ways:

  • Content Controls – An electronic lab notebook (ELN) is designed to allow lab managers the options of customizing the fields that are required to be completed before an entry can be finalized. System controls can be installed requiring that, at minimum, researchers record their test design, results and conclusion. In addition, notes are all captured digitally and can be converted into multiple formats for those scientists with poor penmanship. If Bell had recorded his findings within an ELN, there would have been no difficulty reading them today.
  • Security Controls – It would be unreasonable for laboratory managers to require researchers to record coded notes within their laboratory notebook as Da Vinci did. However, an ELN safeguards intellectual property contained within it by utilizing such digital tools like encryption and access controls. These measures ensure that content is protected and only viewed by the appropriate individuals.

It is time for scientists to recognize that the usefulness of paper laboratory notebooks has come to an end. The future of smart intellectual property storage and security points to the implementation of ELNs. To learn more about how an Accelrys Notebook can ensure the availability and protection of content within your laboratory, please visit our website today.

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