Overcoming Digital Transition Concerns: Addressing Fallacies in Arguments Against ELNs

Digital Solutions

digital transition
Computers are so pervasive in our personal and business lives that a laboratory digital transition should be straightforward.
Image source: Flickr user LaMenta3

I was talking to an old post-doc friend on the phone the other day about her new lab. We were chatting about how two different research labs can have completely different cultures, as both of us had transitioned from dinosaur labs to tech savvy labs. She then went on to tell me how one member of her lab has setup a digital system where all lab members can upload data and share notebooks on lab computers. “That’s great!” I replied, thinking she was onboard. She responded with an emphatic, “No!” and proceeded to list the reasons she has no interest in making the digital transition. I was surprised by her aversion to the lab’s electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), as she is a young woman who is extremely comfortable with digital technology. I started to think that if she isn’t open to a digital transition, then most older lab members who lack training in digital technology would most assuredly be uninterested in adopting an ELN.

I made a mental note of my friend’s perceived frustrations in making the digital transition and decided to share them with you while addressing their fallacies:

“I like to write in a notebook with a pen.”

Ever since my hand went numb from writing lecture notes in ninth-grade Biology, I have looked forward to the day when I would NEVER have to write so much again. Besides, I have horrible penmanship. I’m basically at that point now. The only time I write anything of length is when I send a greeting card to a family member and that’s usually only a few sentences. Anyhow, I can’t say that I understand the desire to write with a pen. It always frustrated me when I made a mistake in my notebook and had to scribble it out. I wanted to rip out the whole page.

For most scientists, many hours are spent on the computer, typing and clicking. It seems like a natural transition to go ahead and handle notebook practices in the same manner. This concern really is a matter of personal preference, but I will say that so many of us type on computers, smartphones and tablets that I can’t imagine a real barrier to typing in your notebook. If you’re really attached to your pen, there are numerous software solutions that allow you to write directly into a document, which could easily be uploaded to your ELN.

“I don’t want to have to upload images.”

This comment had me floored. Sure, with a paper notebook you don’t have to upload images to the notebook. But any journal submission, oral presentation or data analysis software you use is going to require that you upload images. It’s actually an extra step to print out a copy of the image to cut and paste into your notebook. Sometimes, I have huge images and data sets that can’t be neatly included in a paper notebook. An ELN offers a simple, clean option to attach and store image files, PDFs and other office documents.

“I don’t want to have to learn a new system.”

Being a scientist and doing research involves constant learning. We are always asking questions and looking for new ways to solve problems. An ELN is an ideal solution to poor lab and data management, and can help your lab be more productive through automation and improved recordkeeping.

If you have some challenges to overcome in making the digital transition in your lab, contact the lab management experts at Accelrys to learn how the Accelrys Notebook can overcome your lab’s common digital transition concerns.

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