Electronic Lab Notebooks: Finding the Right Balance Between Knowledge Protection and Knowledge Sharing


Electronic lab Notebooks can help strike the right balance.
Lab managers need to find the right balance between knowledge protection and knowledge sharing.
Image source: GOKLuLe via Wikimedia.org

Science is a competitive pursuit. It is a winner-take-all business, in which the “first-to-file” gets the patent and everything that comes with it. The field of science is so aggressive that data and information are referred to as “intellectual property.” Thus, today’s laboratories place a high value on knowledge protection.

Within the past several years, however, science has also included more collaborative processes. It was recently noted that there is a positive correlation between the number of authors on a publication in a top-tier journal like Nature or Science and the significance of the research. So, today’s laboratories also place a high value on knowledge sharing.

The need for both knowledge protection and knowledge sharing is a balancing act about which all lab managers must become familiar. On the one hand, lab directors need to secure intellectual property and ensure that no leaks or opportunities come about where another laboratory might acquire research. On the other hand, lab managers also need to encourage scientists to share their data with colleagues and partners and allow collaboration to lead to a better outcome.

Unfortunately, this balancing act is made more complicated (if not impossible) with a paper lab notebook. Lab notebooks are difficult to track and can be easily lost or removed from the lab. They are also information silos, meaning that data goes in, but it may not be easily retrieved later on down the line. These complications make the paper lab notebook a less-than-perfect method for securing or sharing information.

However, an electronic lab notebook can ensure knowledge protection and knowledge sharing in the following ways:

  • Knowledge Protection – Electronic lab notebooks are designed with both access control lists and audit trails. These functions help protect knowledge by limiting who has access to it and tracking what is added or removed. Additionally, electronic lab notebooks can also be backed up and taken off-site, ensuring that they are secure and available even when an accident or disaster strikes.
  • Knowledge Sharing – One of the best aspects about an electronic lab notebook is that information is stored digitally. In a digital format, information can be quickly transferred between collaborators, including data results, notes, pictures or any other kind of data stored within. This data is indexed within the system so it becomes searchable. With indexing, the entire company can search the database for relevant information.

An electronic notebook can help lab managers strike the perfect balance between both knowledge sharing and knowledge protection. With access control lists, users can only search within the databases where they have access or share data that they have been granted permission. And although collaboration is facilitated, restrictions can be established so that sharing only occurs within the electronic notebook environment and not to those outside the system.

In today’s laboratories, it’s crucial to find a middle ground between knowledge protection and knowledge sharing. This challenge simply cannot be addressed efficiently with a paper notebook. However, an electronic lab notebook can help make the task easier for lab managers.

For more information on how the Accelrys Notebook can help your firm balance the need to share with the need to secure, please visit our website today.

2 thoughts on “Electronic Lab Notebooks: Finding the Right Balance Between Knowledge Protection and Knowledge Sharing

  1. The use of an electronic lab notebook is interesting. I would recommend a way to upload photos of experiments/results, in case this has not been implemented, and excel/matlab functionality if possible.

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