Save Money with Electronic Lab Notebooks by Avoiding Duplicate Experiments
Hands on experiments were the best part about my high school science classes. Within these courses, I was able to obtain experience with stating hypotheses, designing experiments, selecting a sample size and conducting research. We dissolved the copper from pennies to learn about solutions and ignited hydrogen that we made in a test tube! I have since left school and gone into the industry. Looking back on my classes from the perspective of industry has shown me that these experiments, although perhaps informative for our stage in the learning process, were incredibly wasteful. Efficient management of resources is crucial in laboratories, and measures are often taken to make sure any duplicate experiments are not necessary.
In high school, although we were duplicating the same experiment and hypotheses that had already been conducted in the same laboratory for at least the past 20 years, we were not examining those previous results. Secondly, the science department was providing resources to each student in the classroom so that they could conduct their own experiment and gather their own data, rather than looking for reduction alternatives. Although I am not aware of the budget, I am willing to bet that the duplicated experiments and the lack of reduction alternatives were extremely costly for the school.
Although resource generosity may have been acceptable in teaching students about science, it is not acceptable in the modern laboratory. In most industry laboratories, resources are limited and need to be controlled carefully. This means that laboratories need to attempt to reduce the duplication of experiments and seek opportunities to use cost reducing alternatives.
In order to really lock down a hypothesis, an experiment must be replicable, and other labs must be able to repeat the results. However, there here are two main reasons why an experiment may be unnecessarily repeated in the same lab. First, it may be because an experimenter did not know that an experiment had been conducted. Second, it may be because the experimenter did not have access to the results since it was recorded in another scientist’s hand written laboratory notebook.
Cost reducing alternatives, referring to any strategy that will result in less resource utilization during an experiment, may include using a smaller sample size in addressing the research question or maximizing the information obtained during an experiment.
Laboratories that are serious about addressing the problems of experiment duplication and looking for cost reducing alternatives may want to consider implementing an electronic laboratory notebook. This would bring the following benefits:
- Create a centralized database of both experiments and results – This would enable scientists and researchers to have access to all experiments and results that were conducted within a lab. Granting laboratory personnel access to both experiments and results, can help prevent or reduce the duplication of experiments.
- Capture and store all of the data results of an experiment – Unlike a manual laboratory notebook, an electronic notebook can be enable to capture all of the measurable results from an experiment, whether it was relevant to the original hypothesis or not. By capturing all of this information, other scientists might be able to use by-product results to form conclusions for other hypotheses.
The goal of my high school science classes was to educate young scientists, so administrators and teachers were willing to use resources in experiment duplication and not focus as much on cost reducing alternatives. Nowadays, many learning institutions don’t have the luxury of repeat experiments. Industry and academic professionals highly concerned about resources might want to explore the features of an electronic laboratory notebook and consider how it may help manage lab resources more efficiently and push research further.