Support Innovation in Food Science with Electronic Lab Notebooks

ELN

food science
Food science involves many tools, but perhaps the most important is the lab notebook. Is a paper or electronic lab notebook better for the job?
Image Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via Wikimedia.org

Food scientists are a unique bunch. Part chef and part chemist, they look for ways to improve the way we use and produce food. They work to ensure the quality of our food, understand how it impacts our health and aim to establish food sustainability for generations to come. Some recent accomplishments in food science include the sequencing of the coffee genome and the study of the effects that bees and other pollinators have on human health.

Due to the variation in the tasks they perform, food scientists utilize many different tools. Sometimes they use traditional tools found in a kitchen including rolling pins, utensils and pans. At other times, they may be using beakers, microscopes and other tools traditionally found in a laboratory setting. However, one tool that is a constant, regardless of whether they are using kitchen or laboratory tools, is the laboratory notebook.

Due to the different environments in which food scientists work, you might think that a paper-based laboratory notebook would be the better option. However, food scientists may want to consider an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) for the following reasons:

  • Not Flammable – Whether preparing actual food or burning food in a calorimeter, it seems like food scientists are often working near heat or fire. Unfortunately, heat and fire do not mix well with paper lab notebooks, and more than one has gone up in flames when not properly attended. In contrast, ELN software installed on a computer or tablet can be less likely to catch fire. In addition, even when one is lost to fire, the information is still retrievable since the data is saved to a central server.
  • Storage Capabilities – Another problem with paper notebooks is that they can only store a limited amount of data types. For example, scientists can record notes, observations and figures, but they cannot store video, voice recordings or numerous image files. Alternatively, ELNs can store many data types, including hours of video, tons of voice recordings and as many pictures as a scientist desires. Better still, the various files can be hyperlinked from the notes for quick reference.
  • Search Capabilities – Most scientists admit that once a recipe or a note is recorded within a paper notebook, it is going to take some real effort to locate it again later on. An ELN has built-in search capabilities that allow users to quickly find the keywords associated with the material they recorded.
  • Report Sharing – Another benefit of an ELN is the ability to quickly generate a report based on the underlying data and share it with other users. These reports can include charts and graphs that automatically update themselves when new data is added.
  • Data Protection – Like any laboratory, foods scientists need to be able to protect their intellectual property. This means limiting access to sensitive data for those who may not need it, including students, interns or even lower-level employees. These limitations are harder to implement and enforce with paper laboratory notebooks. An ELN provides the ability to establish security limits that allow only certain users access to data while restricting others.

Food science plays a crucial role in determining how to feed the people of the world. However, those involved are really only as good as their tools. That is why food scientists in the modern laboratory should implement an ELN. For more information about the BIOVIA Notebook and how it can help support innovations in food science, please visit our website today.

4 thoughts on “Support Innovation in Food Science with Electronic Lab Notebooks

  1. Using a tablet is the way to go for anyone in a lab setting. Paper notes can get lost or destroyed, and often times people neglect to discard old and irrelevant notes. Digital notes can provide a useful update history as well as being easier to navigate.

  2. Electronic notebooks are the way to go in terms of safety and efficiency. Electronic notebooks are not flammable which allows information to be stored in a safe manner. Furthermore, electronic notebooks are capable of storing a variety of different types of medium including video.

  3. David, you are touching upon one of the major points of an electronic notebook. Storing all mediums in a single database can greatly increase productivity.

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