Understanding the Value of Going to Paperless with the Help of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks

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electronic laboratory notebooks
With the amount of information yielded with modern research, maintaining effective records is near impossible using paper-based methods. However, electronic laboratory notebooks allow for organized record keeping and data preservation.
Image source: Flickr user Orin Zebest

It seems easy enough to jot down notes on a piece of paper or to print handouts to distribute throughout the office before a big meeting. But few individuals consider the costs of paper–not just its price but also its “storage, copying, printing, postage, disposal, and recycling.”1 In fact, such office document expenditures cost Fortune 1000 companies approximately $217 billion in 2002, a price that one can expect to have risen since. And these costs do not even consider that pieces of papers are often lost or handouts remain unread, thus suggesting that $217 billion is spent mostly in vain.

Facilitating the Journey from Paper to Paperless

Institutions are increasingly trying to maintain a “cost-effective back office,”2 and given the expenses associated with using paper as described above, many are attempting to go paperless. Though we’ve focused on cost, consider also that paper records must also be stored and filed carefully. Indeed, the disorganization inherent to dealing with multiple files that are often localized in one area prompted the mandate that physicians’ offices use electronic health records.3

To facilitate the journey toward a paperless work environment, companies and institutions should consider the use of technology such as electronic laboratory notebooks. Electronic laboratory notebooks are meant to “optimize workflow and minimize cost.”4 Additionally, the use of electronic laboratory notebooks can increase efficiency and speed both in terms of how quickly regular tasks are completed and how quickly individuals can take the information stored in electronic laboratory notebooks and apply it toward new discoveries or novel innovations. In general, the following are specific ways in which the use of electronic laboratory notebooks can assist the transition into a paperless workflow:

  • Organization: Part of the problem with using paper is that it must then be organized and filed. Unfortunately this is often delayed, leading to a buildup of documents that become vulnerable to misfiling and misplacing. Electronic laboratory notebooks help in the organization of documents that increases efficiency, essentially augmenting the role of lab managers or research assistants.
  • Posterity: Electronic laboratory notebooks are also important because with the storage of information in a database, researchers are able to easily record their efforts. These notes can then be referred to five, 10 or even 20 years later in order to determine how an experiment was performed or the conditions under which it was performed. In labs and corporations in which projects build upon themselves, keeping this information available to others is an important aspect of discovery, innovation and cost-effectiveness.
  • Innovation: As suggested above, instead of thousands of pieces of papers littered across a cramped storage room, researchers and managers can carefully file information within a database that can be easily searched via keywords or by date. Thus, workers will be less intimidated by the task of sifting through data in order to uncover important information. The removal of their reluctance can then spur innovation and new discoveries to the benefit of the company and institution.

The Future Is Here: Switch to Electronic Laboratory Notebooks in Your Workplace

To compete in the modern marketplace, it’s crucial to leave the 20th century behind and improve your institution’s ability to search for and make use of important data. Electronic laboratory notebooks, such as the BIOVIA Notebook, are one form of innovative technology that can ensure this happens. To determine how electronic laboratory notebooks can be used in your own work, please contact us today.

  1. “The Cost of Managing Paper: A Great Incentive to Go Paperless!” September 16, 2009, http://www.quepublishing.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1393497
  2. “Best Practices for Going Paperless in Higher Ed: Keys to effective electronic document management,” June 2014, http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/best-practices-going-paperless-higher-ed
  3. “Benefits of Electronic Health Records (EHRs)” http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/benefits-electronic-health-records-ehrs
  4. “A Review of Electronic Laboratory Notebooks Available in the Market Today,” February 2011, http://www.slas.org/default/assets/file/2012_jala_readers_choice_award.pdf

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