Getting (and Staying!) Organized for Better Communication
With traditional paper notebooks, notes can become lost, illegible, or placed out of context once the notebook goes into the archives. With an ELN, the project folder structure stays organized in a meaningful way, and the notes should be accessible to labmates who have been granted appropriate permissions, regardless of their location.
For lab managers and PIs managing distributed research teams, or who are running experiments in two or more labs in different locations, streamlining and standardizing communication is another added benefit of ELNs and lab management software. Team members in a lab send emails back and forth constantly, which essentially scatters virtual pieces of paper everywhere that aren’t readily discoverable or associated with the core project notebook. A collaborative ELN allows all the relevant project-related chatter and communications to be tracked in a single system of record.
Lab Management Solutions for Laboratory Needs
Some researchers prefer to use Microsoft Office tools as intermediate solution to digital lab management. However, although Outlook, OneNote, Excel, and SharePoint all have their value, they ultimately provide a disjointed approach to the research workflows that modern labs need.
For instance, you can keep your inventory list in Excel and project notes in OneNote, but the two programs don’t speak to one another. A fully-integrated lab management system, such as BrightLab, can automatically pull your inventory into your experiment notes and planning, and then automatically deduct the materials as used once the experiment is marked complete in the ELN.
Establishing and maintaining best practices for inter-team communication can not only introduce vital efficiencies to your lab’s most common workflows, it can be beneficial for regulatory compliance and data accountability. Unlike Microsoft Office apps, some ELNs and integrated lab management software allow research teams to track completed steps in an experiment, producing an audit trail for external validation. ELNs that provide e-signature and witnessing capabilities are designed to support FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.
Make Time for Progress
It’s essential to improve communication between research and development for effective and efficient product scale-up. While some may be hesitant to refresh their lab’s routines, the short-term costs of adapting to a new system are far outweighed by the long-term benefits of improved collaboration and more efficient communication. Now may be just the right time to set aside the old hassle of shuffling through old paper archives and noodling over the logistics of ordering supplies, and start using digital lab management software to maximize your team’s time for scientific progress.