In the early days, electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) were simply digital versions of the conventional paper lab notebook. As with most other solutions, ELNs made the most of advancing technologies to develop features and services worthy of the full potential of digital technology. Specifically, they have evolved record-keeping processes to make them the invaluable tools of researchers that they are today (Huchet, 2021).
Currently, modern ELNs or electronic lab notebooks perform different functions to meet varying scientific needs. They find vigorous applications in scientific laboratories of varying scales, academic research, industrial research, and public or private scientific undertakings. Startup businesses founded on natural research will rely on ELNs, as would government agencies tasked with various scientific investigations.
It is of the utmost importance that ELN providers deliver solutions that guarantee the centralization and accessibility of research data. To find an ELN that fits your requirements, read this in-depth features and pricing overview of today’s best ELN software.
At the University of São Paulo School of Medicine, 31 science-affiliated people consisting of technicians, researchers, private investigators, master and PhD students, and post-docs were interviewed in 2018. Remarkably, more than 90% of them were not familiar with an ELN (Redoxoma Newsletter, 2019).
Source: Electronic lab notebooks: can they replace paper?, Journal of Cheminformatics, BioMed Central
Another surprising fact is that most private investigators use scratch papers to note their experiments. They normally update their lab notebooks every day (37%) or at least weekly (29%), and others do not actually take note of their experiments (34%).
Nevertheless, they showed interest at the mention of ELNs. The potential help caught on with the small sample, as it did with more in the industry.
In the face of mounting data volumes and complex processes, the old-fashioned paper laboratory notebooks are fast becoming a hindrance to lab scientists and their goals. They are laborious to write on, hard to read, unable to store digital data, and can easily be misplaced or get stained with food and drinks. Here are some of the top reasons why ELNs are crucial today, reflected by an exploding demand in the market.
Other people’s handwriting can sometimes be challenging to understand, especially when the one who wrote it was in a rush. Switching from handwritten notes to ELN is a wise choice if eligibility is a top concern. In an ELN, digital notes are displayed in a standard format, which makes them easier to decipher for everyone (Goraai, 2022).
An ELN can automate many of the manual elements of laboratory note-taking. In laboratory processes, automation simplifies experimental procedures and helps researchers save more time for other tasks such as data analysis. ELNs also use advanced technologies to automate different data input and acquisition processes.
By having a single location to store key information and results, ELNs foster transparency among laboratory professionals. Performing every phase of the experiment in a centralized area gives researchers an extensive overview of each laboratory procedure. ELNs also serve as a type of data management software as they leaves data trails that make it simpler to track where some data items came from and changed during an experiment.
Source: MLO State of the Industry surveys, 2020, 2021
ELNs improve the reproducibility and reliability of results as all data are placed in a single location. Researchers can then easily explore the tool to look for previous experiments.
Furthermore, ELNs show the approaches, materials, outcomes, and conclusions of experiments for them to be accurately reproduced. Laboratories are not exempted from errors or misinterpretations, but ELNs make data always accurate and new.
If left anywhere, handwritten notes can be seen by anyone. With ELNs, security measures are observed so that only authorized personnel can read or edit data notes. They also help increase the safety and integrity of data results.
Handwritten notes are also prone to damage due to spillages, for instance, inside the laboratory. If water or hazardous chemicals are spilled into these notes, it would be hard or impossible to retrieve them.
With the foregoing discussion, we proceed to the list of 20 best ELN software solutions in 2022.
Labguru is a cloud-hosted ELN, informatics platform, and LIMS that carries out a comprehensive solution for the life science field. It keeps and manages laboratory data and inventory, allows for lab automation, includes chemistry and molecular biology resources, and gives insights into lab data creation. It helps researchers devise workflows and experiments, take structured and unstructured data, handle projects, and share work with others.
Labfolder is an ELN that can help you write, draw, and organize your experiments’ reports. These reports can then be safely kept in the cloud. It offers 3 GB of cloud space for file storage. This solution best suits researchers and/or scientists in the fields of higher education, biology, and biotech.
SciNote is a software for academic researchers or FDA-trusted industries. It is an all-in-one ELN, inventory management, and project management solution. It uses data security measures to protect the integrity and privacy of information. It is user-friendly, intuitive, and 21 CFR part 11- and GLP-compliant.
SciCord is the combination of the systematized aspects and compliance of a LIMS with the versatility of an ELN. It offers a complete suite of preconfigured tools to automate laboratory processes. These tools are plug-and-play modules, which can also be adjusted to cater to certain requirements of some organizations. On top of that, SciCord works well with laboratory instruments.
eLabJournal incorporates modules for protocol management and sample tracking. In this software, all data are instantly and securely placed in servers or in the cloud. It features e-signatures that can sign or countersign experiments. Mobile access is also available through its mobile app.
Uncountable speeds up research and development all throughout many fields. It is the pioneer of the rise of AI-powered LIMS by merging the basic functionality of a LIMS and an ELN. This feature is comprised of sophisticated machine learning algorithms, several joint workflows, and integrated statistical analysis materials. Its complete machine learning calculations are tailored to suit the intricate R&D information environment, providing researchers with a total AI-based experience.
LabWare LIMS is a leading LIMS for around 30 years. It guarantees data compliance and integrity, precise test results, and more efficient outputs. It has around 3,000 users, which include Pfizer, Hershey, Chevron, NIH, USDA, and GSK. It also has a 98% customer satisfaction.
LIMSey is a flexible and simple web-hosted solution built especially for physical and engineering testing laboratories. It has a modern and easy-to-use user interface that does not take weeks to be configured. It helps to swiftly monitor workflows and schedule resources, among others.
LabVantage provides an all-inclusive portfolio of services to laboratories, including medical laboratory software. They offer some of the best LIMS software, ELN tools, and business intelligence solutions. It offers better results by turning data into knowledge. Over 1,500 worldwide customer sites across industries use this software. It fits all laboratory types and all disciplines looking for a progressive and 100% web-hosted platform.
WeLIMS is a handy, economical, and efficient LIMS that manages all incoming and outgoing flows. It enables the configuration of methods, defining the specifications for raw materials and products, managing product traceability, and more. Overall, it makes sure that laboratory personnel always come up with the best decisions.
STARLIMS‘s solutions are built especially to support ever-changing data management requirements across organizations. Its elite LIMS and other informatics tools gather, manage, and interpret data. Its robust data visualization functionalities help its analytics solutions equip researchers to make the right decisions when it comes to organizational operations.
LabArchives focuses on a researcher’s proficiency in using an intuitive and secure cloud-hosted ELN. Its ELN solution is used by more than 600 research organizations across the world and numerous higher education lab programs. It also offers an ELN solution for education and research.
Benchling is an easy-to-use ELN that offers a hassle-free and unified environment where researchers can collect data. Its features nurture a unified data capture capability throughout applications, allow for visibility and data integrity, and lessen data entry time by around 80%. It comes with the life sciences research and development Cloud, which boasts reintegrated applications, like workflows, Registry, Inventory, and Molecular Biology. It launched the Benchling Validated Cloud in January 2021, making it simpler for researchers to view the same data they worked early on or in their late stages.
Free and open-source eLabFTW aids researchers in logging and tracking experiments with its intuitive interface. It is made by researchers for researchers, taking reliability into account. This tool is available in 13 languages and can be used by anyone, even those without any IT knowledge. It is fully compliant with Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, paragraph 11, FERPA, HIPAA, and FISMA.
Labstep provides features like collaboration and sharing, inventory management, software integration, and protocol library and instrument. Being among the leading reference management software today, it also comes with an ELN cloud tool that merges all gathered data. It helps researchers to save time from the tedious task of manual processes and data governance.
Labii ELN & LIMS enables the inclusion of widgets to promote its functionality and fulfill certain user needs. Aside from their fundamental uses, these extra features enable the addition of a PCR reaction or molecular structure on notes. As a whole, Labii gives freedom to its customers when it comes to customization.
FindMolecule is both a chemical inventory and an online ELN for biologists and chemists. It hosts two types of experiment pages: one is designed particularly for chemists, with tables and reaction drawings while the other is suitable for other experiments.
Scilligence ELN is a web-hosted ELN. It is generally customizable depending on the user’s preferences. It harbors collaboration among labs and CROs. It is compliant with 21 CFR part 11 and certified by ISO.
RSpace is an ELN that perfectly fits into the research data frameworks of 21st-century universities. It features impressive capture, management, and sharing of data. It integrates well with data storage applications, research platforms, and data archives.
LabCollector ELN serves both as a laboratory management solution and an ELN. Here, researchers can store notes and track samples. Data are placed with a barcode to quickly recover the correct sample. This tool can be used by teams with various access rights. It also enables inventory management. It is customizable, too, helping you adjust to the specifications of your lab.
Nobel Prize-winning scientist Frances Arnold announced at the beginning of 2020 that she was withdrawing a paper due to its unreproducibility. Many sympathized with her and praised such openness. Yet, this instance also reminds everyone of the consequences of relying too much on traditional laboratory notebooks—a key point highlighted by this compilation of the best ELN software you will find in the market today.
ELNs indeed have the potential to answer accuracy- and reproducibility-related questions. Generally, the positive trends toward these software are on the rise. And it is an interesting yet challenging time to try them and enter a new era in the field of science.