Electronic Lab Notebooks

Electronic Lab Notebooks at HMS

Lab notebooks are good for writing down procedures, observations, conclusions and for drawing flow charts and diagrams by hand. However, in order to accommodate the increase of digital data collected, researchers have taped instrumentation and computer printouts onto the pages of their notebooks, or cross-referenced larger data sets by recording file names and locations in the notebook.

An ELN (electronic lab notebook) is a software tool that in its most basic form replicates an interface much like a page in a paper lab notebook. In this electronic notebook you can enter protocols, observations, notes, and other data using your computer or mobile device. This offers several advantages over the traditional paper notebook.

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Comparison Grid

The number of available ELN tools is increasing and the functions of each are quickly changing. As a result, it may be confusing to evaluate all of the advantages and limitations of each when looking for the right solution for your project.

The Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) Matrix has been created to aid Harvard researchers in the Longwood Medical Area (LMA) in the process of identifying practical ELN tools to meet their specific research needs. Using the ELN Matrix, researchers can compare and contrast the numerous tools available today, and also explore individual options in-depth.

The tools listed in the ELN Matrix are selected strictly on their relevance to the Longwood Medical Area biomedical research community with respect to their intended function to replace and enhance conventional (hard copy) laboratory notebooks. Inclusion of a tool in the ELN Matrix does not imply an endorsement by Harvard, and exclusion of a tool is based solely on relevance; no evaluations of tool quality were made or acted upon in developing the ELN Matrix. 

Click on the matrix below to expand the table and see detailed descriptions of each resource. 

ELN Matrix Image

ELN Publishers

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In the News

A recent Nature "News & Comment" article highlighted the "ELN Comparison Matrix" project completed by the HMS Data Management Working Group.

"How to pick an electronic laboratory notebook: Choosing wisely from a burgeoning array of digital tools can help researchers to record experiments with ease." Author: Roberta Kwok 

The Electronic Lab Notebook Matrix, collated by Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, lists the details of more than 50 features for 27 ELNs.

Last Updated: 2020-02-27