You have definitely heard about them and you probably have one.
You do have one, right?
If you do not have a laboratory notebook (neither paper nor digital), you need one, asap! In this article, we will go through a few key reasons why, if you are working in a lab, a notebook is a must have.
Now, this one might sound a bit obvious, but it is still worth mentioning. You need somewhere to put your data. When you are in the lab it can sometimes feel like you have to do a thousand things at once. Maybe it is super busy and you have to fight to get back to your bench.
When it is chaos around you, having your notebook to focus your work can be helpful. It means you have one single place for all your notes. No more shower of sticky notes, writing on your hands or thinking you will just remember it later. With a lab notebook, there is just one place you will need to look for your data.
Keeping a lab notebook can also act as a to-do list. Not only is it for recording what you have done, but also for planning what you need to do. This is again especially useful when there are innumerable tasks to carry out.
Having a clear plan of what needs to be done, and when, will clarify the best course of action. You will then also be better able to track your progress since you can see how much of your to-do list you have done and in which time frame.
Continuing with the idea of planning tasks, you will often need to follow protocols. If you know which experiments you will need to be doing in the near future, you can be prepared by having the right protocols already lined up in your notebook.
Having protocols of experiments you had conducted in your notebook can also be useful. If you need to repeat any experiments, then you can refer back to the protocol. Any necessary changes can also be made to it going forward.
Keeping a lab notebook aids with organizing your work. By having somewhere to put the data, you are also able to sort it. This can be in terms of projects, departments and teams. Within the teams, you might need to delegate the work, which is easy to oversee if you can refer back to your notebook.
By having who needs to do what written down in the same place as what is being done, you can keep track of the progress. This also enables you to make sure you are keeping up with your contributions to any team projects.
Another use for the notebook is actually for other people. These could be fellow lab and team members, with whom you might be collaborating. In this case, having full and organized notes all in one place would be very extremely helpful for those you are working with.
It can help speed up the work as they should need to ask less for you to clarify experiment details or missing notes. Mentioning protocols again, having them in your notebook will also be helpful for team members. If you all need to conduct an experiment, having the protocol readily available ensures the experiments are done the same (at least as far as the instructions are concerned).
A very important reason to keep a lab notebook is if you plan to publish papers or patent something that comes from the research. This is because if you publish something, you need the evidence, or data, to back it up.
Without well-documented experiments, you cannot prove that there is any merit to anything you might make or publish. But, by keeping a lab notebook, you will have a clear track record of the research and data to support your claims.
Another point to note here is then the integrity of the data and records. You can read more about that here.
One thing is recording the data, another is recording any changes that you make to it. These also need to be included in your lab notebook, for the sake of the aforementioned data integrity. Changes or updates made are important to know, especially if there is more that one person working on the data.
On paper, some of these things may sound a bit tricky, or time-consuming. Starting with the audit trail, in the digital lab notebook that is labfolder, all changes are automatically logged, with date and time stamps. You are also unable to alter this change log, to maintain data integrity.
Being digital means the data can more easily be shared with others, whether it is for supporting claims, or sharing with team members. You can easily send your data around the world, all you need is an internet connection and device!
In labfolder, you can assign tasks to others and message within the platform to keep on top of progress. Protocols and templates can also be duplicated and shared with whoever you wish. A to-do list can be created within your projects for you to refer to during your research.
labfolder can be wherever you want it to be. Since it is a digital platform, you just need a device to log in, which can be done from anywhere that you have an internet connection. This also means that you do not have to bring files and notes with you if you need to travel for your research.
Finally, electronic lab notebooks are becoming a key tool in meeting Research Data Management (RDM) expectations with ease. Research Data Management (RDM) is an overarching process that guides researchers through the many stages of the data lifecycle. In doing so, it enables scientists and stakeholders alike to make the most out of generated research data. This simplifies the creation of effective RDM plans and enable researchers to easily put them into action for a better, reproducible, transparent and open science.
To discover how to optimize RDM strategies, check out our guide on effective Research Data Management.
If you need a notebook or are looking for an upgrade, give labfolder a try, totally free!