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Are You in the Market for an.. Electronic Lab Notebook?

Find out how readers use this technology and more from the latest ELN survey results.

by Ryan Ackerman

Electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), one component of a lab’s information infrastructure, help laboratories capture and manage knowledge, streamline data management, protect intellectual property, and foster collaboration. Both non-specific/generic ELNs (which compete directly against paper notebooks) and application/task-specific ELNs exist, each with their own enthusiasts.

Top 6 Questions You Should Ask When Buying an Electronic Lab Notebook

  1. How local are resources and how available are resources for deployment, training and extensions? What is the timeline for availability and cost?
  2. How easy is it to extend the application? Does it require IT or super users? How long does training take to make modifications and how extensive is the API for modifications?
  3. How easy is it to get data back out of the system? Is all information indexed and searchable? Can users query and combine data from multiple experiments, not just return a list of experiments?
  4. What is the typical number of hours of admin time required to upgrade for a major release and a minor release?
  5. What level of support is offered? How many support staff are there, where are they located and what language do they support? How is the support rated by other customers?
  6. Is your IP system safe in their system? What is the chance the company will be around in five years? What is the chance that the company will switch technologies and force an expensive migration? What credibility does the company have in the past for delivering robust, scalable, secure, and 21 CFR Part 11 compliant systems?

Types of ELN installations as used by survey respondents:

Web-based 36%
Client/Server 33%
Stand-alone 25%
Thin client/Server 6%

Primary purpose for ELNs as reported by survey respondents:

Centralized data repositories 58%
Infrastructure for capturing, accessing and sharing experimental information 53%
Accelerating the documentation and reporting of experimentation 50%
Improve productivity 47%
Intellectual property (IP) protection 36%
Improved communication between instruments and related software 31%
Streamlined regulatory compliance 28%
Enabling scientists to collaborate effectively on multi-stage projects 25%
Workflow co-ordination across geographic and business boundaries 19%
Patent evidence creation 19%
Other 6%

Nearly 37% of respondents are engaged in purchasing a new ELN. The greatest challenges faced in the process include:

Upgrading existing ELNs
Accelerating the documentation and reporting of experimentation
Centralized data repositories
Infrastructure for capturing, accessing, and sharing experimental information
Web-based access
Streamlined regulatory compliance
Setting up a new lab

Top 10 features/factors respondents look for when purchasing an Electronic Lab Notebook:

Ease of use 86%
Security 80%
Up time 71%
Price 66%
Versatility 65%
Service and support 64%
Customization 56%
Ease of installation 54%
Remote access 48%
Scalability 46%

For more information on electronic lab notebooks, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

See results from previous surveys: