Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELNs) are more than just an electronically formatted print notebook. They are not input devices such as tablets. They are not specific for “Big Science”. ELNs are research management systems initially developed in the corporate world to address efficiency. They are now making their way into academia. Systems have been developed for all disciplines. Researchers in humanities use note taking management systems. ELNs are also referred to as virtual workspaces, virtual organizations (VO) and colaboratories. ELNs have been around for since the '90s.See the List of ELNs for a few examples.
Think of ELNs as having two layers.
|In the data layer researchers access and work with the raw data (or primary resource). These data can be streamed into the system. Researchers can also refer to information contained within publications, mine for additional data located in repositories, and develop models and simulations. The data and related documentation are stored in a repository and eventually will be stored in a long-term data repository.|
|The people layer includes all colleagues in the research group – across the lab bench or across the ocean. Permissions are set as to who has access to the various areas of the ELN. Here provenance is recorded, i.e. how the data is collected, what is being done with the data, when and by whom. This validates that the different experimental steps were performed, by whom and when. The PI can monitor progress of each worker and of the entire project from his or her computer.|