IDBS - Use of electronic notebook technology


Reviewed by Tim Dickens, 
University of Cambridge, UK (formerly of GlaxoSmithKline, Stevenage, UK) 

Use of electronic notebook technology within the pharmaceutical industry has become the norm. Key drivers that have brought about this change include improvements in the processes that support: IP management; regulatory compliance; sharing data across geographic locations; and simplification in the ability to search for experimental data and results. Sponsorship for the implementation at a senior level within organisations has helped with a ’top down’ adoption and migration of recording experiments from paper lab books to electronic media. 

The case for adopting electronic notebooks within university chemistry departments is becoming compelling for subtly different reasons, which include: better supervision of students; handling much larger data volumes as instruments and technologies become more automated; compliance with increasingly complex health and safety regulation; and sharing data and results across larger research teams where projects are increasingly multi-discipline, multi-institution and run for longer periods.

Having recognised that the use of this technology is inevitable, a team was formed at the University of Cambridge to determine if the technology was mature enough to meet the diverse needs of the department (physical, inorganic, synthetic, biological, nano, polymer and theoretical chemistry). After reviewing various commercial solutions, E-WorkBook for Chemistry from IDBS was selected. Some of the key factors in driving this selection included: the configurability of the software to support current laboratory best working practice; the ability to integrate with other systems that handle specific (spectral) data types; the willingness of IDBS to work in a collaborative fashion that allows Cambridge to develop and integrate locally developed informatics tools with the e-notebook in a seamless fashion; and the good quality of IDBS software and their support processes. 

At this time the e-notebook is being used by a small group of ’early adopters’ or pioneers who are having direct input into how the software is configured for their needs. A plethora of data input devices are being investigated, including hand held devices and laser keyboards, to determine what the chemist feels most comfortable with. 

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