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Electronic Research Notebooks

What is an Electronic Research Notebook?

Electronic Research Notebooks (ERNs) is a virtual environment for your research notes. ERNs can replace a traditional paper research or lab notebook but they can do much more than a traditional word processor. They can help you organize your research notes and data and share information amongst fellow researchers on a specific project. 

ERNs are also sometimes referred to as electronic lab notebooks, or ELNs, but their use does not have to be limited to a lab environment as they are useful for recording research notes in all disciplines.

Why should you use an ERN?

There are many reasons why its a good idea to use an ERN. Here are just a few of those reasons: 

  • Notes can be linked to raw data files such as Excel. 
  • Can prevent data loss due to damaged paper notes or other similar issues.
  • ERNs can be shared with research collaborators.
  • Reduces duplication of work.
  • Search your own or colleague notes.

Points to consider when switching to an ERN

While there are many good reasons to start using an ERN, make sure you think about some of the logistics to using one before diving in. Here are some to think about:

  • Establish procedures and rules for organizing and maintaining shared notebooks.
  • Make sure you maintain good record and data keeping practices. 
  • Consider piloting the new platform first and still keep a paper notebook.
  • Double check to see if your data requires any data security measures like with human subject research. If needed, understand the data security measures in place before starting an ERN.