Return on Investment When Implementing an Electronic Lab Notebook
15 min read
The aim of this article is to evaluate the return on investment of implementing an electronic lab notebook in the lab.
Among numerous solutions and research tools available today, scientists are choosing electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) to complement the paper-based approach to record keeping. On the example of SciNote ELN, we demonstrate that apart from other benefits, switching to an ELN has a significant impact on researchers’ productivity. We compared the time researchers needed to perform their tasks prior and after the ELN implementation in their labs and calculated the return on investment (ROI).
On average, researchers save 9 hours per week by using an ELN, while doing the same amount of work!
For some researchers, time savings amount to 17 hours/week! They are now able to work 33% less on reporting, 16% less on scheduling and planning and 6% less on emails. After the initial learning curve and investment into software, scientists can return their investment within 3 – 4 months.
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Download SciNote’s functionalities overview and learn about ELN’s features that can help you save 9 hours per week.
- Comparison of time spent for weekly amount of work without and with SciNote
- User’s return on investment by category
- Relative gain or reduction of workload
- Return on investment of ELN implementation
- Onboarding of the lab team
- ELN’s major strongpoints
Comparison of time spent for weekly amount of work without and with SciNote
“With SciNote I save time on various tasks throughout the day and when all of it sums up I can go home earlier or invest that time in my priorities”, states David Frommholz, startup co-owner at DALEX Biotech and lab manager at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, Germany.
We interviewed 7 proficient SciNote users to determine the time they need to perform their tasks with and without having SciNote i.e. prior and after the ELN implementation in their labs. Interviewees have different job positions (PhD, Lab Manager, Startup co-owner, research associate etc.), and due to these differences, time gains varied across different work categories.
Image 1 and image 2 (below) show the comparison between the h/week researchers spend working on a particular subject without SciNote and with SciNote. They were asked to evaluate the time needed to perform the equal amount of work. The charts show median/work category and median/person.
On average, researchers save 9 hours per week while using an ELN. For some, time savings amount to 17 hours/week!
Image 1 – Comparison of time spent for weekly amount of work without and with SciNote (median/work category)
We see that researchers are more efficient when doing reporting, scheduling and planning of their work, as well as answering emails.
Image 2 – Comparison of time spent for weekly amount of work without and with SciNote (median/person)
Return on investment by category
For most researchers, the time they spend attending the meetings does not change so much after ELN implementation, however, the time invested in preparations for the meetings does.
“With SciNote, I can actually save 50% of time I would normally invest in preparation for and attending the meetings”, says A. Alhourani, PhD student at University of Stavanger, Norway.
Structure of data within an ELN enables you to always be prepared. Your data is in order. You can talk about the progress of your work without needing to look for your files or flip through pages.
Because ELN can be used as a collaboration platform as well, some meetings can even be avoided as comments on results, feedback and delegating tasks for example, can be shared via comments and notifications.
“In academia, even more time is saved from the supervisor’s perspective, because numbers multiply as the number of students increases”, Alhourani further explains,
“Electronic lab notebook is useful when you’re asked to bring up stuff that happened a long time ago”, Alhourani says. “Without SciNote, I’d need to invest the double amount of time to prepare an email if I’m asked for a file and need to dig it out. This is where SciNote really helps”, he continues.
Besides fast search through all research data, ELN can be used to avoid certain emails overall, by posting comments directly within the software and keeping team members, students or supervisors notified instantly.
ELN enables lab members to keep all their protocols and related research data organized in one place. In addition to the advice and mentorship from their supervisors, authorized lab members can find and access the needed information for their work. This reduces the time spent on asking for instructions.
“All information regarding each project is in SciNote, so instead of explaining all that has been done or how we did it, I can let people review the project. Everything the student needs, to be prepared for lab work, is in one place “, says Dorothea Hoepfner, PhD student at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. “Finding the protocols is much quicker due to the access to protocol repository. It is very easy to find the protocols, print them out etc”, she continues.
Class preparation and course administration
These two categories are often related and even if an ELN cannot take over such tasks in general, it can be useful as a platform on which content for lab classes can be organized.
In addition, “it is easier to review what the students did, to see whether their data is correct and in place, when compared to handwriting”, Hoepfner explains.