The Benefits of Hiring an ELN Consultant

By Rebecca De Souza 5 min read 12 Mar 2024

Electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) benefit both industrial and academic labs. The ability to quickly query all your laboratory activities to identify new avenues for discovery or to troubleshoot an ongoing issue is a massive advantage over traditional paper notebooks. 

However, setting up and maintaining an ELN such that all the benefits of going digital are available is not trivial. 

This is where an ELN consultant (such as Rebecca De Souza) can help set you and your lab up for success! In the blog below, we’ll discuss what an ELN consultant is and the top 6 ways I’ve seen ELN consultants help laboratory teams achieve digitalization zen.

What is an ELN Consultant?

An ELN consultant is a laboratory professional who provides guidance and expertise in choosing, implementing, customizing, and optimizing an ELN for a laboratory. ELN consultants are crucial in helping research organizations effectively leverage digital tools, enhance collaboration, and ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations.

6 Ways an ELN Consultant Can Benefit Your Lab

#1: Take the setup burden off of your laboratory staff

Selecting and setting up an ELN often falls on the shoulders of laboratory personnel, who must balance ELN implementation with their usual lab responsibilities. This makes sense, given that they will be the primary users of an ELN. 

However, it does take away valuable time spent conducting research or other laboratory tasks. In addition, given the newness of ELNs, many lab workers don’t have experience using an ELN, much less know the best path to selecting and setting one up. 

An ELN consultant works with lab professionals tasked with ELN selection and setup, providing valuable knowledge through experience. They can help your team establish your lab’s needs, show how different ELNs compare when meeting these needs, create a plan for ELN rollout, identify common setup pitfalls and how to avoid them, and assist with training staff. While laboratory staff involvement is a critical component of ELN setup success, having an ELN consultant to help ensures that the laboratory team can focus more on their everyday responsibilities while still staying involved in the ELN selection and implementation process. 

#2: Navigate the needs of stakeholders

Three primary stakeholders are invested in the success of an ELN:

  1. The corporation or principal investigator (PI) / lab head
  2. Legal and IP teams
  3. Laboratory staff

Each of these entities has a vested interest in ensuring that lab data is recorded, searchable, and auditable. 

However, each party’s expectations may differ or be in direct conflict. For example, the corporation or PI and legal and IP stakeholders may expect overly detailed ELN record keeping but not consider the time investment or practicality of keeping records up to date. Discordance between these three groups can result in low ELN compliance and confusion about the expectations or purpose of the ELN, which can ultimately lead to the abandonment of an ELN. 

Having navigated this trifecta of needs before, an ELN consultant can help those tasked with selecting and setting up an ELN. The consultant can directly interface with all three stakeholders or assist those in charge of the ELN implementation and maintenance with these interactions. Keeping this trifecta of stakeholders in balance will ultimately lead to the long-term success of your lab’s ELN. 

#3: ELN Organization

While the name ELN suggests that it is a simple replacement for a traditional paper notebook, it’s more akin to a filing cabinet than a notebook. As this analogy suggests, an ELN (depending on which one you’re using) is more like an organizational system allowing data input and storage. 

Most ELNs have a built-in organizational structure. For example, eLabJournal has the Project>Study>Experiment structure, with additional options to create project groups as an extra layer of organization. 

It can be tempting to allow each individual or team in your lab to determine how to use the built-in organizational tools; however, this can lead to confusion when searching for specific data. How a corporation or lab decides how to structure its ELN organization will depend on their individual needs, and an ELN consultant can use their experience to help guide that decision and harmonize the organization structure across team members. If you already have an ELN and need to restructure and re-organize, an ELN consultant can also help with this! 

#4: Generating workarounds and increased efficiency

If carefully selected, the ELN you choose should be capable of fulfilling most of your lab’s needs — emphasis on the “most,” as there are often lab-specific scenarios that no software developer could preconceive. ELN consultants can help devise workarounds to cover these unforeseen situations, whether they are suggesting alternative approaches or working with a software developer on your behalf to create a solution. They can also assist by using their experiences working in a lab with an ELN to assess the impact of required ELN tasks on day-to-day laboratory workflows and where streamlining can be applied to increase efficiency. 

#5: Better training and documentation

After selecting an ELN, deciding on its organizational structure, and setting it up, it must be rolled out to the larger team or organization. This involves creating an ELN handbook or usage policies and providing training. 

An ELN consultant can assist by directly creating these documents and training sessions/videos. They can also work with your designated laboratory “Super Users” to help train current and new staff or with additional training when new ELN features become available. This can reduce your staff’s training burden so they can focus on their other research-focused objectives. 

#6: ELN compliance 

An ELN is only as useful as the data recorded in it. As such, ELN compliance is vital for success. Many of the topics discussed above can impact ELN compliance, and an ELN consultant can assist with avoiding common compliance pitfalls. 

Suppose your organization or lab has known non-compliance issues or needs help identifying compliance issues. An ELN consultant can assist you with assessing the current degree of compliance, identifying barriers to compliance, and creating strategies for increasing compliance. 

Experience the Benefits of an ELN Consultant

An ELN consultant can provide valuable assistance as your organization or lab navigates the ELN landscape. They can reduce the burden of setting up and maintaining an ELN, allowing your team to return to what matters most: their next discovery! 

If you need an ELN consultant, contact me at rebecca.a.g.desouza@gmail.com or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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