Frequently asked questions

We’ve put together some frequently asked questions to help you during the pilot. If you can’t find the answer to your question, please .

Why should I use an ELN?

An electronic lab notebook is a digital version of your paper lab notebook. An electronic lab notebook allows you to record your research findings as you would in a paper notebook, plus you can directly embed and visualise digital data, images and documents, and search your notebook by keyword.

Task  Paper lab notebook Electronic lab notebook
Search Manual search required. ELNs are designed to be searched by keyword. ELNs can search within a notebook as well as the contents of file attachments.
Manage and store research data Data and research records may be spread across disparate systems – notebook, looseleaf notes, laptop, hard drives, network drives, DVDs etc.   All data entered on the lab notebook is managed in a data centre and is backed up on a regular basis to another site. Datasets can be uploaded directly into the notebook and linked to contextual information. 
Collaborate Manual photocopying, or scanning and emailing of notebook pages is required to share paper notebook data with colleagues and collaborators.   Share datasets, pages or even an entire notebook with your fellow colleagues (can be “read only” if warranted) – even with external collaborators.
Keep all data together It is not possible to put a complete record of all data into a paper notebook if working with big data sets, videos or large sets of image files. These cannot feasibly be reduced to printed pages. Often all the raw data is not included in paper notebooks, only representative images/printouts of files. All types of files can be uploaded (often by “drag and drop”) into the electronic notebook very quickly in their original form. All raw data can be easily included.
Transport data between work places Portable… but risky if you take the only copy of your experiment data offsite! Not so portable if you have filled a dozen or so notebooks during a project.   Ultra-portable. You can access your lab notebook from any device with an internet connection, including overseas.
Ensure data records are compliant for patents/industry Physical notebooks must be signed off by the lab supervisor to verify the date and time of writing.  Data is time and date stamped, and all changes to the notebook are recorded. Notebooks can be signed to indicate final approval by an authorised party. 
Use Level 2 Physical Containment (PC2) facilities Paper notebooks cannot be taken in or out of a PC2 Lab as they can't be properly decontaminated. All notes and data generated in the lab must be scanned and/or electronically exported from the lab.  Your lab notebook can be accessed from any device with an internet connection – use it on the resident computers in your PC2 lab, then access the data from your office or from home. No scanning or duplication of information required. 
Refer to standard operating procedures (SOP) Paper notebooks may have a standard procedure entered once and then other pages refer to this copy, despite the SOP being updated over time. Each experiment can be linked to an up-to-date SOP; or the current SOP file can be added to each experiment.
Access Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), safety protocols, risk assessments Important ancillary safety information for experiments are often not included in paper notebooks to save space. All ancillary files can be included or linked in electronic notebooks and thus are immediately accessible within the experiments.
Set up projects for viewing by only subsets of lab members Notebooks on projects with industry nondisclosure or private patient information are required to be locked up with limited access. ELN can be limited to restricted personnel, who can access from anywhere necessary.
Supervise lab personnel and students Supervisors/principal scientists need to visually inspect paper notebook data/ entries of students or other research personnel face-to-face in the laboratory.  Supervisors/principal scientists can access all data and comments in lab members’ notebooks electronically on any device, at any time from anywhere, including overseas. 
Comply with research management policies Often paper notebooks are filed away, lost or removed by exiting personnel. A copy of all data is retained within the university system for access at later times if required.

I don't work in a lab, can I use an electronic lab notebook too?

Yes! The electronic lab notebook platform is flexible, and can be used across most disciplines from the sciences through to the humanities and social sciences. to discuss whether the electronic lab notebook is right for your project.

Can I use ELNs in my teaching?

The ELN pilot is currently limited to researchers and postgraduate research students. This allows us to test the technologies viability in a controlled environment and ensure we are able to capture feedback and tailor the technology to enhance the University’s research.

There is however a small evaluation group testing ELNs in the Faculty of Science for the purposes of teaching. Again, contained within a small group, the scope of the evaluation may be broadened if the solution proves valuable in a teaching scenario.

For more information about using ELNs in teaching please contact Geoff Gordon. For all other enquiries contact the .

Will it cost me anything to use the ELN?

No! Using your ELN is free, as ICT will cover all licensing costs and any other associated costs (eg. storage).

Will my data be secure?

Yes, your data will be secure. All data and attachments will be stored in NSW, and will be backed up within Australia. The University has worked with a third party to conduct a security audit and is satisfied that electronic lab notebook data is secure.

What will happen to my data after the pilot?

If the pilot is successful, you will be able to continue using your ELN without interruption.

If the pilot is unsuccessful, a copy of your data will be retained by the University in an accessible form (e.g. HTML or PDF) and be made available to you.

How does this fit within the Research Data Management Policy?

The ELN makes it easy for researchers to comply with the University’s Research Data Management Policy and Research Code of Conduct. Maintaining an ELN enables you to:

  • retain data and other documentation in searchable and retrievable form
  • keep clear records of your research
  • store your data securely
  • share your data with other researchers if you choose to
  • protect your data and keep it private if you need to

Do I need to worry about archiving my data?

No. A copy of your data will be retained by the University. If you have specific archiving requirements, contact Archives and Records Management (ARMS).

What happens if I start the pilot but can't continue?

We understand that your circumstances might change. If you start the pilot but can’t continue, please notify us via the feedback form stating your reason(s). We shall assist you in exporting any data you have within the ELN to your paper notebooks.

Who can I contact for more information?

Please contact the for further information.