Declan Butler discusses the development, applications, and advantages of e-notebooks in his article, "A New Leaf" (Nature, vol.436, 7 July 2005, 20-21). An editorial in Nature, dated approximately two years later, further emphasizes the benefits of e-notebooks, but notes that "academic acceptance of e-notebooks will not improve unless universities promote their use and recognize that e-notebooks can help them fulfill their responsibilities as the owners of most grant-funded data...Institutions therefore need to show leadership in this area, and funding agencies should provide additional infrastructure support earmarked for the development and upkeep of electronic notebook systems" (vol.447, 3 May 2007, 1-2).
Pharmaceutical companies routinely use e-notebooks to document their proprietary research; the U. S. Food and Drug Administration accepts e-notebook records during a drug's evaluation and approval processes.
The University of Minnesota provides some guidelines about the 'use of electronic records' in "Guidelines for Maintaining Laboratory Notebooks" (http://www.research.umn.edu/techcomm/licensingcenter/documents/labnotes.pdf); however, the document emphasizes record-keeping in a paper format.
Universities, as well as businesses, continue to develop e-notebook software. A selected list follows, with brief descriptions.
ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebook) from the EMSL Collaboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (http://collaboratory.emsl.pnl.gov/software/eln). The software, available for download at the EMSL site, is "a shared web-based version of the traditional paper laboratory notebook. Each notebook page shows data and time-stamped entries that include static information such as text and images, as well as dynamic information ranging from animated GIF images and video clips to rotatable 3-D protein structures and X-Y graphs of spectra that support zoom and other capabilities."
The NeuroSys Project from Montana State University (http://neurosys.cns.montana.edu), "provides a set of easy to use tools for data sharing by the scientific community. Neurosys enables users to construct and store a coherent description of their data, according to the hierarchical organizational scheme that makes the most sense for their specific set of applications; allows users to design and construct their own custom GUI screens for data entry, data query and retrieval, combined with automated links to external analytical software tools; automatically creates a controlled vocabulary, and supports the extension and/or migration of that vocabulary to whatever standard might be chosen at a later date..."
The Smart Tea Project (http://www.smarttea.org), based at the University of Southampton and part of the Combechem eScience Research Initiative. Its "first phase will support the complete life cycle of chemists' interactions with the lab; the next phase will integrate the lab aether with the larger network of chemistry on the grid for shared information services." A related project is the "myTea Project" (http://mytea.org.uk), which focuses on "improving capture of experiments for bioinformatics practitioners."
CERF (Collaborative Electronic Research Framework) - The Electronic Lab Notebook for Biology and Multidisciplinary Life Sciences (http://www.rescentris.com/products.html) developed by Rescentris, Ltd. It is an "enterprise scientific information system designed specifically for managing and sharing information in life sciences research organizations. CERF combines a full-featured electronic lab notebook with scientific content management, and extensible knowledge and data integration framework, and a science-driven informatics platform....The CERF server provides a central management of data storage, system functions, projects, organization of experiments, content, annotations, and rich metadata."