The command center: any place which provides centralized command, a source of leadership and guidance to the rest of the organization. That’s what I see the concept of ELN developing into in research and development (R&D) across all sectors. Furthermore, it won’t be just a notebook, but a ’workplace.’
Faced with increasing externalization and, as science evolves, CIOs’ need to foster innovation without assuming additional enterprise, security and regulatory risk, an R&D ‘command center’ must run in tandem with the lab, ensuring that all scientific work is recorded, securely and in context. Enter the ELN. It acts as a central repository, capturing and storing an organization’s most valuable asset — its data and knowledge.
On the journey to innovation and making scientific breakthroughs, it is critical that researchers, engineers and scientists can find existing data and knowledge easily. Modern ELNs must ensure that data is fully searchable and that experimental information can be extracted in a few clicks. Next-gen workplaces must have faceted information and tools to help guide users to the information of interest. Researchers should not have to continuously repeat work, and they should be able to quickly and effortlessly pinpoint past results — both good and bad. This is a real time saver and, as everyone knows, time is money.
The volume of scientific, product and basic research carried out in labs on a monthly basis, let alone in a year, is incredibly immense. All this data is useless if it isn’t organized in a logical and secure manner. A light at the end of the tunnel for the organization can be ELNs, as they house IP in a structured format so that it is fully auditable, mineable and easy to leverage. The powers that be can see what work is being done and, importantly, IP is protected so that valuable data doesn’t leave the organization. But, the approach needs to be ubiquitous across the organization, otherwise the benefits are not fully realized.
ELNs are part of evolving lab technology frameworks — they are not the only part of the solution but they can be a significant part — the place where people go to start, finish and capture their work. They help to command the direction of entire organizations, offering oversight of all R&D, along with data and ideas produced both internally and with external partners across all areas. Scientists log into their system in the morning and log out last thing at night. It is a place for them to work, link different research and data together, generate new concepts and ideas, as well as being a jump off point to learn from the corporate knowledge base.
In this increasingly sophisticated world, ELNs are more than just a valuable tool. They are the gateway to better knowledge management.
Paul Denny-Gouldson is Vice President of Strategic Solutions at IDBS. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.