Study of an Electronic Lab Notebook Design and Practices that Emerged in a Collaborative Scientific Environment

Gerard Oleksik, Natasa Milic-Frayling, and Rachel Jones

Abstract

Prolific adoption of digital media across scientific fields has led to inevitable transformation of a traditional lab book into an electronic lab notebook (ELN). Research so far has focussed on designing ELN prototypes and learning from their limited deployments. At the same time, a variety of commercially available ELNs have been adopted by industrial and academic laboratories. That provides opportunities for situated research and a deeper understanding of the role that ELNs assumes as an integral part of a scientific environment. In this paper we present a study of ELN design that has emerged as scientists appropriated commercial off-the-shelf note-taking software and adapted it to their work. Through in-situ observations we analysed the interplay between the technology and emerging practices. Our study revealed a tension that is intrinsic to the digital nature of ELNs: a conflict between the flexibility, fluidity, and low threshold for modifying digital records and the requirement for persistence and consistency. This led to refined requirements and design considerations for ELNs.

Details

Publication typeInproceedings
Published inProceedings of Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW'14)
PublisherACM
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