Best Practice Use Guide
After creating your account, you need to think about how to properly setup eLabJournal so that it works logically for your lab now and in the future. In this guide, you will find useful tips, tricks and best lab practices.
Setting up a Group
A group is a secure environment that is used to share information with members within that group. A group can be a small group with a single PI, a large research group, department or institute with multiple group leaders, but it can also be just a single scientist. When setting up a group it is important to think about what information should be accessible by which people. Besides projects, studies and experiments, eLabJournal also offers centralized samples storage and supplies ordering, shared standard protocol templates and equipment planning. This means that you should carefully evaluate how you want to set up your lab and decide who needs access to sample management, use equipment or view experiments. A good rule of thumb is to set up the system from the point of view of the scientist or a single group leader. This is because these people will be the end-users and have the most benefit from the intuitively organized system to track the lab results.
There are a number of features available to collaborate with people outside of their own group. You can, for instance, set up a separate Project Group to exchange data with researchers outside your lab. You can also share specific information of samples to enable other labs in the institute to search in the group's inventory without disclosing the storage location itself.
Setting up a Project
When setting up eLABJournal it is important to define for yourself what a group of people means for you so that you can create the best possible configuration. From the point of view of someone that is working in the lab, the definition of a project might be different when describing projects on a research group level. A good practice is that only a few people in the lab can set up projects (usually administrator or group-leader) to keep the system well organized. For organizing the digital lab notebook, there are a number of options to consider which are listed below:
You can set up one project for each user and name projects accordingly. Each user will have its own project that works as a digital lab notebook and the group leader can easily select the project of a lab member to browse through the studies and experiments. When choosing this option, lab members have flexibility in organizing studies and experiments within their projects. Be aware that when organizing the projects per user and there is a lot of collaboration, part of the project of one person will also be part of another person’s project. Although this is not necessarily a problem, you can also choose to work with a project-based organisation to work with shared lab notebooks.
You can choose to organize eLabJournal based on the projects that are running in the lab. Start by defining the different projects your group is working on. When defining shared projects and you give permission to users to view their own experiments, you must assign collaborators to each project to assure access to the lab members that work on this project. Multiple members in the lab will then be able to organize their data in the same project and the group leader can easily see how a project progresses. Researchers can track data in either separate or shared studies and in separate experiments and or shared experiments. When using the project-based organisation, it is also good to more tightly control the organisation of studies to keep this in line with other projects.
Of course, you can also mix the user-based and the project-based set-up or choose for a different organisation of the ELN. eLABJournal offers the flexibility to let your group decide what works best for your specific situation!
Particularly for larger groups, you can set up Project Groups to organize projects. A project group creates an extra organisation level for group projects. Typical reasons for defining project groups are 1) to organize projects of different group leaders and collaborate, or 2) add an extra organisation level to organize projects by a general topic, such as an organism or year.
Naming Projects, Studies or Experiments
You should consider standardizing the naming of projects, studies and experiments. A number of examples are:
- Initials – Experiment title (e.g. ES – Cloning of yfg by PCR)
- Initial + incremental Number – Experiment title (e.g. ES001 – Cloning of yfg by PCR)
- Experiment title – Date (e.g. Cloning of yfg by PCR – 10/12/2015)
- Method – organism/gene/protein (e.g. Cloning of yfg by PCR – 10/12/2015)
These are just some examples of naming experiments, but you can use a similar strategy for studies and projects. No matter what you decide, an optimal organisation is best reached when everyone follows the same convention.
Institute shared Devices and Storage Locations
In many labs, storage locations are shared by multiple groups. For instance ‘lab A’ uses the two upper sections and ‘lab B’ uses the two lower sections in a freezer. In case both labs share projects, studies and experiments as well, both labs could be set up in eLabJournal as individual groups. If groups act as independent groups, the most practical solution is for both labs to set up the same storage locations in their group and to only add the relevant sections or compartments within that storage unit. We are currently working on enabling the sharing of storage locations and devices with other labs within the institute.
Searching in the Electronic Lab Notebook
eLABJournal has a powerful search machine that can be used in projects, studies and experiments. As this is a text-based search engine, be sure to include relevant keywords in the section header or somewhere else in the experiment to be able to find back relevant information that is only present within linked data files.
You easily set up user roles and permission to fine-tune what specific users can do. To keep permission management clear and simple, you can set various permissions to view, update or remove items within eLabJournal. Permissions that are highly specific such as excluding certain drawers from a freezer is currently not possible so keep that in mind when virtualizing your storage devices.