In cases where the demand for an ELN originates from Medicinal Chemists then clearly an ELN from one of the many vendors in this space will service that need, and as this is a relatively mature area of the industry a solution can be purchased in the traditional manner. However, teams should resist the vendor’s encouragement to view all scientists alike as non-chemists are unlikely to be well served by something that is primarily focused on Medicinal Chemists.
For Biology and other areas which don’t draw chemical structures, the demand for an “ELN” is often an expression of frustration by the scientists that they are using computers in their work, but are still forced to use a paper notebook. In that case, their needs may well be met by something that focused on the record keeping functions which are currently being performed by the paper notebook – an aspect rather inelegantly referred to as Patent Evidence Creation & Preservation (PECP). The scientists will rarely require any additional software but if they do it will be focused on particular niches – data management, additional workflow support etc. which will either be very specific or could easily be met with common software they probably already have as part of their standard desktop.
Most R&D organisations would feel a sense of discomfort if the possibility of “Silos” of information were to appear. Fortunately, PECP systems are by definition generally applicable and they can form the central repository of the organisation’s knowledge, available to all. A common PECP usefully reduces legal risk by ensuring common practices across the company, whilst freeing scientists to select their tools of choice without having to compromise as a result of legal considerations.
We need to stop thinking of an ELN as a single product, and more a system of parts integrated together. Some might fear the I (“integration”) word, but with today’s tools and sensible interfaces, it really isn’t a big deal. You can argue that cut & paste, or printing, are perfectly sensible integration mechanisms. I’m no fan of Microsoft, but when everything is on a common platform the only integration pain tends to be vendor pain/stubborness – and in today’s world Cash is King!
By focusing on what’s needed and building on existing investments, whilst avoiding the temptation of scope creep, project teams can give their scientists a replacement for the paper notebook for typically a tenth of the price, deployed in a matter of weeks. Always a proven approach, in today’s more austere environment the more realistic approach of ELN 2.0 might not be as exciting and produce as much consulting revenue, but it is the way to deliver real value, today.