Over on Depth-First Rich Apodaca picks up on the problems with the “ELN” word and as a thought experiment makes a proposal for “Networked Laboratory Information” as being a starting point for thinking about Lab Informatics (as opposed to starting from something centred around the Lab Notebook):
This discussion will start out with identifying the many forms of information we create and use, and the needs of those doing the creating and using. It would then move on to how best to share this information within our organization, and with our customers and partners in a secure manner. Our mental model will be the most well-known computer network – the Internet.
I really quite like this. I think The Internet has a lot to give in terms of sources of inspiration and it’s sad that the Lab Informatics market has been rather knocked off course by an obsession with a paper artefact rather than looking at what’s really going on.
I’ve always felt fortunate that we’re operating in one of the few “Green field” markets for IT systems. I thought my age would condemn me to working on incremental IT projects, as opposed to all the fun my predecessors must have had in the 80’s and 90’s going into manual processes and achieving quite amazing business impact by automating them.
Perhaps what’s happened is our generation have forgotten some of the basic system analysis skills that our Dads used?
Regardless of the cause, I strongly suspect if the Paper Lab Notebook didn’t exist we wouldn’t have come up with the concept of an Electronic one. Which does make you wonder how much more effective we could all be if we focused on the real problems scientists and their companies have?