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Research at Boston College

Area Updates

SUMMER 2016

Chemistry Laboratory Notebooks Go Digital

There is no doubt that the future of data generation, management and archiving belongs to the digital format rather than the classic pen and paper format. In fact, the digital age is already upon us in the ways we communicate on daily basis (e.g., email, news, social media etc.)
It is therefore surprising that academic natural science research has lagged behind in the effort of transitioning into a digital age in terms of collection and management of experimental laboratory procedural data. The prevalent method today is still the classic pen/notebook system. In a pilot project, The VPR’s office is supporting the BC Department of Chemistry to modernize the department’s laboratory notebook keeping system by licensing an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) package provided by Scilligence, an IT company that is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“For chemistry research, I am convinced that electronic management of data, in particular the structural search capability provided by the ELN, will lead to significant improvement in research productivity.” says Prof. Shih-Yuan Liu, a faculty member of the Department of Chemistry. “For instance, the ELN will quickly identify the conditions of a reaction or the characterization data of a specific compound that has been recorded by past group members years ago. On the other hand, searching through a paper trail to find that specific reaction/compound characterization can be a very tedious task. The ready access to laboratory notebook data, e.g., on mobile devices, from anywhere in the world is also advantageous.”

The ELN will also be introduced in select undergraduate chemistry teaching laboratories to make sure that our students are being taught a modern research tool that is now increasingly being employed in industry (e.g., pharmaceutical industry).