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Chem Soc Rev. 2013 Oct 21;42(20):8157-75. doi: 10.1039/c3cs60122f.

Laboratory notebooks in the digital era: the role of ELNs in record keeping for chemistry and other sciences.

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Chemistry, Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK.


Egyptian evidence of scientific records dates back almost 50 centuries. In more recent times da Vinci and Faraday provide role models for scrupulous recording of ideas, observations, and conclusions. Their medium was paper, but despite the quality of their notebooks, we cannot turn the clock back. Our primary purpose is to review the influences of the digital era on scientific record keeping. We examine the foundations of the emerging opportunities for preserving and curating electronic records focussing on electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), with an emphasis on their characteristics and usability.


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