Bright Light Award Nomination
Electronic Notebook V1.10 - 1999

ABSTRACT:

photoThe Web has been a revolution in the way information is made available and has become critical to high-level scientific and technical work today. We are on the verge of a similar revolution in research and development based on the replacement of paper notebooks with Web-based electronic notebooks.

The Electronic Notebook 1.10 is a breakthrough software system that provides researchers in industry, medicine, and education the ability to replace their paper notebooks, report logs or lecture notes with an easy-to-use web-based notebook. The EN provides many capabilities unavailable to paper notebooks including simultaneous sharing across a project group, multimedia input, remote access, security and automatic notarization.

This combination of immediate benefits to the science and engineering community, and vast long-term impact on collaboration and records management across a wide range of industries argues strongly for Electronic Notebook as among this years elite products in research and development.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION:

For hundreds of years, scientists and researchers have been using laboratory notebooks to document their work. Leonardo Da Vinci kept volumes of notebooks on all his ideas, data, calculations, and art. Today, scientists traditionally use paper notebooks to keep track of their experimental ideas, notes on experimental setups, observations, and research results. Industry researchers use notebooks to back up patent claims and record keeping for State and Federal regulations. Medical researchers keep detailed records on patients, treatments, and outcomes.

An electronic notebook is a system to create, store, retrieve, and share fully electronic records in ways that meet all legal, regulatory, technical, and scientific requirements. As such it is much more than a web page or a Lotus Note. Federal regulations require many records to be archived for 25 years. The web was not even a dream 25 years ago and it is hard to predict what the interface to computer information will be like 25 years in the future. Digital signatures and tamper-proof electronic records have only recently been accepted as legally binding. The shift in attention to the web has accelerated the concept of paperless offices and paperless laboratories.

The Electronic Notebook (EN) V1.10 accessed by computer offers scientists all the features of the traditional paper notebook, along with the capability to accept multimedia input (audio and video clips) and computer-generated images, tables, and graphs placed by drag-'n-drop. Everything is computerized today. Why manually copy documentation into a paper notebook when you can cut and paste it electronically? The electronic notebook can be used to input, retrieve, or query objects such as text, sketches, images, tables, graphs or even Excel spreadsheets.

The researchers use Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts to access notebook pages. They have developed Java applets (mini-programs written in the Java programming language developed by Sun Microsystems) to enter objects into the notebook, such as a pen-based sketch pad.

IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE:

photoClearly, the idea of laboratory notebooks is wide spread from pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, health care, oil and gas, and high-tech hardware and software industries. As the science problems get harder involving world-wide groups to solve them, as distance learning matures, as record keeping volumes grow, as the internet changes the way information is delivered, the time is right for an improved record-keeping tool-the electronic notebook. Many technologies have come together and the time is now right to make the electronic notebook a powerful, replacement of the ubiquitous paper notebook.

EN V1.10 notebooks have many advantages over paper notebooks. They can be shared by researchers, even those collaborators separated by great distances. They can be accessed remotely through the Internet. They can't be lost or destroyed. It is easy to incorporate not only computer files and experimental data but also multimedia into an electronic notebook. It can easily be searched for information. It can contain hyperlinks to other information such as a reference paper stored elsewhere on the Internet.

One of the great strengths of the EN V1.10 notebook is that it doesn't require any software to be installed on a computer to read or write to it. It can be accessed by any authorized user from any type of computer (platform) that has a Web browser. In developing the Web-based electronic notebook architecture, DOE researchers have focused on ensuring the security of the notebook. Electronic notebook entries can be digitally authenticated and signed, individually or collectively. They can be electronically time stamped and notarized. While entries cannot be modified once signed, the pages can be annotated and forward referenced. Entries can be secured by encryption, both in transit and in storage. All these securities can be performed transparently to the users, thus adding no complexity to the user interface.

The EN V1.10 is designed with a very flexible architecture, one that would allow both "private notebooks" and "shared notebooks." A "private notebook" is envisioned as the equivalent of the research notebooks carried by researchers; it is essentially a one-user notebook that can run even on laptops with limited memory and disk and graphics capabilities. For these notebooks, ease-of-use and portability are typically more important than other issues. A "shared notebook" is envisioned as the equivalent of the group research notebooks and of the instrument notebooks; it is shared among many users, some of whom might be remote to the server. For these notebooks, issues of access control, security, and non-tamperability are typically more important than portability.

The electronic notebook is a modern-day replacement for the ubiquitous scientific notebooks, experiment records, and instrument logbooks in use in research laboratories, medical centers, and industries with research and development departments. The advantages of this breakthrough software package over existing record keeping methods are evidenced by the number and bredth of inquiries that have been received.

The ability of the electronic notebook to be remotely accessed and shared across a group of users allows the EN V1.10 to be used for distance learning, training manuals, remote instrument contol log, collaboration tool for sharing and commenting on research ideas. This shared brainstorming provides the potential to accelerate the process of scientific discovery in a way that was not possible with paper notebooks.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY BENEFITS:

EN V1.10 is currently being used by over 200 groups around the world. A full list of users and applications can be found at http://www.csm.ornl.gov/~geist/java/appets/enote/users.html. The applications can be broken down into the following categories:

Pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemistry industries - a wide-range of industries have expressed interest in the electronic notebook software. Those that have gotten copies are listed on the abover URL. They include large corporations like BP Chemical and DuPont to small companies like Medtronic, who build pacemakers. Their applications vary, but are all related to the effort to move towards a paperless R&D department.

Medical Research - the Harvard medical research center, the University of Chicago medical center, St. Judes, and several other institutions have gotten the software to use in medical research. In addition EN V1.10 is being used by a growing number of Oncologists. There is even one case where EN V1.10 is being used to keep patient records in a family practice.

Government research labs - research projects often span multiple laboratories. Before the electronic notebook, it was much harder to be aware of and coordinate the various research efforts within these larger projects. More than two dozen such multi-lab projects now use the EN V1.10 software.

Instrument log - every major beamline in the USA has gotten a copy of EN V1.10 for logging instrument use including Fermi lab, Berkeley, Brookhaven National lab, Jefferson Lab, and Oak Ridge National lab. The beamline instruments are all computerized so the electronic notebook's ability to automatically collect instrument data makes it very attractive.

Education - being used by the Schodor Educational institute in elementary school science classes, being used in undergraduate classes by several universities around the world, and being used in graduate schools in the USA.

Private notebooks - a large number of users who have replaced their paper notebooks with a private electronic notebook which among other things allows them to easily move entries from their private notebooks to shared notebooks.