The following diagram shows my classification of some of the existing technologies for laboratory notebooks. The technologies are classified according to the degree to which the interaction is through paper or digital media (X axis, from Paper Input to Digital Input), and according to the degree of specificness of the technology for laboratory research (Y axis, from Potential to Specific).
The elements in the diagram are color coded according to the following criteria:
1- Green: These elements are the traditional non-specific technologies like the paper notebook, the scrap paper, and the standard office software. All these technologies are of general purpose, and despite the notebook sometimes has numbered pages, there is nothing that locate them within the biology research field.
2- Red: These elements are 100% digital, highly specific supplements for the traditional technologies. These technologies replace the paper books and scratch paper by providing a touch screen. They also try to provide all the digital services normally used from the office software. The technologies are highly specific because the software they use are carefully designed to leverage the typical situations of biology laboratory research.
3- Light Blue: These elements are hybrid solutions that build on top of the traditional paper and digital technologies, and enrich them in the digital world. They normally provide a digital version of a physically created laboratory book and allow the scientist to add new material, to link internet content, to relate different pages of the book, etc.
4- Blue: These last elements are not properly technologies trying to replace or enhance the laboratory book, but are enabling technologies for building paper interfaces. They are shown here in order to appreciate both their potential and their degree of digital/physical interaction.
The previous classification is a little window into the field of laboratory notebooks. The research community has done considerable work in this field, as we can see, however we still don’t see massive adaptation of these technologies. A generational change of the scientists might be the answer to massive adaptation, but that option would leave the researchers with no blame for their failure. I consider that more work has to be done in order to make the scientific community embark in the adaptation of a richer laboratory book.