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No clear leaders in the ELN / LIMS market - An Insight Report

Researcher Audience Insights - what do our users make of Electronic Lab Notebooks and Laboratory Information Management Systems?

Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) and Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) are becoming essential parts of the modern laboratory setup. Over the last decade, we’ve moved beyond the initial wave of digitisation that saw researchers using mass-market tools from providers like Microsoft, Oracle and Google to a world where researchers can use highly specialised software platforms to manage the data, processes and people in their labs. Since the mid-2000s there’s been an explosion of companies offering such platforms - all the from dedicated startups like Labfolder and Benchling to corporates like the Eppendorf Group and Perkin Elmer - via non-profits like the Open Science Framework


We were curious about how our users in the life sciences and commercial lab settings used these platforms:

  • Was ELN and LIMS usage now the default for scientists and researchers doing lab work? 
  • Was there a dominant platform? 
  • What features were most important?
  • How are decisions about which platform to use made?

The answers that emerged from a survey of a section of our users were fascinating and challenged a lot about our assumptions. Before we get into the headlines, if you’re curious about the full results of the survey (including the breakdown of which individual ELNs and LIMS our users are using) you can download the report below:


Download the Full Report


What did we learn?

  1. The vast majority of our users in the life sciences and commercial lab settings spend time in a laboratory as part of their work: 85% of respondents confirmed that lab work is part of their day-to-day experience.
  2. The market is wide open: Far from being the default, ELNs and LIMS are used by only just over 30% of these lab-goers. A huge 54% of them said they had never used a specialist ELN or LIMS in their career.
  3. The market is incredibly fragmented, with over 50 individual platforms mentioned and no single platform currently used by more than 10% of our respondents. All platforms are dwarfed by usage of Microsoft Office tools (84% of users who don’t use an ELN or LIMS), Google G-Suite (26%, often alongside Office). Even the classic “pen and paper” hasn’t been totally dislodged by the digital trend -  it’s still used by over 60% of respondents.
  4. The market also appears very fluid, with plenty of users having used more than one ELN or LIMS in their careers. Adding to this conclusion is the discovery that buying decisions seem to be driven more by team consensus or “bottom up” decisions rather than by imposition from above. 66% of respondents felt that they could trigger a change in platform either by making the decision themselves or by building a consensus among their team. Only 13% felt they were unable to influence a decision to switch at all. 

Top 10 Features of an ELN or LIMS (1)

If you’re curious about these conclusions or this data, we’d love to talk to you. Please get in touch at info@researcher-app.com.


Who took the survey?

We recruited 807 Researcher users to take a 10 question survey about their usage of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) and Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs).

Invites to participate were distributed globally to users who either:

  • Exhibited a subject area interest in the life sciences, based on the content they consumed on the Researcher platform
  • Listed themselves as a “Commercial Scientist” in their Researcher profile.

About Researcher’s audience:

  • Over 2m scientists and researchers from over 5000 institutions and businesses
  • Users browse over 4m pieces of content each week across life sciences, healthcare, medicine, engineering, computer science, machine learning and the social sciences
  • 70% of users are in academic settings, with 15% commercial. 2% are healthcare practitioners
  • Researcher’s audience is global, with just under 30% of users in China. Just under 20% are based in south Asia, with a similar amount in both North America and Europe.