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Keeping a Lab Notebook W. Wilson Department of Engineering & Physics

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1 Keeping a Lab Notebook W. Wilson Department of Engineering & Physics
University of Central Oklahoma Edmond, OK

2 What is a Lab Notebook? Complete record of procedures, data, and thoughts to pass on to other researchers Why experiments were initiated, how performed, and results, comments Place to compile data/charts/photos/ideas Place of clues, to troubleshoot problems Place to observe whole picture and think Legal document, to prove patents Defense against accusations of fraud or lawsuits

3 Purpose of Lab Notebook
The purpose of a lab notebook is to keep a record of the experiment so you or someone else could repeat your work or understand exactly how it was done. Each laboratory notebook must be written as an individual effort, never as a group project.

4 How Important? In case of Lab Fire… Grab the notebooks!

5 Physical Characteristics of a Good Notebook…
Large- >= 8.5x11 at least (attaching stuff) Bound (stitched) pages to ensure integrity Numbered pages White gridded Acid free paper (30 years) Duplicate pages (differing opinions) Written in Pen. Felt tip is bad.

6 Preparing a New Lab Notebook
Create a table of contents Two facing pages List experiments by: Title Date Page Number

7 Attached Materials Computer generated data Photographic data
All other data Printed graphs (make as you go) Datasheet templates Product labels Who provided plasmids, etc. Notes (or pasted copies) of discussions, conversations, s, readings related to exp’t design or goals Archive locations of plasmids, probes, etc. X-rays and other large items may be kept in a separate folder if they don’t fit in the lab notebook. Always write on these materials the date and other identifying information in case they get separated!

8 The importance of timing…
Always record, update, review… Record as you go At the LATEST, insert data the next day! Do a weekly checkup 1 hour to review Make sure everything is attached securely, all summaries written, future directions written, record in table of contents

9 Tips to Preserve Data Integrity
Never, ever, remove a page Fill consecutive pages Cross out unused parts of pages Record all info as accurately as possible. Do NOT omit any result, no matter how odd. Cross out mistakes lightly (might need to recover) Write legibly Put a full date (international date problems…) with month spelled out.

10 More Helpful Tips The institution owns “your” notebook
Do NOT remove your notebook from the lab (unless this is an acceptable lab practice) You may get permission to take copies, but do not take original pages Do NOT read another person’s notebook without permission (even the PI won’t look at advanced researcher’s notebooks secretly). Should be kept for at least 5 years

11 Bad record-keeping costs.
LeMonnier, French astronomer who gets no credit for the first sightings of the planet Uranus. His notes were so bad that he thought it was a comet. Discovery of Uranus is instead awarded to Herschel. Gordon Gould had many ideas related to the production and use of lasers. He foresaw that they could cut steel or ignite fusion reactions. His notes were witnessed by a candystore notary instead of a colleague. He had undocumented meetings with the “maser people.” Years and years of legal proceedings were required to get him some of the credit he deserved.

12 A Proper Notebook Page Written as the work is performed
Dated and signed by author Each section has a clear, descriptive heading The writing is legible and grammatically correct Active voice in first person: “I added the two ingredients…” Read by witness and signed/dated

13 The Right Stuff Notebooks have to last 23 years after patent issue.
Patents take time to get, so figure 30 years longevity. Paper has to be very good (much paper today is junk by the standards of a hundred years ago). Notebook should be bound. No spiral notebooks! No loose-leaf! Page layout easy to graph, date, sign, etc. Table of contents!

14 What to write with? No pencils!! Erasures are a definite no-no!
USE PEN ONLY! Best bet for general use: black pen. Use other color pens for highlighting as appropriate No white-out!! Just strike through, explain and initial errors. “It’s a notebook, not a neat book.”—R. Cueto (But in practice, the neater the better.)

15 Sticky situations It is better to glue or tape that original paper snippet into the lab book than it is to copy the result. Glue: acid-free white glue is best. I think this means Elmer’s? Rubber cement is not recommended (but used to be, and I think it works pretty well). Tape: Have you ever seen the 3M research complex? There are various qualities of tape. Use the best.

16 Legal Matters You do NOT own the notebook. Your employer does!
You may ask for a copy. Depending on the specifics of your employers intellectual property agreement (usually signed by you on the first day of employment), you may be allowed a copy. The lab director can and should inspect books periodically. Once a lab notebook is filled up and no longer needed in the lab, it is usually kept in the company library.

17 Lab Notebook Checklist
Black, ballpoint pen used? Legible handwriting? Table of contents up-to-date? Entries signed/dated (October 13, 2002 better than 10/13/02) Clear headings saying what this page is about? Written in first person? Complete sentences? Could the work be followed by another scientist? Is the researcher correctly “thinking in the notebook” Are entries witnessed appropriately? Is the notebook stored safely when not in use?

18 What goes in the notebook?
Plans Realities (deviations from the plan) Observations Sketches and photographs “Links” to the notebooks of others in your group “Links” to instrument logbooks and data on disks Ideas: a notebook is a repository of creativity s from collaborators (tape or paste them in) Plot-as-you-go graphs: do it! Summaries of papers you have read Hints and tips you may get from science friends Concerns and personal info …. but be careful to delineate fact from opinion. …. and remember all info could become embarrassingly public!

19 Labeling Samples Good: WJW13.5a This means WJW’s notebook #13, page 5, sample a. Bad if used alone: Data set for 0.1% TMV solution. The label should POINT to the detailed notebook page and description.

20 LAB NOTEBOOKS GREATEST HITS Discovery of first Computer Bug
LAB NOTEBOOKS GREATEST HITS Discovery of first Computer Bug. What else would you do but glue it into your notebook? Harvard Sept. 9, 1945

21 Merry Christmas, Ma Bell
Merry Christmas, Ma Bell! First Transistor AT&T Bell Labs Note prestigious witness list (some signed), dates, schematic.

22 Library of Congress – Alexander Graham Bell http://memory. loc

23 The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret (2008)by Seth Shulman

24 Linus Pauling 1954 Nobel Prize
One of only 4 to have won multiple Nobel Prizes. Only one to win two in unrelated fields (Chemistry & Peace) Only one to have been awarded each prize without sharing. This is a page from Linus Pauling’s lab notebook, describing his discovery of the protein alpha-helix.

25 Charles Darwin

The following are example lab notebook entries graciously donated by a researcher who wishes to remain anonymous. (Because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he is a closet experimentalist.) This is the type of record keeping to which all of us aspire, but that few manage to achieve.

27 Note that page has the date
Note computer printout is glued into notebook Note that error is clearly marked

28 Note that this experimentalist has some clear opinions on some of the sign conventions used in his programming environment.

29 Note the bad news Much of the previous work will have to be redone!

30 The new calibration is shown here.

31 Method has been shameless lifted from another.
The experiment apparatus set-up is sketched. Note careful way that times are recorded as apparatus is pumped down for first time

32 Some theory and calculations
are shown. Note data circled in red with line running off the right margin; next page shows where that line connects. Some problems clearly noted.

33 Note graph paper used for plot and glued onto page.
Note graph of final results including error bars!

34 References Kathy Barker, At the Bench: A laboratory Navigator. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory press Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Record. David Caprette, Rice University. Guidelines for Keeping a Laboratory Notebook. Colin Purrington, Swarthmore Univ. Laboratory Record Keeping. Todd E. Garabedian, Nature Biotechnology v. 15 (August 1997) pp Office of Research Integrity, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Responsible Conduct of Research Online Study Guide. Julie Simpson, University of New Hampshire Francis L. Macrina, Scientific Integrity: An Introductory Text with Cases. ASM Press

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