We recommend that all researchers maintain laboratory notebooks. Record keeping is a key component of research as it provides information about work that has been carried out, including methods used, primary data and experimental observations. It is important that all of this information is contained within laboratory notebooks so that it is not lost and so that other researchers can carry out the same piece of work in exactly the same way.
Laboratory notebooks are also important for intellectual property protection, since they provide evidence of the context, performance and date of an invention.
Laboratory book guidelines:
- Laboratory books should be used to record all your work, notes, ideas, calculations, sketches, charts, methods and meeting minutes.
- Everything you do should be recorded in the book with no gaps. Where information is held elsewhere, for example computer-based information, clear reference to this information should be contained within your laboratory book.
- Until steps have been taken to protect the intellectual property resulting from the ideas in your laboratory book, you should ensure that only authorised persons see the contents of your book.
- It is important that you get each page signed by a witness on at least a weekly basis.
- Ensure that all writing and diagrams are legible.
- Ensure that you include enough information to allow someone else to repeat or understand your work.
- Ensure that you use permanent ink throughout the book and do not use correction fluid.
- Electronic laboratory notebooks are becoming more common now, although for the purposes of providing evidence of when an invention was made paper records are preferred as they cannot easily be altered. Where electronic records are used, they should be printed out and fixed into a laboratory notebook and signed by hand.