Maxine Clarke, Nature’s blogactive and web-oriented Publishing Executive Editor blogged on
has an interesting and opinionated editorial on Share your lab notes in Nature 447, 1-2 (3 May 2007). also available at Nautilus. Her The line of argument is: The use of electronic laboratory notebooks should be supported by all concerned since they “contain data that flow automatically from lab instruments and can be read by all lab members”. This availability to other collaborators should compel the keeping of better records. Most importantly: “If each notebook is allocated a unique identifying code — a permanent alphanumeric string containing information about provenance, creation dates and digital location — it can be cited in journals as a confirmation that the data are safely stored, ultimately available and sharable (with due regard for the rights of the researchers involved). It also confirms that the original data can be retrieved in the case of errors or accusations of fraud.” This way, Clarke the editorial goes on, both “the rigour and transparency of publicly funded research will be improved”.
she the author of the editorial is absolutely right. But there are many, geographically distant interlab collaborations too, not just intralab projects in the vicinity of 2 rooms on the same floor. Let’s put these ideas into context to see them live.
I’d like to step further a little bit as
Clarke the author of the editorial misses to consider the current technological situation: all these nice aims, the standardization (unique URL to every lab notebook), the universal, collaborative sharing of digital notebooks could obviously be realizable by web-based applications (Google Docs, collaborative wikis) rather than Office-like desktop softwares and restricted local networks.
Or more dynamically: can you imagine individual experiments as blog posts, and a lab notebook as a project blog? After all, every experiment has a principal investigator, and all the other participators could be interpreted as commenters. Or this is not the case (we need a group blog in case when the FACS measurement at the end of my cell culture experiment is implemented and recorded by another scientist), and more democratic wikis are the real solutions? Who knows it yet? But the direction is clear. Webtop apps.