Who Owns the Record? Whose Project is it?
A student has entered a laboratory in which the record`keeping procedures and practices have not been formally reviewed, and each member of the lab seems to use his/her own style. The new student often works late in the evening and sometimes writes data down on paper towels or yellow pads. After several exciting months of results, the student writes up several tables and graphs to be put into a manuscript. While the preceptor is reviewing these materials, he raises a question about the details of the protocol used for one of the experiments. To his horror, the student can no longer find the particular piece of paper on which those data were written.
- Can the data be used?
- What should the student have done?
- How should records be kept?
- How important are duplicates? All along? Towards the end? At the end? Does the student get to keep the original lab books?
- What if a student works on a project and then leaves the lab? May the student continue the project? The preceptor? Both, in competition with each other?
- How much detail should there be in the lab book?
- How should it be organized, by date? by experiment?
- What kind of primary data should be kept? Scintillation counter tapes? autoradiagrams? pictures of gels? What should be noted about reagents?
- Should you always write protocols and data directly into the notebook or jot it down first and then transcribe it neatly later?
- What if you make a mistake in the lab book? erase? white out? cross out?
A student who is in her third year as a PhD student is working with Professor X in a very active laboratory. One evening when she returns to the laboratory to stop an incubation, she finds Professor X and one of the postdocs reading her lab notebook. She is instantly angry and defensive.
- Is it a reasonable reaction? a usual reaction? Consider and discuss.
Cite this page:
"Who Owns the Record? Whose Project is it?"
Online Ethics Center for Engineering
National Academy of Engineering
Accessed: Wednesday, May 22, 2013