I’ve been keeping an open lab notebook since late last year, recording my laboratory and related scientific activities. Partly because I believe strongly in the philosophy of openness in science, as in software, and partly because I feel like airing my dirty laundry in public will force me to be a better and more rigourous scientist and ultimately do better work.
I’ve been finding my feet over the past few months – in what format do I put data up, what are sensible (semantic, consistent) names for entries in the notebook, at what level of detail should each individual entry occur, how much descriptive / explanatory writing should accompany raw data / observations? I’m not sure I’m quite there with the answers to those questions yet, but I’m getting there. Also, I wasn’t sure how recording everything online would fit in my working day – would I manage to get round to recording everything I did, or would some things get missed? So far it’s been pretty successful.
As it’s all been going quite well I thought I’d ‘fess up to my PI that I’ve been promiscuously sharing our precious research willy nilly all over the internet (I really should have told him up front but I didn’t want to make a big thing out of it and then it not come to anything). He was fine (he’s pretty chilled out, and we’re not exactly working in a commercially sensitive or massively competitive field), and actually quite supportive of the idea. Phew.
SO now that it’s official I thought I’d put an Open Notebook Science banner on my notebook. This involves making a ‘claim’ as to the degree of openness – does absolutely everything I ever do go up immediately, or is it just some of my stuff, after some period of time. It’s my intention to be fully open, and to put everything up immediately. However, as I’m still getting going with the whole enterprise I’ve decided to go, rather conservatively, you may argue, for claiming ‘some content, immediately’. I.e. you can’t absolutely guarantee that if it’s not in the lab book it hasn’t been done. It’s not the ideal, and my intention is to change to a fully open claim soon, but this is a step in the right direction.