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1. Introduction  
2. Setting up Office and Research Space
2.1 What should I do before I get to UCSF?
2.2 What should I do once I arrive at UCSF?
2.3 What Research Support Services are available?
3. Obtaining Regulatory Committee Approvals
3.1 Making Sense of Regulations
3.2 What is Research Online
3.3 Working with Biologicals
3.4 Working with Chemicals
3.5 Working with Radioactive Materials
3.6 Working with Radioactive Materials in Humans
3.7 Working with Controlled Substances
3.8 Working with Animals
3.9 Involving Human Subjects in Research
3.10 Serving on Committees
3.11 Working with Affiliates
4. Finding, Obtaining, and Managing Money
4.1 Fiscal Responsibility
4.2 Pre-award: How do I find and ask for funds?
4.3 Post-award: How do I manage funding awards?
4.4 Working with Industry
4.5 Minimizing Financial Conflicts of Interest
4.6 Intellectual Property
5. Being Responsible
5.1 Ethical Conduct of Research
5.2 Authorship and Publication
5.3 Confidentiality and Privacy
5.4 Data Management: Research Records
5.5 Training in Responsible Conduct of Research
5.6 Guidelines for Lab Notebooks
6. Leaving or Transferring Funds/Specimens Out of UCSF
I. UCSF Acronyms
II. UCSF Research Links
III. Whistleblower Policies & Procedures
School of Medicine Clinical and Translational Research



5. Being Responsible

5.6 Guidelines for Lab Notebooks

What is a laboratory notebook?
Who should have a laboratory notebook?
How do you maintain a laboratory notebook?
   • Do’s
   • Don’ts
   • Additional guidelines
How should you correct errors in your laboratory notebook?
Are there other laboratory notebook guidelines at UCSF?

What is a laboratory notebook?

Researchers typically use a notebook to enter all experimental data and other related notes and meetings associated with a research project. It is usually a bound notebook, i.e. pages are not loose, with sequentially numbered pages numbers and all entries made in waterproof ink. It is kept in the research area and backup copies are stored elsewhere for safekeeping. Original records should not leave the research site.

The laboratory notebook ensures that there is proper documentation of a research study. Not only can the investigator accurately review the research data, monitor the progress of the study and staff, but these records are also the source documents for data analysis, reports, and publications related to the research study. These source documents can also be used to establish and defend intellectual property rights, authorship, and other compliance issues resolved by auditing records.

Who should have a laboratory notebook?

Each member of the laboratory should have a properly maintained laboratory notebook to document the actual events as they occur in a research project. This applies to all levels of researchers including students, research fellows as well as the Principal Investigator.

How do you maintain a laboratory notebook?

Consider the following points when creating and using a laboratory notebook:


Use permanently bound notebooks, preferably with consecutively pre-numbered pages to avoid the question of missing data. For loose-leaf notebooks, it is critical that each page is numbered with no blank spaces or pages.

Use a separate, properly labeled notebook for each study, if possible.
Label the cover with your name, study name/number or identification and dates covered by the notebook (i.e., 01/07/03 - 10/23/03). Or, sequentially number your own notebooks with your initials in the number to allow for easy identification.
Collect data using waterproof black or blue ink pen to prevent erasures.
Record all calculations in your notebook in logical progression using and recording units.
Record all observations and anything that you do on a daily basis as a log of your activity. You should be able to reconstruct your work step by step from your notebook as this is what a collaborator, reviewer, or auditor will do.
As a rule, do not use scratch paper, if you do, attach it securely into your notebook with appropriate date and initials on the scratch paper.

Consider the possibility of loss, theft, misplacement, fire, water damage or other potential loss of logbook and take appropriate measure (e.g., photocopying) to prevent the loss of data. Be sure to store the copy separate from the originals.
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Don’t tear out pages from your laboratory notebook.
Don’t leave blank spaces or pages. Draw a line through the blank section or cross out the blank page and date the blank section to prevent later entries.
Never use pencil or something that is easily erasable.
Don’t erase data, black out data, or paste new data over the original entries. (See section below on correcting errors.)

Don’t modify the original record at a later date. Record any modifications on the actual date that they were made and reference the data (i.e., date, page of notebook) that they apply to. Simple errors can be corrected as stated below.
Additional guidelines: These suggestions are recommended for establishing the timeline, ownership of ideas, authorship, technology, inventions, patents, and other intellectual property.

These are typically used in industry or research studies that may result in intellectual property:

You should date and sign each day's work or page to ensure authorship and time sequence of observations.
If you are not the PI, your notebooks should be examined, and if necessary signed off, at a preset frequency (e.g., weekly) by the project’s PI or Laboratory Director or your supervisor. Don't wait until the end of the study to learn that a procedure is being done incorrectly or that additional observations should have been made.
If your experiment or observation has patent potential, then all events leading up to the invention (conception) also need to be documented and witnessed as follows:
  •  Have it witnessed by a colleague who is skilled in the "art to which it pertains" and who can "make and use the same", and
Have the witness sign and date each page in your notebook under a statement explaining what he/she witnessed.
Use first person active to avoid confusion as to who collected the data or made the observation.
Everything that you write down for the first time (not transcriptions) is considered raw data.
Never put a stray mark on the page without annotating its purpose. For instance do not check or circle a number without recording why. A circled number by itself raises questions of its accuracy if it is not annotated.

Avoid editorial comments that may be misconstrued by reviewers or auditors as alteration of original data. Rhetorical questions or question marks next to a data value should have written explanations associated with them.
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How should you correct errors in your laboratory notebook?

Errors happen; however, collaborators, reviewers, and auditors want to see any errors and to reconstruct your line of reasoning. Therefore, make error corrections in the following way:

Draw a single line though the error.
Enter the correct information as close to the original entry as possible.
Initial and date it.

Enter a brief reason for the correction.

Are there other laboratory notebook guidelines at UCSF?

How to Keep a Laboratory Notebook for Patent Purposes (Office of Technology Management)
Guidelines on Research Data and Reports (Dept. Neurosurgery)

Advancement and Promotion at UCSF, A Faculty Handbook for Success.