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Laboratory Notebooks Chronicle A Scientist's Progress

WHAT'S WHAT: Old Dominion's Kerry Kilburn found a notebook to be useful in explaining to a grad student how to analyze data she collected. Confirming experimental evidence is much like re-creating a prizewinning cheesecake: Both are much easier when a written record of the process is followed. While laboratory notebooks often contain detailed "recipes" for experiments, these diaries have several other functions, as well. "Scientists maintain notebooks to refer to previous experimental pr

Ricki Lewis
Kerry Kiburn
WHAT'S WHAT: Old Dominion's Kerry Kilburn found a notebook to be useful in explaining to a grad student how to analyze data she collected.
Confirming experimental evidence is much like re-creating a prizewinning cheesecake: Both are much easier when a written record of the process is followed. While laboratory notebooks often contain detailed "recipes" for experiments, these diaries have several other functions, as well.

"Scientists maintain notebooks to refer to previous experimental procedures and data-it allows for reproducing protocols and results without reinventing the wheel," says Steven Lazar, senior patent counsel at Genetics Institute Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Notebooks also are crucial to establish intellectual-property ownership. "Documents provide proof of progress, invention, and having met an objective," notes Joseph O. Falkinham, III, a professor of biology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. "There is also a new scrutiny in science. Any statement must be backed up by...

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