Here's the link to the press release and the first few paragraphs [Researcher is an Open Book: First to Share Lab Notes in Real Time].
Faculty of Medicine researcher Rachel Harding will be the first known biomedical researcher to welcome the world to review her lab notes in real time. The post-doctoral fellow with U of T’s Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) is also explaining her findings to the general public through her blog. She hopes her open approach will accelerate research into Huntington’s disease.
“This should drive the process faster than working alone,” Harding says. “By sharing my notes, I hope that other scientists will critique my work, collaborate and share data in the early stages of research.” Her research at SGC is funded by CHDI Foundation, a non-profit drug-development organization exclusively dedicated to Huntington’s disease. Both organizations aim to accelerate research by making it open and collaborative.
Her approach is intended to leverage the experience of a community of scientists. Individual researchers often still work in relative isolation and then publish only their positive discoveries, usually years after the experiments were actually done. Thus, scientists often pursue similar ideas in parallel and miss many opportunities to learn from each other’s mistakes.
She has started by publishing raw data and play-by-play details of her first effort on the CERN open digital repository Zenodo. She also posts regular updates on her blog Lab Scribbles, where she includes an experimental summary written in lay terms.
It's been over 35 years since I first starting thinking and talking about electronic (computerized) lab notes1 and it's been over twenty years since I first heard discussions about putting them online. I seriously doubt that Rachel Harding is the first biomedical researcher to put lab notes on the web. I'm also very skeptical about her keeping up the practice for very long.
Not only is it boring and tedious to write your lab notes in a word processing program but it's kinda embarrassing to post everything you do in the lab. At least it would have been for me. I made lots of mistakes and there are lots of R-rated words and phrases in my notes.
Let's keep an eye on this experiments to see how it goes. So far there are four items on the Zenodo website. The first is a Word document containing a few brief notes from Jan. 6, 7, 9, 11 and 25. There are brief notes posted on Feb. 6 and two on Feb. 11. I hope this isn't the extent of her lab notes.
The blog is Lab Scribbles. There are a few posts. It's interesting but I'm not sure anyone is going to read it even if you're interested in Huntington's.
Has anyone else experimented with open lab notes?
1. I still have a few floppy disks with those attempts from about 1981. Unfortunately, I don't have a machine that can read them.