If you would like to receive more information and/or training on keeping a notebook, contact Mike Cenci.
Why You Must Maintain Detailed Laboratory Notebooks
A United States patent is granted to the inventor who was the first to conceive the invention. Therefore, the laboratory notebook is evidence for proving inventorship or first-to-invent. It establishes a permanent record detailing what was done during the course of a project and what inventions were made and when.
What to Record in a Notebook
Records must be sufficiently detailed and clear to allow "someone skilled in the art" to recreate the work and to conduct additional work without the direct assistance of the original researcher. Record what was done, why it was done, who suggested it, who did it, when it was done, what the results were (positive or negative) and what conclusions were drawn.
All details of a project should be recorded
This includes raw data and final results of experiments, protocols and designs of experiments, calculations on which the results are based, details of equipment use and a key to any abbreviations used.
Include raw data from recording instruments, drawings, photographs, charts, computer printouts, etc. Permanently attach these items to a notebook page. Sign your name so the signature crosses both the attached item and the notebook page.
Record all research and development efforts, including ideas generated during meetings, noting sources of ideas.
Record dates when an idea was formed and when work on the idea was started and completed.
Record plans for future experiments and their protocols.
Entries should be made on the same day as the event. If this is not possible, enter the information and indicate when the actual work was done.
Sign and date each notebook page with your complete name and complete date, including year.
Be factual! Never include in a notebook an opinion on patentability, any comments regarding the amount of additional effort required to complete the experiment or commercialize the results. Avoid any negative comments concerning the project or the results of an experiment and comments reflecting the nature, quality or utility of the results of a research project.
A witness should sign and date each notebook page as soon as possible, preferably the same day, but within one week. The witness should not be a co-inventor or someone working on the project, but someone who has a basic knowledge of the work being conducted. An unwitnessed notebook page is uncorroborated and of little value as a legal document.
Records Should Be Permanent, Complete and Continuous
The laboratory notebook should be bound with numbered pages. Include a detailed Table of Contents with necessary explanations for abbreviations, acronyms, or unique codes.
All entries should be made consecutively. Do not skip pages or leave large empty areas, as necessary "X" off unused page sections.
Use permanent, waterproof ink.
Write legibly. Illegible entries are totally worthless.
Do not erase entries or blot them with white-out. If errors need to be corrected, simply draw one line through the incorrect information and add the corrected information. All crossed out items should be signed and dated. Reasons for the correction should be noted.
Storing Laboratory Notebooks
When not in use, maintain notebooks in a central location, preferably in a fireproof safe or filing cabinet.
Notebooks should be numbered in a consecutive order or consecutively under each scientist's name.
Notebooks should be reproduced on microfilm when complete or by other suitable means and securely stored at a separate location.