UCL Division of Medicine


Guideline for Lab Books


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In order to protect our entitlement to any rights that may derive from the work carried out in the Division of Medicine, it is essential to be able to provide evidence of the experiments carried out and their chronology. The principle documentary support required in courts as a means of settling any entitlement disputes is the laboratory notebook. 

In order to protect ourselves and our collaborators and funding bodies it is essential that we maintain up to date and accurate notebooks. Primarily, laboratory notebooks need to contain clear evidence of the research carried out and, most importantly, must include the dates on which the results were achieved.  

For this process to be of any value, certain standards and requirements for writing-up experiments in the notebooks must be adhered to. The following are the key guidelines:

1. All entries must be made in black ink or black ballpoint, the use of red ink, rollerballs or pencils should be avoided (black ink photocopies better and is harder to alter).

2. The notebook number, name of author and date of issue should be entered in the page provided at the time of issue.

3. The signature page is intended to allow the identification of all staff who make entries into the notebook, or who witness such entries. It should contain names and specimen signatures.

4. Entries in the Tables of Contents should identify individual experiments and reflect the important elements of the experiment, such as types of study, organisms, compounds etc.

5. The author should include all experimental results and conclusions in the notebook. Entries should be sufficiently explicit to be meaningful to readers other than the author. Names of organisms, tests and chemical entries should be unambiguous.

6. Where multiple forms of data recording are employed (e.g. Computerised data recording, spectra, results from another author) the author must properly crossreference both the notebook and the raw data to enable easy retrieval of such data.

7. Corrections of any errors made in the notebook should be made by crossing out the incorrect part; ' Liquid Paper' should not be used. Black pages or parts of pages should be avoided by crossing them out with a diagonal line.

8. The indexing space on each page should be used to record key information, such as organisms, tests, project or compound names or numbers.

9. Notebooks should be signed and dated by the author at least at the end of each experiment, and, in the case of a long experiment, at intervals during its course. All entries should be countersigned (e.g. witnessed), preferably within one month of the entry being made. This simply means asking a colleague, but not an assistant or someone working on the same project, to browse through your notebook, checking what is written and signing at the end of each experiment. The witness should read and be able to understand the purposed of the experiment and the relevance of the results recorded.

10. Notebooks are the property of the Division of Medicine. Authors are responsible for their safe keeping whilst working at the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research but will be required to return the notebooks when they leave the Institute. Copies of the notebooks may be removed by staff when they leave.

11. Microfilming of notebooks and associated records, as necessary, will be undertaken at the time of their completion. Completed notebooks that are no longer in frequent use for reference will be stored in a secure, centralised facility.