Updating lab notebooks

After months of cloning, I am thrilled to begin actual experiments!! Doing science that yields results makes me feel so much more like real scientist, versus the utter genetics failure I’ve felt like for the past few months.

Before diving into the brilliant, Nobel-Prize-worthy experiments I have planned, I thought it might be a good idea to get my lab notebooks in order – especially with regards to all the gut-wrenching genetics from which these experiments have been built. As I started going through my notes and old gels, however, I realized that the cloning strategy for one of my constructs has evolved tremendously over the past months. The first plan I had was borderline idiotic, yet I spent several weeks pursuing this strategy before seeing the light and moving onto plan B.

Now that it’s time to get all this written up, I’m struggling with wanting to jump to what actually worked, and skip over the old, futile strategies that have long since been forgotten. But I feel like this would be cheating somehow…a sort of scientific dishonesty, even it it doesn’t involve falsifying data. (Yeah, I know…I should have been keeping my notebooks up along the way and this wouldn’t be an issue.) Knowing that it will likely add an extra hour to my notebook-updating task today, do I really need to include this crap in my write-up? In other words, if the shit never worked, did it really happen???


6 thoughts on “Updating lab notebooks

  1. Yes, it did. And it should go into the notebook-with a note that it didn't work and reasons why. IMHO, everything thing should go in the notebook-the good, the bad, the ugly, the trivial-because there is a chance that someone will be picking it up or doing something similar after you're long gone, and it's just as important for them to know what didn't work as what did. Since there is no thesis for the postdoc and most of us don't publish in those Journals of Negative Results, the notebook is the only way to disseminate that information.

  2. I am in the same boat, imagine cleaning out 6 years of terrible notebooks (and worse computer files!)

    I am one who keeps everything, but the stuff that didn't work is not nearly as nicely indexed or labeled. I have stapled together large packets of paper from failed experiments and just stuffed the whole sha-bang into a three ring binder. If someone wants it some day they can go thru it, but I am not spending a lot of time and energy making it pretty. That is just lipstick on a pig.

  3. Spending time writing up a bunch of failed subcloning shit is ridiculous. Why even “write up” successful subcloning shit? So long as you have fully documented the resulting clone, who gives a crap?

  4. As long as you're meticulous about documenting *anything* that ends up as a freezer stock, you're okay. The moment you start freezing things that are poorly documented, it's a recipe for disaster months/years later. At best you *will* waste prodigious amounts of other peoples' irretrievable time. At worst, bad constructs will end up being used in experiments, and published. Your personal documentation should meet or exceed what you'd like to see from your trainees.

  5. I can understand not including notes on a clone that never went anywhere or ended up in the trash (although I did make some nice notes yesterday on my failed cloning strategy – only an hour of my time wasted ;).

    But I have to disagree with CPP about writing up at least a brief outline of my successful cloning strategies. As SN pointed out, I've wasted too much of my own time sorting out issues with old lab members' clones/data to not be absolutely meticulous on anything that I'll be freezing back, doing experiments with, and (hopefully) publishing on.

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