Notebook S1: Scientific publishing awesomeness

Greg Lang and David Botstein have a paper in PLoS One this week probing the consequences of disrupting the cluster of GAL genes in the yeast genome.

The paper is cool. But the supplemental material is awesome. This description in the text says it all:

Notebook S1. The complete laboratory notebook detailing the strain constructions and experiments presented in this study.

And that’s exactly what you get:


It’s really not so amazing that they did this. It’s actually a totally obvious and natural thing to scan and post an entire lab notebook as supplemental material – in principle allowing anyone to answer virtually any question they have about the actual work conducted. What is amazing is that – as far as I know – this is the first time anyone’s actually done it. And (members of my lab take note) this will not be the last.

Way to go Greg and David!

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  1. Matt
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    I’d have to tone down the language in my lab notebook, especially around areas depicting failed pcr, sequencing, mistakes resulting from carelessness, etc… Agree though, why havent people been doing this??

  2. Posted September 27, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    @Matt: it does look to me (just from that one page) as though the notebook was kept with publication in mind. No page from any notebook I ever kept looks that neat and organized, to say nothing of the absence of foul language.

    It’s an interesting question: when you decide in advance that the world will see your notes, to what degree does the internal self-censor activate? Does it provide motivation to keep better notes, with clearer expositions of your thinking and better handwriting and less cussing? Does it also provoke thoughts like “nah, that idea will look silly, I won’t write that down”?

    I agree that this is a genuine milestone in the history of science, and I’m all for it. I do think, though, that to make the most of open notebooks will require a different culture of science: one in which we don’t worry so much about not looking silly or making mistakes. Or cussing in our notes. 🙂

  3. Matt
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Bill: totally agree. I wondered if the notebook was re-written after the fact for the purpose of publication.. Full sentences and articulate presentation of ideas have never really been a part of any of my lab notebooks. Agree re: self censorship..

  4. Greg Lang
    Posted September 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    This is actually the fifth notebook that I have scanned as a companion to a published paper. Previously I have been hosting them on my website and publishing a link in the Methods section. It was recently suggested to me that I should submit my notebooks as Supplementary Material—this PLoS ONE submission was the first occasion to do so.

    Knowing that everyone will have access to my notebooks is a strong motivator to be thorough in my record keeping. All of my scanned notebooks are originals and they are certainly not devoid of mistakes, misspellings, and (occasionally) profanity.

  5. Posted November 20, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Virtual high five, Greg!

    I really, really like this, and I hope that more people will follow, not just when it comes to biology (I’d love to make this happen for my next psychology project).

  6. Luisa
    Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    great job Greg.. this is a a great example of how the
    best lab notebook doesn’t necessarily have to be digital 😉

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  • By memetic shift on June 29, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    […] Scanned lab notebook as supplement to published article. I would love to see anthropologists do the same with their field notes, although they’d probably have to do a bit of editing to protect collaborators (via Notebook S1: Scientific publishing awesomeness) […]