Keeping a Laboratory Notebook

Photograph of laboratory notebooks on a table.
Photograph credit: Mary Donaldson

The Research Data Management Service has put together a guide on how to keep a paper-based laboratory notebook. It is primarily aimed at the lab-based sciences, but aspects of the guidance can be adapted for record keeping in other disciplines of research.

The guide is available here

Please feel free to use this as-is, or adapt this for use as a local guide for use in a research group or graduate school.

Feedback is also welcomed and should be sent to

Research Information Management advice during Coronavirus

The Research Information Management team are working remotely at the moment. If you would like to contact us please use our service email addresses. We are still providing the usual services and can telephone or Zoom meet you if you need our help.  Our email boxes are checked regularly.  Don’t worry if you are not sure which address to contact – we will sort out who deals with which enquiry.

Research Data Management: 

Open Access: 

Reporting research outcomes/ 

We have also moved all of our research data management training online, and expanded capacity for all our sessions – you can visit our training pages to find out how to sign up. 

During the current crisis, many researchers may find that they are unable able to collect the data as they had intended, either because they are unable to meet with participants due to quarantine or social distancing measures, or because the data collection involves travel. This is likely to cause considerable inconvenience and disappointment for researchers whose projects are necessarily time-limited. 

Consider your ethical approval and data protection responsibilities before adopting a new data collection method. 

The University Ethics Committee has advised that studies involving face-to-face contact with participants should suspend activity until further notice. If you were planning to conduct interviews or focus groups as part of your research, you may be considering using an online meeting tool instead. The Ethics Committee’s advice is as follows: 

  • Consider your ethical approval and the consent that you have received from your participants. If you are changing the method of data collection you will need to make sure that it is in accordance with your ethical approval and that your participants have given informed consent. Consult your local ethics officer in the first instance. 
  • No new approvals will be issued until further notice, but the Committee will continue to accept and review applications until further notice.  
  • Ethics committees are receiving requests from researchers to change the method of consent from face to face to verbal/online. All substantial changes to the consent process need to be approved or acknowledged to be acceptable by the REC/Chair. 

Make sure that any tools you plan to use are compliant with GDPR requirements. You must not record confidential data to a cloud server if it is outside the European Union and if adequate safeguarding is not in place. If you use the University of Glasgow’s Zoom service you can save recordings locally. Make sure you enable local recording ( and that you continue to follow the University’s guidance on handling confidential data: 

If working remotely, data protection legislation and data management plans must be followed. Any researchers conducting studies involving participants should consider the implications of any IT limitations on data management plans and ensure that all research continues to comply with GDPR. Please contact, for further advice.

You might also find this crowdsourced guide to remote fieldwork methods useful: (Initiated by Deborah Lupton  

If you can’t carry out data collection as intended, consider reusing existing datasets. 

If you are unable to collect new data, you should consider datasets that have been made available for reuse. As part of its commitment to open research, the University of Glasgow requires that all data of long-term value is deposited in an appropriate repository and made available for others to reuse if there is not a compelling reason to restrict access. The repository also stores restricted datasets which require ethical approval to access. You can browse and search datasets deposited with the University of Glasgow’s Enlighten: Research Data repository. Most universities will have their own institutional repositories, so you may also wish to browse their sites to find available data. 

You can also explore repositories provided by research funders. These include: 

  • The UK Data Service, which hosts open access datasets and administrates access to restricted and controlled data from ESRC-funded projects. 
  • NERC has five data centres covering a range of discipline areas. 
  • The Wellcome Open Research platform hosts data collections from Wellcome Research Centres and Wellcome-funded projects. 
  • The European Open Science Cloud is still in development, but datasets can be found under the ‘Services & Resources > Sharing & Discovery’ menu. 

Generic repositories accept data from any discipline. Two of the principal generic repositories are Zenodo and Figshare

There are also a large number of disciplinary repositories. You can use the Re3Data tool to search for repositories that collect data in your subject area. 

If you have found a dataset that you’d like to reuse but you’re not sure what you’re allowed to do with it or how to request access, you should contact the repository directly. If you’re unsure how to proceed at any point you can also email us at for advice. 

If your data collection is delayed, consider using this time to organise the data you already hold.  

It is easy to get out of the habit of organising and documenting your data as you are collecting it. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to collect new material, you could use some of this time to get your files in order. You might wish to consult our research data management guides.  

CREATe Workshop – Information, (research) data and open science

Yesterday I took part in a workshop about legal issue associated with managing research data.

CREATe Symposium 2019: Glasgow, 8-10th October

I was a bit nervous about being lost in a sea of legal experts so was very pleased to get a summary  of the latest developments in the EU Copyright Framework presented in a manner understandable to a lay person.  Well done Nicolas Jondet from the University of Edinburgh.

So there is a text and data mining exception for research for research and cultural heritage organisations.

Worried me a bit to hear that copies of data must be stored in a safe environment:

Research organisations and cultural heritage institutions could in certain cases, for example for subsequent verification of scientific research results, need to retain copies made under the exception for the purposes of carrying out text and data mining. In such cases, the copies should be stored in a secure environment. Member States should be free to decide, at national level and after discussions with relevant stakeholders, on further specific arrangements for retaining the copies, including the ability to appoint trusted bodies for the purpose of storing such copies. In order not to unduly restrict the application of the exception, such arrangements should be proportionate and limited to what is needed for retaining the copies in a safe manner and preventing unauthorised use. Uses for the purpose of scientific research, other than text and data mining, such as scientific peer review and joint research, should remain covered, where applicable, by the exception or limitation provided for in Article 5(3)(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC.

  • Do we have more to consider in our complex jigsaw of data requirements to support our researchers? 
  • Will our University storage be acceptable?
  • Will there be national repositories that must be used?

Glad to hear there is to be further discussion between stakeholders to clarify what is appropriate.

As I find all this talk of articles and abstract ideas confusing I was delighted to hear several mentions of dealing with practical problems of interpretation and establishing best practice.

Guess what?  I am going to call on our friends at CREATe for some advice on this.

Here is a link to CREATe’s post on the event Information, (research) data and open scienceCREATe 

United Kingdom Council of Research Repositories 2019 Member’s Day

Today two members of information services staff from the University of Glasgow are attending the UKCoRR Member’s day.  UKCoRR Member’s Day 2019

This group focuses on how repositories can support research.

Plan S

Rachel Bruce from UKRI spoke first about Plan S.  She noted clearly that it is not just about GOLD open access – repositories (the GREEN route) do have a role where papers can be posted on them with no embargo.

To help address concerns raised by learned societies some work has been done – read more here Identifying Models for Learned Societies to meet Plan S Principles

Wellcome Trust, UKRI, and cOAlition S have also appointed Information Power as consultants look at sensible pricing principles for publishing.

UK Scholarly Communications Licence

Chris Banks gave an update on UK-SCL. (I don’t like the name of this but understand it may change) She started by outlining the problem of trying to comply with a matrix of funder, Research Excellence Framework, publisher, and institutional policies.  Despite the huge growth in compliance and monitoring there are still some publications that research organisations are not aware of or do not comply with requirements.   I wonder how we can find out about publications that we do not get told about or find in sources such as Web of Science?

UK-SCL is a model policy that will be aligned with UKRI policy when it is available.  It allows authors to self archive with no embargo.   This should help in price negotiations with publishers since we do not need to buy an Open Access element.

What if publisher’s say they won’t publish due to institutions policy?

In UK law if a publisher has prior knowledge of the policy at a research organisation the academic can sign an exclusive licence with the publisher but the non-exclusive policy with the employer still stands and allows deposit of agreed text in repository.  We have no case law yet.

Let’s see what the funder’s policies say when they are announced.

Expecting some early adopters of UK-SCL from early 2021.

British Library Research Repository Case Study

Working with partners to make research more accessible.  Reminds me to re-visit public engagement.  We spend a lot of time making things openly accessible and I feel we could do more to help users find out about these and use them.  It is on my list to speak to colleagues in Research and Innovation team and the VP Research’s Office.

UKRI Open Access Policy Review Breakout

The review aims to join up UKRI and REF policy looking at research articles, conference proceedings and books.  Looking beyond the current REF cycle there is no firm plan as to whether openness to data will be included.

What developments are needed to enable repositories to help with OA?

Free up admin time to focus on carrots not just sticks.

E.g. An efficient UBER Jisc Router type service so that data about publications is shared early with all parties without the need for each to re-key.

Policy stability from beginning of cycle so that we can apply the right rules to records that fall within the period from onset and not have to collect more information retrospectively.

How can we engage researchers and end users in open access?

Efficiencies such as a Router type service can help reduce the admin burden and allow more space for support and engagement with users.  (I read this as can use such service not mandating that research organisation have to use such service nor that specific suppliers are perpetuated)

REF Audit Breakout

Andy Hepburn from the REF Team provided further clarification of the audit process.  The submission will include open access status.  If audited will ask if record keeping that shows the item meets the deposit, discovery, and access requirements.

Nice to hear support from the community – with suggestions like whomever is audited let’s band together as professional organisations and help them.

No significant new concerns from the discussion at the recent ARMA meeting.

Skills Breakout

Asking attendees what skills they think are needed in research support with a view to identifying gaps in training and support for administrators.  Many of the skills were soft skills like adaptability and listening.  A fuller summary will be produced.

Research Support Games Day

I am wondering why I am running a games day?  I don’t like games.

Oh that is right I thought I must be missing something and even if I don’t like games others clearly do.  Perhaps this might be one channel for communication.  So when my friend George Bray from Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen mentioned running an iteration of a game at one of our Open Access Scotland meetings I heard myself enthuse we should host a games day to explore how games might help us support researchers.

I don't like games

Here I am in looking slightly nervous in my ‘I don’t like games’ ‘Choose the real world’ t-shirt.

So we did some basic coding and I though – yes – I can see how a wee virtual game could engage users and help reduce administrative burden for researchers.

While we were coding I was asked about room temperature and got up to look for a control panel.  I found myself in the mix of the Open Access Escape Room attendees who all looked so excited about searching for clues – sorry folks don’t follow me I am lost….I don’t like games….

I was beaming at how much fun the attendees were having whilst also sharing and learning.

Some of the games were board games with questions and answers around real world questions on topics such as open access, digital preservation, and impact.

All of the games were fabulous for promoting discussion about research support.

I did not feel uncomfortable at all – I don’t like games – but I do like that the games are a great tool for facilitating discussion.

Here is the event report

Further reporting and further events planned as well as collaboration with similar events that we have discovered.