An earlier post tried to characterize the kind of harm it might do to an academic research lab if a recent graduate were to take her lab notebooks with her rather than leaving them with the lab group. This post generated a lot of discussion, largely because a number of commenters questioned the assumption that the lab group (and particularly the principal investigator) has a claim to the notebooks that outweighs the claim of the graduate researcher who actually did the research documented in her lab notebooks.
As I mentioned in my comments to the earlier post, in many cases there is an explicit policy in place at universities where graduate research is conducted that states that the lab notebooks are the property of the lab — or even of the university itself. Under such circumstances, especially if graduate researchers have been informed of the policy and have indicated their agreement to abide by it (usually there’s a form they sign), it’s hard to back out later and claim that you ought to be allowed to take your notebooks with you.
But no matter what the prevailing policies may be, I think it’s worthwhile to think about what the policies on lab notebooks in academic labs ought to be.
So, I put it to you: Who ought to have control of a graduate researcher’s lab notebooks, and why?
Make sure you spell out the details you think are important in making the determination (who provided the funding, who came up with the initial idea, how the notebooks might function in further research and who might want or need to use them, etc.).
I’m hopeful that graduate researchers and PIs (among others) will participate in this discussion so we can get the views of a full range of interested parties on the table. And, if we end up coming up with a policy that all the parties think is pretty reasonable, we can turn our attention to the problem of implementation.