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Welcome to the Stable Isotope Laboratory - Open Notebook Science (ONS) wiki


There is a small, but growing movement, towards making science a transparent activity with open access given to experiment details, laboratory notebooks, calibrations and results. The practice is termed Open Notebook Science (ONS) and it's aim is to make the entire primary record of a research project publicly available online as it is recorded. This involves placing the personal, or laboratory, notebook of the researcher online along with all raw and processed data, and any associated material, as this material is generated. The term Open Notebook Science was first used in a blog post by Jean-Claude Bradley, an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Drexel University. Bradley described Open Notebook Science as follows

... there is a URL to a laboratory notebook that is freely available and indexed on common search engines. It does not necessarily have to look like a paper notebook but it is essential that all of the information available to the researchers to make their conclusions is equally available to the rest of the world
—Jean-Claude Bradley

A description, history and the benefits of ONS are given in Wikipedia. It is important to note that there are some potential disadvantages to ONS. For example some journals may not consider papers for publication where the results have been available previously on the web. Similarly, prior publication of designs, experimental details, formulations. will exclude future possible patent applications. Finally, in experiments involving trials with people there may be issues of confidentiality, especially where the sample size is small and it may be possible to identify individuals.

Notwithstanding these issues, I believe that ONS offers many advantages. Not least the ability to share notebooks, data, calibrations etc. easily amongst my own research group and those of other labs working on similar programmes. This has the potential to speed development of ideas and methods. An analogy may be drawn between ONS and Open Source Software. The clearest similarity between the two, is the belief that by sharing and collaborating, more can be achieved than through secrecy and competition. An open approach to software development is proven to be successful: the greatest achievement is the development, and increasing adoption of the Linux operating system.

In this spirit I will be making our research on isotopic clusters in carbonates and carbon dioxide an ONS project. This will include details of the design, development and calibration of the MIRA mass spectrometer, our calibration of the delta 47 isotopic cluster thermometer in carbonates and it's application to natural samples including speleothems and Mississippi Valley Type (MVT) deposits. I will be encouraging members of my research team to place there notebooks online too.

Finally, it has been argued that making ones experimental details and results publicly available will leave one vulnerable to data and idea theft. On the contrary, I believe that there is security in archiving ones science in ONS. Once publicly available data and ideas become very difficult to steal. As an analogy, one cannot easily steal the Mona Lisa and display it in another public forum.

Paul Dennis


Head of the Stable Isotope and Noble Gas Laboratories
School of Environmental Sciences
University of East Anglia
Norwich NR4 7TJ
UK

p dot dennis at uea dot ac dot uk

  1. clumped isotopes
  2. irms
  3. source sensitivity
  4. water isotopes