Prince:Why Open Notebook

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Open Notebook

The advent of better tools for electronically recording and sharing information along with the vast success of the open source software movement have prompted many to consider using a public, or "open" lab notebook where raw data is accessible along with the entire scientific process.


  • "maintains the integrity of data provenance by making assumptions explicit" slide 5
  • Easily access your own data and lab book from anywhere in the world.
  • Easier collaboration with others.
  • Encourages better recording and organizing of data since it is open for inspection.
  • Encourages reuse of data in meta-analysis.
  • Third party time stamping ensures that discoveries may be properly attributed.
  • Encourages others to share their work and data, which may help you and others solve their problems.
  • Near real-time feedback from others is possible.
  • Makes accessible failed experiments to prevent you or others from duplicating mistakes.
  • Lowers the barrier of entry to the field.


  1. If you have not filed a provisional patent after one year the discovery is not patent-able.
  2. One may be scooped or have data stolen.
  3. American Chemical Society does not allow pre-publication of the manuscript in any form.

Some responses to potential cons

  1. Public disclosure actually establishes your monopoly over the discovery for one year. If the discovery can be monetized and you wish to patent it, then you will likely know it within one year. Public disclosure means you cannot be scooped by another patent application in that year, even if they discovered before you.
  2. Since the date of publication is publicly established, the incentive to "steal" or "scoop" is decreased. Instead, researchers are more likely to properly attribute or collaborate on finds related to their field of interest.
  3. We typically write our manuscripts privately under version control with bitbucket, so there shouldn't be an issue with ACS.

Compiled, with additions from

Prince Lab Philosophy: The Best of Both Worlds

The Prince Lab Philosophy® is that things should be open unless there is a good reason for them not to be. If you are inclined to patent your inventions and your patent senses tingle when you are thinking about a certain aspect of your project, you should keep those pages on your local network. If you know you want to publish in an ACS journal, don't prepare/release your manuscript in the open. Other than that, why not keep it open?