Computerized lab notebook?

William Calvin wcalvin at stein.u.washington.edu
Mon Jan 11 09:39:08 EST 1993


lmh at theory.lcs.mit.edu (Minghsun Liu) writes:
>I mentioned that I wondered if working biologists were ready to trade in their
>trusty lab notebooks for computer software that could replace it.  Yes,
>I know I probably haven't even fully appreciated the kind of diverse
>needs that different people want in their computerized lab notebook.
>I am just wondering if there exist a kind of "philosophical" or
>"emotional" attachment to a regular lab notebook.  Better yet, is
>anyone out there actually using such a software?

Convenience surely depends on how well you can sketch things adjacent to
text.  One major advantage of computerizing it all is backup:  easy to
lose a bound notebook (or a laptop computer) but it is so easy to keep
safe copies that it has become much harder to truly lose something.

There will be a period of transition, regarding the quasi-legal status of
written notes for patent and other such purposes; handwriting and bound
notebooks provide some assurrance against alterations afterwards.  But the
same transition is being made re using laptops for travel expenses and
keeping those records for tax audits.  I think that original paper records
are slowly on the way out.  One of these days, someone will invent a way
of sealing computer records against alteration (probably commercial
services that will receive them by file transfer on Internet, and keep
them under seal) that will gain enough popularity to become an acceptable
standard.
    William H. Calvin   WCalvin at U.Washington.edu



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