Open Notebook Science

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"Open Notebook Science is the practice of making the entire primary record of a research project publicly available online as it is recorded.” [1]


".research already in progress is opened up to allow labs anywhere in the world to contribute experiments. The deeply networked nature of modern laboratories, and the brief down-time that all labs have between projects, make this concept quite feasible. Moreover, such distributed-collaborative research spreads new ideas and discoveries even faster, ultimately accelerating the scientific process." (

3. From the Wikipedia:

"Open Notebook Science is the practice of making 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 approach may be summed up by the slogan 'no insider information'. It is the logical extreme of transparent approaches to research and explicitly includes the making available of failed, less significant, and otherwise unpublished experiments; so called 'Dark Data'. The practice of Open Notebook Science, although not the norm in the academic community, has gained significant recent attention in the research, general and peer-reviewed media as part of a general trend towards more open approaches in research practice and publishing. Open Notebook Science can therefore be described as part of a wider Open Science movement that includes the advocacy and adoption of Open access publication, Open Data, Crowdsourcing Data, and Citizen science. It is inspired in part by the success of Open Source Software[6] and draws on many of its ideas." (


Jean-Claude Bradley:

"In Open Source Software, the code is made available to anyone to modify and repurpose. What we have been trying to do with UsefulChem is to provide the analogous entity for chemical research, which is raw experimental data along with the researcher's interpretation in a format that anyone can easily re-analyze, re-interpret and re-purpose. A good example of re-purposing is using some results and observations from a failed experiment in a way that was never intended by the original researcher. This just doesn't happen regularly in science because failed experiments are almost never included in publications.

Unfortunately, in addition to the confusion with Open Source Software, others are using the term Open Source Science to mean discussions about pre-prints of regular journal articles.

To clear up confusion, I will use the term Open Notebook Science, which has not yet suffered meme mutation. By this I mean that there is a URL to a laboratory notebook (like this) 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. Basically, no insider information." (


Arguments Against

From the Wikipedia:

"The arguments against adopting Open Notebook Science fall mainly into three categories which have differing importance in different fields of science. The primary concern, expressed particularly by biological and medical scientists is that of 'data theft' or 'being scooped'. While the degree to which research groups steal or adapt the results of others remains a subject of debate it is certainly the case that the fear of not being first to publish drives much behaviour, particularly in some fields. This is related to the focus in these fields on the published peer reviewed paper as being the main metric of career success.

The second argument advanced against Open Notebook Science is that it constitutes prior publication, thus making it impossible to patent or publish the results in the traditional peer reviewed literature. With respect to patents, publication on the web is clearly classified as disclosure. Therefore, while there may be arguments over the value of patents, and approaches that get around this problem, it is clear that Open Notebook Science is not appropriate for research for which patent protection is an expected and desired outcome. With respect to publication in the peer reviewed literature the case is less clear cut. Most publishers of scientific journals accept material that has previously been presented at a conference or in the form of a preprint. Those publishers that accept material that has been previously published in these forms have generally indicated informally that web publication of data, including Open Notebook Science, falls into this category. However this has not been tested with a wide range of publishers. It is to be expected that those publishers that explicitly exclude these forms of pre-publication will not accept material previously disclosed in an open notebook.

The final argument relates to the problem of the 'data deluge'. If the current volume of the peer reviewed literature is too large for any one person to manage, then how can anyone be expected to cope with the huge quantity of non peer reviewed material, of which some, perhaps most, will inevitably be of poor quality, that could potentially be available. A related argument is that 'my notebook is too specific' for it to be of interest to anyone else. The question of how to discover high quality and relevant material is a related issue. The issue of curation and validating data and methodological quality is a serious issue and one that arguably has relevance beyond Open Notebook Science but is a particular challenge here." (


  1. UsefulChem

More Information

  1. Mass-collaborative Science
  2. Open Science; Science 2.0
  3. Open Data

Also: Open Notebook Science search engine

It searches 7 sites so far, such as:,,,,

Podcast: Jean-Claude Bradley on Open Notebook Science