Intellectual properties are creations of the mind. Poems, music, and stories fall under this category—but research does, too. If you make an important discovery or put forth a groundbreaking theory, you want to be able to prove it’s yours. Thieves and plagiarists exist in every academic discipline. Learn about these threats to your intellectual property in your notebook and how to protect your IP from interlopers.
Sometimes, a blunder as simple as leaving blank space on your page can open you up to intellectual property theft. Laboratory notebooks aren’t like regular journals; there’s a set of best practices you need to follow to ensure all the information is provably yours. When you’ve finished an experiment, cross out any blank space on the page to keep others from adding to it. The best science lab notebooks also have a spot on the page for you and a witness to sign off on your work.
Next time you’re in the lab, look around you. You’re working alongside several other students or scientists who have their own notebooks and experiments. Without growing paranoid, acknowledge that your fellow scientists may be interested in your work. By being near you, they have more privilege to access your information and more opportunities to abuse it. Be careful about allowing other people unfettered access to your work.
Scientific Notebook uses sewn binding in all our notebooks for a reason: those pages are impossible to tear out without leaving a trace. When you shop for a lab notebook, choose one with sewn binding and organized pages. A simple spiral-bound notebook is easy to tamper with, and it’s easy to forget those best practices. Every time you complete a project or experiment, sign off on the page and have a witness do the same.
Science is an ever-changing process of discovery. While you may sign and date all of your pages, you may need to make changes later on! If you change or update that information at a later date, make sure to do so neatly—and sign and date that page, too. Scribbled, unsigned changes can look to others like somebody else got into your notebook. You must be able to prove that every step of your experiment and discovery belongs to you.
While you needn’t be paranoid about theft when working in a lab, cover all your bases to ensure that your intellectual property is safe. Don’t leave any loose ends or blank spaces! The biggest threats to your intellectual property in your notebook stem from improper use of the notebook itself. Learn those best practices and keep your IP protected.