Ever since the movie Roots hit TV screens back in 1977, people have longed to either research their own family history, or preserve what they already know. Some of these family historians collect and preserve historical documents, such as birth and death records, marriage certificates, religious documents and a host of other paper documents.
Others preserve the past through photographs. Mounting them in specially made albums that contain archive quality paper to help preserve the pictures, they add embellishments and details to bring meaning to the images. Often they engage in a practice of writing down details surrounding the person or event captured in the picture. This is known as journaling. Journaling is an invaluable tool in maintaining family history, but it can all be lost, if archival pens are not used.
Ink from non-archival pens can leach into the paper and into photos mounted nearby and cause a breakdown of the materials, over time. Photos, in particular, can be damaged irreversibly by ink and other non-archival quality materials. If you are going to go to the trouble of trying to preserve family photographs for posterity, archival pens should be used for journaling.
Among the many benefits these pens provide is the fact that they are fade resistant. They don’t smear or feather, when dry, and they don’t bleed through to the other side of your archival paper. They are non-toxic and usually available in a variety of tips and colors. Pens made for archiving purposes are the only ones you should use near your precious photos and family documents.
If you have never worked in a clean room, then you may be unfamiliar with its purpose, or even the term. A clean room, simply put, is one that strives to maintain a low level of environmental pollutants, including dust, chemical vapors, airborne particles, and others. These rooms are usually found in manufacturing facilities or research labs where such control is critical to the work being done. Hospitals, pharmacies and facilities dealing in life sciences are examples of where you might find such a room.
Part of the clean room’s maintenance often includes a highly developed filtration system to keep pollutants to an acceptable level. However, materials brought into a clean room can bring in pollutants. Only materials suitable for use in the environment can be brought inside, even down to pens and cleanroom notebooks.
You may not have thought about notebooks as potential sources of pollutants, but they can deposit fibers and other microbial elements that can contaminate specimens. By using only notebooks manufactured for use in this critical environment, workers can keep pollutant levels within the prescribed acceptable levels and keep their work or experiments on track.
While there are many types of clean rooms, each with its own purpose and level of acceptable pollutants, cleanroom notebooks are made to be useful in any of them. They can provide the necessary documentation for research to support ethical and legal issues. They have chemical-resistant covers and are indexed for easy retrieval of data. These notebooks are even autoclavable, making them ideal for this environment.
Writing utensils seem like such simple things, don’t they? Yet each one has their own purpose, and every person has their own preference. Math teachers prefer to never get papers that are completed in ink. College professors tend to prefer work that is done using a pen. Art instructors prefer to use completely different methods, altogether. So, how do you know what kind of writing utensils your student needs?
The writing utensil your student needs depends upon what they are doing with it. For instance, some students prefer round wooden pencils when doing their math homework, while other students prefer to use plastic, refillable pencils. Some students prefer a fine tip on their pens, while others prefer simple ball point ones. You should ask what kind of utensils they use the most, and then include those with the ones listed below.
Every student needs a highlighter. Whether they use it in their books, or as they highlight the notes they have taken, the highlighter is always a useful tool. Some highlighters come with tabs that you can pull out and use as small placeholders in specific areas of a book or document.
Archival pens work extremely well for research projects because of the quality of ink that is used. The ink resists fading that is common with the average ink found in pens for everyday use. This ink also sits on top of the paper, rather than soaking into it and causing a bleed-through onto the next sheet.
Does Your Science Student Have All The Necessary Tools?
If your son or daughter is on their way to college, or a new research position or internship, you can help them out by making sure they have the right tools. Even if you do not realize the details of why some of these items are important, they can make a significant impact on the future of your son or daughter.
Depending on the area of research being worked in, there are going to be specific tools needed for observation. This may include anything from a microscope, to a stethoscope, or any other device that assists in enhancing the observation experience.
Again, the type of equipment you need to purchase will depend on the research, itself. For instance, a camera with UV capabilities might be helpful if UV light or any kind of energy spectrum is being researched or is included in the research. However, there are some items you can assume will be used, no matter what type of research is being done. For instance, a laboratory research notebook, as well as an archival pen, will be necessary.
A laboratory research notebook is different from a normal notebook, in that it is designed to allow data to be recorded in such a professional manner as to be used in a courtroom. Even the paper is designed to last longer than normal notebook paper. Archival pens allow the researcher to document information, without worrying about the ink in the pen bleeding through to the paper below, or fading over time.
Christmas Gifts for the Budding Scientist
Is there a budding young scientist or engineer in your home? Do you laugh or smile to yourself when it comes to their ideas and questions? Do you dismiss this as thoughts born of youth? You really shouldn’t. While adults have extensive experience to taint their thoughts, the young have unique thoughts and ideas that are not tampered by responsibilities or rigid educational lines. If you think differently, just consider a child’s drawing.
When children are very young and they draw pictures, they draw out the sun and birds. As they get older, someone tries to help them out by showing them how to put the sun in the corner with straight lines for rays and how to use an “M” to draw a bird in flight. This is not a favor to the child. It limits their creativity in order to create a faster process. This same thing happens with young scientists and inventors.
If you want to cultivate this need for information and experimentation in your child, buy him or her the supplies they need for Christmas. Archival pens are a great place to start, but nothing goes as well with archival pens as authentic research notebooks. These items are going to cost a bit more than items that are not made for research tools, but they also stand the test of time, quite literally.
These pens don’t bleed into paper or fade out, over time, like most pens do, and the notebooks are made to last and to be used to categorize data of all sorts. If you want your child to take their interests seriously and use them in the future, don’t you think you should start taking them seriously, as well? Or, you could just buy them another video game for Christmas and watch him or her turn into a television zombie with no original thoughts.
If you are a student, or you are someone who has just decided to start a research project, it is imperative that you treat your research with the respect it deserves. Whether you are doing actionable research, or are involved in a lengthy bit of qualitative research, there is always a chance that you will need to reference your notes, but there is also a chance that someone else will want to take credit for them. For this reason, you need to make sure that every research notebook you have is set up to be interpreted by you, with every piece of information you have gained.
Create a code for your research notebook so that, should someone steal it, they would at least have to make an effort to interpret the code. Like your digital data password, you should change the code you use every so often so that if someone should break it, they don’t have every piece of the puzzle until they break every code.
Unless you are doing qualitative research, you really need to have an extensive list of sources to start with, and you should probably code these, even if you use a numeric code that involves the Dewey decimal system at your university library. Of course, qualitative research requires fewer sources, because you do not want to taint your own research with the knowledge you gained from sources.
Always store your research notebooks in a safe place about which only you and perhaps one other person know. Take your research seriously, so that everyone else will, too.
While many in the scientific community are pushing for the transition from paper lab notebooks to electronic devices, there are still many reasons why paper notebooks are a better option for researchers. Before you invest in electronic notebooks for your research, consider the following downsides of going digital.
While electronic notebooks are small, they still need a power source and have limited battery life. Since not all research is done in a lab, having an electronic device could put some researchers at a disadvantage. This is particularly true for research that requires observation in the fields of animal and plant sciences. A paper notebook is a far more reasonable tool in these situations.
When used in a court of law to defend a patent, paper is still more reliable than digital data. Digital systems can be compromised, hacked, and tampered with, allowing results and dates to be changed without anyone knowing that the data has been altered. These types of changes are much more difficult to attempt with paper notebooks, making them a better choice for patent litigation.
Resistant to Spills
Electronic notebooks can be damaged by spills in the lab. Paper notebooks are designed to be spill-resistant, thereby retaining recorded data that would otherwise be lost in a digital notebook. For researchers who work in labs with chemicals, digital notebooks can be susceptible to damage throughout the course of the research process.
While many industries are quickly going digital, the field of scientific research is one that still benefits from traditional research recording methods. Lab notebooks are best when they are paper, as they are able to efficiently hold data without compromise.
In the scientific world, protecting intellectual property as it relates to a scientific discovery is critical for defending a patent. In many cases, the official date of your discovery is based upon the date of the patent application’s submission, but there are some situations that require proof of the date that an idea was formed. This is particularly true for the scientific community, and it makes the accuracy of a laboratory notebook critical for a patent’s successful defense in litigation.
When many scientists are working on the same type of research, which is frequent in medical fields, it is possible for more than one team to come up with a similar breakthrough. This can be a breakthrough in drug research, a vaccine, or a diagnostic tool, and if more than one team applies for a similar patent, the dates that the research was performed may play heavily into the legality of one team’s claim on the patent.
Keeping detailed, chronological laboratory notebooks helps scientists to prove when their research was performed. In order to make these notebooks reliable in court, they must be permanently bound, dated, and all notes must be taken with ink. Each researcher on a team should have individual notebooks, which can be used to show uniformity with dates and discoveries. These notebooks hold the key to protecting a patent and your intellectual property.
The litigation process for patents and intellectual property can be a lengthy and complicated one. By keeping an accurate laboratory notebook for all of your research, you can give your team the best chance at defending your ideas and maintaining all applicable patents.