Full-Length Paper

Finding Connections in Policies Covering Electronic Laboratory Notebook Retention and Transferal

  • Catherine T Grynoch (University of Massachusetts Medical School)


Objective: As electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) capability continues to expand, more researchers are turning to this digital format. The University of Massachusetts Medical School developed new guidelines to outline the retention and transferal of ELNs. How do other universities approach the retention and transferal of laboratory notebooks, including ELNs?

Methods: The websites of 25 universities were searched for policies or guidelines on laboratory notebook retention and transferal. A textual analysis of the policies was performed to find common themes.

Results: Information on the retention and transferal of laboratory notebooks was found in record retention and research data policies/guidelines. Out of the 25 institutional websites searched, 16 policies/guidelines on research notebook retention were found and 10 institutions had policies/guidelines on transferring research notebooks when a researcher leaves the university. Only one policy had a retention recommendation for storage location specific to electronic media, including laboratory notebooks, that did not apply to its paper counterparts, the remaining policies either explicitly include multiple forms and media or do not mention multiple formats for research records at all. The minimum number of years of retention for research notebooks ranged from immediately after report completion to 7 years after completing the research with the possibility of extension depending on a wide range of external requirements. Most research notebook transferal policies and guidelines required associated researchers and students to request permission from their principal investigator (PI) before taking a copy of the notebook. Most institutions with policies also seek to retain access to research notebooks when a PI leaves an institution to protect intellectual property and respond to any cases of scientific misconduct or conflict of interest.

Conclusions: Other universities have a range of approaches for the retention and transferal of laboratory notebooks, but most provide the same recommendations for both electronic and physical laboratory notebooks in their research data or record retention policies/guidelines.

Keywords: Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN), Retention, Offboarding, Policy, Research University, RDAP

How to Cite:

Grynoch, C. T., (2021) “Finding Connections in Policies Covering Electronic Laboratory Notebook Retention and Transferal”, Journal of eScience Librarianship 10(1): 4. doi: https://doi.org/10.7191/jeslib.2021.1190

Rights: Copyright: © 2021 Grynoch. This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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Published on
19 Jan 2021