Real Vegan Cheese Notebook Documentation Guidelines

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As important as it is to do experiments, it's just as important to document them. Not documenting or incompletely documenting laboratory work is like not having done it at all. Keeping careful records is critical for replicability, reliability, accountability, producing publication-quality science, biosafety, any potential intellectual property issues, and to remain true to our open source and transparent philosophy.

We have unique documentation needs, as various people come in and out of the experiment stream at different times. Multiple people will be required to read, interpret and apply the information in each laboratory notebook entry. Given this group structure and the fact that we all got our training in different ways/places, we developed the following documentation standard for Real Vegan Cheese experiments on October 4, 2014.

Real Vegan Cheese documentation:

The Shared Laboratory Notebook housed on our wiki is the common documentation for all group experiments.

Each participant in a given experiment should keep their own notes in their lab notebook. Before beginning any benchwork, however, designate one participant as official note-taker. This person is also responsible for transferring notes for that experiment to the wiki, ideally within 24 hours. To ensure accountability, another participant in the experiment will be designated to check over the official note-taker's wiki entry and edit, as needed.

All failed experiments need to be documented in full -- they can be incredibly informative!

Notebook entry for each individual experiment needs to include:

  • Title, brief but informative
  • Date(s) over which we conducted the experiment
  • Participants
  • Official note-taker and note-verifier
  • Location at which we conducted the work
  • Aims/Purpose: brief description of what you did and why. Good to link directly to notes on experimental work preceding/inspiring current entry.
  • Materials and Methods (almost impossible to be too detailed!)
    • For Materials, include details about consumables: tubes and sizes, type of culture spreader, etc. For reagents: vendor, concentration, pH, lot number, etc. For large lab equipment, include manufacturer and specific model name. If using living cultures, include time grown, passage number, condition, etc. Seriously. It's all important and easy to forget!
    • For Methods: even if you're linking to one of our commonly used protocols, please record what you do during each specific run. If alternative choices or ranges (e.g. for specific times/volumes) are given, record exactly what you choose. If you make any changes to the standard protocol, record those too.
      • Extremely useful downstream to note briefly why you made each choice or change.
    • For any extraction products/tubes/stocks/cultures/etc. to which we need to return in the future, record the storage location and labels. Also enter this information into the Quartzy inventory.
  • Results (again, almost impossible to be too detailed!): note results in full. Include labeled photos, graphs or diagrams, where applicable.
  • Conclusions/Discussion/Next Steps:
    • Quick interpretation of results and their significance, especially if results are unexpected.
    • Include thinking on troubleshooting.
    • Quickly describe next steps.
    • Good to link directly to notes on experimental work that follows or arises from current entry.