Research integrity

Experimental protocol and data tracking

The primary verification of any scientific finding is its reproducibility. It is recognised that this may be a difficult endeavour given the highly complex and specialised nature of many experimental procedures; nevertheless, experiments and numerical calculations can only be reproduced when all important steps can be retraced. They should therefore be documented with sufficient thoroughness that a person familiar with the subject would be able to reconstruct the experiments and considerations involved. Many reputable scholarly journals encourage or mandate rigorous, detailed reporting of research methods and materials. OSR fully supports and adheres to such principles, regardless of the journal to which the manuscripts(s) is submitted for publication.

The log/workbook a.k.a. the "lab book" (paper-based or digital) is the central repository for the logging of experimental protocols and procedures. If paper-based, a lab book must have a hard cover and numbered pages; pages must not be torn out. Original data disappearing from a laboratory violates basic rules of scientific diligence, and may form a justification for suspecting negligent or dishonest behaviour. The same applies to data that, by its nature, can only be stored on electronic media, e.g. typically as data files. These files AND their location must be clearly listed in the log book. Paper-based experimental records account for 17% loss of all research data (Vines et al., 2018) and lab books are becoming bottlenecks in RDM. This impinges on research reproducibility, represents a financial burden and produces limitations for data sharing within an organization and the community7.

As mentioned above, original data (including raw/source data) and lab books (whether paper-based or digital) are the property of OSR, and may not leave the Division/Institute/Centre without a legal basis at any time. Copies (physical or digital) may be taken by the scientists working on the project, if not contrary to the provisions of data protection. When a Group Leader departs, he/she must document the handing over of original data and log books, including information on date, time, and scope, in an appropriate form countersigned by the receiver of the data, typically the Division/Institute/Centre Director who shall also inform the RIO. The person receiving the data is then responsible for keeping the data safe and monitoring its whereabouts. Digital files are to be stored in their original format on the research-dedicated central OSR server specifically intended for that purpose.

7 Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN) are considered by some to increase effectiveness and security while limiting impact on workflow or time commitment. The OSR RIO, in collaboration with a number of investigators, is currently running a pilot trial with ELNs.