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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Blogger as lab notebook

This week I moved the experimental data of the work in my lab to a new blog. Each experiment will be a separate post. I currently have one graduate and two undergraduate students contributing. We will still continue to use the main UsefulChem blog to discuss experiments and synthetic strategy but the raw data will be housed separately.

Thus experiments are interlinked with discussions about them. And links can be made from the experiments to the molecules used in the UsefulChem-Molecules blog.

In terms of carrying out open source science, there are three objectives that I am trying to achieve with this:

1) Access. Posts on Blogger are very quickly indexed by Google and other major search engines. That means that fellow researchers can be alerted on the same day that an experiment takes place in my lab using, for example, MSN RSS or Blogsearch queries.

2) Transparency. There is not a document produced by a human being that is not shaped by a motive other than impartial disclosure. Often what is not mentioned is just as important as what is. Experiments that don’t yield desired results are usually not reported. And that is even more true for experiments that are somehow botched or suboptimal in some way. Any chemistry grad student can tell you that there is tremendous value in discussing failed experiments with others who are equally or more knowledgeable. However, this discussion is usually limited to lab co-workers. By recording ongoing experiments in blogs, I can help you just by knowing what you are trying to do, even if you have not yet succeeded.

3) Replication. There is no gatekeeper to convince in this system. No software to download. No server to set up. Almost no learning curve. Anyone doing science is free to replicate in their field of interest. Fully democratic science.

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