National Institutes of Health Mandated to Make All Research Publicly Available

This is interesting – President Bush signed the first law making the release of National Institute of Health research publicly available. This also marks the first time such a law has been passed for any publicly funded scientific research:

The provision directs the NIH to change its existing Public Access Policy, implemented as a voluntary measure in 2005, so that participation is required for agency-funded investigators. Researchers will now be required to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central. Full texts of the articles will be publicly available and searchable online in PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.

This implies only published manuscripts will become publicly available, not unpublished data. I’ve often thought how I’d feel if I was required to hand over the contents of my lab book (or lack thereof).

I write in short form, and often make reference to my data on my laptop (although I’ve increasingly made an effort to print the graphs/tables/etc. and tape them in with my relevant experiments). They wouldn’t be very useful to anyone but myself – but that’s how I’ve always conceived lab books: a reminder, a way of answering, “Did I add 1mM of 10mM of that reagent?” or, “What part of Doe. et al.’s method did I change and why?” or, “What did I already try, and why didn’t it work?” It isn’t textbook style material – but its very useful to me.

I’m very curious what famous scientists notebooks might look like. Here is Albert Einstein’s “Zurich Notebook”, and here is a notebook of Madame Curie, and pages written by Albert Michelson (measured the speed of light).

Does anyone anyone know of a project that is collecting the notebooks of famous scientists? Do the university that the scientists held tenure at typically keep them, or do they go to national depositories?

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: