Purposive variation in recordkeeping in the academic molecular biology laboratory

Wilson, David Francis (2011) Purposive variation in recordkeeping in the academic molecular biology laboratory. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2863079


This thesis presents an investigation into the role played by laboratory records in the disciplinary discourse of academic molecular biology laboratories.

The motivation behind this study stems from two areas of concern. Firstly, the laboratory record has received comparatively little attention as a linguistic genre in spite of its central role in the daily work of laboratory scientists. Secondly, laboratory records have become a focus for technologically driven change through the advent of computing systems that aim to support a transition away from the traditional paper-based approach towards electronic recordkeeping. Electronic recordkeeping raises the potential for increased sharing of laboratory records across laboratory communities. However, the uptake of electronic laboratory notebooks has been, and remains, markedly low in academic laboratories.

The investigation employs a multi-perspective research framework combining ethnography, genre analysis, and reading protocol analysis in order to evaluate both the organizational practices and linguistic practices at work in laboratory recordkeeping, and to examine these practices from the viewpoints of both producers and consumers of laboratory records. Particular emphasis is placed on assessing variation in the practices used by different scientists when keeping laboratory records, and on assessing the types of articulation work used to achieve mutual intelligibility across laboratory members.

The findings of this investigation indicate that the dominant viewpoint held by laboratory staff other than principal investigators conceptualized laboratory records as a personal resource rather than a community archive. Readers other than the original author relied almost exclusively on the recontextualization of selected information from laboratory records into ‘public genres’ such as laboratory talks, research articles, and progress reports as the preferred means of accessing the information held in the records. The consistent use of summarized forms of recording experimental data rendered most laboratory records as both unreliable and of limited usability in the records management sense that they did not form full and accurate descriptions that could support future organizational activities.

These findings offer a counterpoint to other studies, notably a number of studies undertaken as part of technology developments for electronic recordkeeping, that report sharing of laboratory records or assume a ‘cyberbolic’ view of laboratory records as a shared resource.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: scientific laboratory recordkeeping, information management, genre analysis, disciplinary discourse, scientific data sharing policy, electronic laboratory notebooks
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > ZA Information resources
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Computing Science
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Molecular Biosciences > Molecular Biosciences
Supervisor's Name: Bailey, Dr. Mark and Gray, Mr. Philip
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: David Wilson
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2482
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:55
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2482

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