Data recording and protection are discussed specially in the Office of Research Integrity’s Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research. (s.6b & s. 6c) It details how hardcopy or electronic evidence should be recorded and stored respectively. These are also emphasised in the policy on research integrity of a number of educational institutions. For example, in the Guidelines for Responsible Conduct of Research, it is stated that “If mistakes are to be corrected, a thin line should be drawn through the erroneous entry so as not to obscure it and an initialed dated correction written separately, along with an explanatory note, near the original entry or in the margin.”
The answer for why keeping original records is so important mainly consists of two aspects. First is to make reanalysis and review available. This not only adds to the credibility of your research, but also provides merit for the academic society generally because it allows other academics to replicate your research so as to examine your finding. They are also materials of fundamental importance when your research method is called into question.
Another aspect is to establish priorities in future intellectual property claims, which benefits mainly the original author. The U.S. Patent Law regime has shifted to a “first inventor to file” system since 2013. Since a critical distinction in establishing an invention is the date of the“conception” and “reduction to practice”. If your laboratory notebook is properly kept, generally a sketch and a brief written description is sufficient to establish conception. When determining who is the first inventor, the original records can serve as very important supporting evidence.
HKU Policy on the Management of Research Data and Records (2015), accessible at http://www.rss.hku.hk/integrity/research-data-records-management.
Offices of Research Integrity, University of Pittsburgh. (2011). Guidelines fro responsible conduct of research. Retrieved October 26, 2016 from http://www.provost.pitt.edu/documents/GUIDELINES%20FOR%20ETHICAL%20PRACTICES%20IN%20RESEARCH-FINALrevised2-March%202011.pdf
Steneck, N. H. (2004). ORI introduction to the responsible conduct of research. Rockville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Research Integrity.
Office of Technology Licensing, Stanford University. (n.d.). Suggestions for keeping laboratory notes. Retrieved October 26, 2016 from http://otl.stanford.edu/inventors/resources/inventors_labnotebooks.html