Who Owns Your Research Notebook?

There are conflicting arguments over who owns a research notebook. Is it the person responsible for the research? If the research is done by a student, does it belong to the school that funded the research?

The answer to this problem is complex, and there really is no right or wrong opinion on the subject. Before you begin a research project at a university, it may be a good idea to ask about ownership of the research material and results. This can prevent some uncomfortable conversations in the future.

Many universities claim ownership of all research notebooks, and they insist that the books not leave the research facility. This means that any and all work you do must be performed at the facility, as it is not proper form to work on projects in a different notebook and transfer them to the official document.

If you are the lead researcher for a project—and you are not an undergraduate student—you may be able to negotiate your ownership of the material. The most important objective should be—aside from your research itself— to protect your intellectual property. If you make a breakthrough, you want to be able to claim ownership of your own work.

Talk to your university or research facility before applying for grants, assembling a research team, and starting a project. If the terms don’t meet your requirements, you may want to consider doing your research independently, to protect the ownership of your research.