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Title: Purposive variation in recordkeeping in the academic molecular biology laboratory
Author: Wilson, David Francis
ISNI:       0000 0004 2699 9318
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2011
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QH301 Biology ; ZA Information resources