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Parallel Lab Notebooks and Safety Culture

Assessing individual risk perception/safety attitudes and group safety culture using "parallel lab notebooks"

Can a parallel lab notebook used to capture a researcher’s thoughts, feelings and reflections facilitate active engagement on lab safety culture and risk perception?


Since 2008 when Sheri Sangji died in a tragic lab fire at UCLA, academia has been plagued by catastrophic lab incidents. The more we can understand how lab researchers perceive risk and think about safety, the more we can hopefully find innovative ways to maximize their lab safety culture and ultimately prevent future tragedies.


We will use the concept of a parallel lab notebook to evaluate how their use alters how lab researchers perceive risk and view lab safety culture. The concept of parallel lab notebooks was conceived by Jason Robert, Ph.D. and colleagues as a way to engage researchers in considering the role of ethics and to allow them an outlet for any ethical dilemmas they may face. Here, we are exploring their use as a way of facilitating more reflexive approaches to risk/lab safety.


Our goals are to prompt lab researchers to consider risk and lab safety as an integral part of their research. It’s frequently observed that researchers think about their research constantly but don’t always give consistent consideration to the safety and risks they may face daily. If the use of parallel lab notebooks is successful, it may form a basis for developing more effective lab safety cultures.

The Lab Notebook is a staple of good research. But is used solely to capture the relevant scientific observations. When researchers have ethical dilemmas or emotional feelings, there isn’t an effective means to express and process them.

Parallel lab notebooks (PLNs) can and do facilitate filling this void. We plan to evaluate the use of the PLN approach developed by Jason Robert, Ph.D. and others to facilitate the ongoing consideration of risk in research and lab safety culture.


Although outside funding hasn’t been solicited yet, we are interested in exploring funding opportunities for this and future studies. This would accomplish a fuller, richer study that could be used to impact and influence how lab safety services are delivered in academia.


The Parallel Lab Books and Safety Culture project is being carried out by Jonathan Klane and Andrew Maynard. Jonathan is the Assistant Director for Safety Programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, and is particularly interested in innovative ways of reducing risks through a culture of safety. He is also pursuing a PhD in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology


Jonathan Klane, M.S.Ed., CIH, CSP, CHMM, CET
Assistant Director for Safety Programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, ASU

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