Protocol: How To Encrypt Your Lab Notebook Using The Power Of Shitty Handwriting

Graham, L., Hallworth, M., Crooks, T., Ito, R., Clemente, E.C., Letourneau, J., Conchord, F., Kaplan, J., Office, E., Burgess, G. et al

Face it, people want your data. It’s almost better to steal someone’s data then their findings – it saves you from having to do the experiment at all.

So how do you protect your lab notebook? Through the ancient art of illegibility! Make your chicken-scratch as complicated as possible with these helpful techniques…

Harness the power of your surroundings

Pump yourself full of coffee for extra hand jitters, and inhale the lab fumes around you. A lower dexterity will help conceal your data from anyone who knows how to read.

Stay physically active

It’s important to get the blood flowing. Get out of that chair and write while doing aerobics (specifically following along to 1982’s “Jane Fonda’s Original Workout”)

Hire a budding transcriber

Get a 7-year old with crayons to get your thoughts onto paper. This is also a great way to get them hating science from an early age.

Use two-factor authentication

Be sure to leave the titles to your experiments vague and potentially misleading. No one’s going to steal something labelled “Results of OJ trial.”

Create your own abbreviations

What does ASWAWN-18 mean? Or gWWP? Every acronym used nowadays was unknown until SOMEONE tried it, and maybe you’ll get some royalties out of it. (Or should I say RYLTZ?)

Practice your penmanship

Draw your 1s and Is the exact same way. It also doesn’t hurt to spill some iodine on your notebook, so that letters BECOME the same. Is that a B or an 8? I guess we’ll never know.

Communicate ideas with images rather than text

A picture is worth 1000 words, so leave doodles in the margin. A stick figure with a scribble next to it can represent everything from “a scientist with a flask” to “a pirate holding a stick of dynamite.” 

Never dismiss ideas

Be sure to never erase anything. Since you might need those ideas later, cross them out, but write “<– OK” next to some of them.

Trust yourself to know your own intentions

Omit all units of measurement. If it’s important enough, you’ll remember.

Break formality and explore your creative side

What are you, some sort of rule-following muppet? Write outside the lines! Leonardo DaVinci would apparently write backwards using a mirror, and he was a genius. If you’re truly exceptional, you can pull it off too. Or go all the way and get drunk halfway through your write-up. Watch as everything gets italicized!

Don’t be wasteful

Make sure that you use pens to their full potential, until they’re completely out of ink. Also, make use of every corner of the notebook and all the white space. You can practice your scribbling in the margins – remember, the smaller you write, the fewer notebooks you’ll need! Encrypt your data AND save the trees in one move!

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