Safety & Environmental Compliance

CU Research and Safety Handbooks

Columbia University Research policies and handbooks can be found here:  The Sponsored Projects Handbook describes policies, procedures and resources relating to sponsored research. Its sections track the key phases of a sponsored project, from finding funding to close out. The Clinical Research Handbook is a companion resource to the Sponsored Projects Handbook, covering the conduct of clinical research at Columbia, from training to audits. It also includes a chapter on FDA-regulated research.

The Animal Research Handbook covers regulatory requirements and Institute of Comparative Medicine and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee policies and procedures for faculty and staff who conduct research involving animals. Any research using animals must be approved by IACUC.

The Research Environmental Health and Safety Handbook covers the multiple EH&S programs, including Laboratory Safety, Biological Safety, Fire Safety, Laser Safety, Occupational Health and Safety and Controlled Substances. The Research Radiation Safety Handbook is a companion resource to the Research Environmental Health and Safety Handbook for faculty and staff who conduct research involving radioactive materials or radiation producing equipment. Performing research in a laboratory requires first completing required EH&S training. Contact your supervisor or the Chair about this.

The University’s conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies affirm that a researcher’s outside activities may stimulate and nurture scholarship. These policies also address how actual or perceived conflicts may cause bias in research or affect an individual’s ability to carry out their University responsibilities because of time commitments required or competing priorities and set out disclosure requirements. CUIMC affiliates must also follow CUIMC’s policies on conflict of interest in clinical care and education. Disclosure of potential conflicts to the University must be completed at least annually through Rascal.

Research security continues to be a priority at the federal and University level. The University’s Science and Security webpage contains resources and guidance in this area. New FAQs address considerations for common international engagements and collaborations. Researchers must pay particular attention to making all disclosures required by federal funding agencies.

The University’s Policy on Misconduct in Research ensures that issues of plagiarism, falsification, or fabrication of research are addressed with rigor, care, and confidentiality. The University’s Guidelines on Retention of Research Data reiterate that research data acquired under the auspices of the University must be stewarded, managed, and shared in accordance with scholarly practice and funding agency requirements.

NIH and other federal funding agencies have new policies to mandate research data management and sharing. NIH’s policy takes effect on January 25, 2023. Visit Research Data at Columbia for more information and resources.

The Office of the EVP for Research publishes six research handbooks containing key research policies and procedures in many areas and also a Quick Guide to Research, highlighting the many offices that support research at Columbia. These offices also offer many resources to help researchers find funding and collaborate on major proposals. Visit the Find Funding webpage for more information.

If you have questions about research compliance issues, please contact the applicable EVPR office or the Office of Research Compliance and Training at [email protected].

Lab Archives

Columbia uses Lab Archives as an electronic lab notebook (ELN) platform. All data should be put into this ELN system unless another procedure is specified by your supervisor. All experiments, ideas, conclusions, etc. must be carefully and neatly recorded in the ELN. All data, results, interpretations, etc. must be recorded in the ELN. It is an official record of your work. Instructions and training in the responsible conduct of research can be found here:

You should be familiar with the responsible conduct of research and act accordingly.

Specific information on good laboratory notebook practices can be found here:

More detail is provided on the Columbia READI site:

Notebook Guidelines

Each notebook entry (Physical or electronic/LabArchives) should include:

Rationale/Hypothesis—link this back to previous experiments, if applicable

Design of experiment—including the thought process leading up to the design

Protocol(s)—cite any adaptations to the original or most commonly used protocol and explain why you chose to change it from the original protocol

Data & Results—including all figures, graphs, etc

Conclusions/Interpretation of results—including research strategies and experiments worth repeating, leading into (6) Future experiments planned

Future experiments planned

Safety notes—including any:

  • Issues that occurred during the experimental procedure
  • “Near misses” that could have resulted in a safety issue but were luckily or consciously avoided.
  • Safety precautions taken during a particular experiment or reaction setup including explanations why

General safety precautions that should be taken at all times

Witnessing—notebook entries should be witnessed by at least one other person periodically.

Data Management

Prior to beginning a research project, you should write out a data management plan, describing how the data you generate will be organized, annotated, stored, backed up, and made accessible to others. Guidance on writing a data management plan can be found on the Columbia READI site:

The details of your plan will depend on the nature of the data you collect, such as whether it is associated with sensitive information, the amount of data, and the file types. Your plan should specify how the data will be collected, the type of data, how the data will be annotated and stored and backed up, and eventually how it can be made accessible. You should also consider who need to access the data while it is being generated and once it is complete. There are also specific data management and data sharing requirements of funding agencies that you should consider. Any necessary security should be considered.

The office of the EVPR (Roger Lefort) and the Columbia Libraries (Moacir P. de Sa Pereira) are available to help with data management plan as well.

Prior to beginning research, your data management plan will need to be discussed with and approved by your supervisor.

Data Integrity:

You are responsible for ensuring that all data you report and procedures that you perform are reproducible, accurate, and reliably recorded. The expectation is that anyone can come in and read your lab notebooks and data files and reproduce the experiments you have performed with the same result. From time to time other members of your lab may be asked to reproduce your experiments, especially if they report interesting findings. This helps ensure reproducibility.

Visit the EH&S Lessons Learned website to read more about recent laboratory incidents at the University.

For further information on this or any other safety matter, please contact the EH&S office (

Key point to know and remember:

  • Always safely store and segregate chemicals and solvents appropriately
  • Always read product instructions prior to use
  • Enclosed spaces are a hazard if gases are released in those spaces, such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen
  • Food and beverages may never be consumed in a laboratory
  • Ethers must be disposed of within 3 months of opening
  • Methanol and ethanol bottles must be triple rinsed and disposed of in yellow bins
  • You must know the flammable solvent limit of the room you work in
  • You should have a lab coat, goggles and gloves.
  • Shoes must be worn at all times
  • You must sign up for relevant safety courses
  • You cannot store flammable solvents in any freezers or refrigerators unless they are specifically designated as explosion-proof
  • Large-scale extractions with ether are an explosion hazard
  • All gas cylinders must have a current date on them, and must not be expired. Please check each new cylinder when it arrives.
  • Gas cylinders must be secured properly.
  • All containers must be clearly labeled with their chemical contents.
  • No boxes or materials can be stored within 18 inches of the ceiling.
  • No ethanol spray bottles can be stored in a cold room.
  • Methods of egress from a lab cannot be blocked
  • All stationary equipment must be plugged directly into a wall outlet—extension cords may not be used

No visitors are permitted in labs or departmental facilities without prior approval of the relevant PI or Dept Chair. If you have a visitor you would like to bring to the dept, please contact your supervisor or the Chair. No children are permitted in research labs.