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Recordkeeping 101: Texts, Photos, and Videos

Although I beat the dead horse on keeping a pen and notepad with you at all times, you likely have another valuable tool at your disposal - your smart phone.

Nowadays, email has a 2-Step Verification system, requiring you to carry a phone with you at all times. It is also helpful to be able to talk to fellow lab members without having them track you down, or even your PI, if you have a good relationship with them, and are willing to share your phone number. I personally didn't feel comfortable sharing my information with my boss, but even after being forced to do so, they never contact me anyway, so I stressed over nothing.

That said, there are two main features on a cell phone that make them a powerful asset to a self-advocate: namely, a camera, and SMS (i.e. text messages). People will often take both of these things for granted, however, sometimes, one single picture speaks 1000 words. Now that we have access to high speed internet, even sharing huge files is easier than ever, making it realistically possible to record videos of unlawful occurrences happening in your workplace.

In my program, I actively worked in a lab setting. There are certain standards, policies, and SOPs that need to be followed to be in compliance with OSHA and other federal agencies. We will talk more about this in a later article. Photographic evidence is particularly useful in these situations, as it is often times easy to know when your lab is being noncompliant, however, it may be difficult to put into writing.

You can still supplement the photos with a figure legend, if you like, but in many cases, when you find violations, the pictures will speak for themselves (remember when I said a picture speaks 1000 words)?

A picture speaks 1000 words. In Arabic, words are drawn in a way to form a picture. This is art style is called called Basmalah.

Similarly, you can save text messages as a picture by taking screen captures. While inconvenient, in that the images don't contain plain text, many people tend to share more sensitive and/or personal information in this medium. SMS can be a great way to get other lab members to admit/confess that your supervisor asked them to do inappropriate things, such as harassment, sexual harassment, chores, or violence, to name a few. We will again explain what a PI can and can't ask you to do in later articles, but the point I am making here is that text messages can be a great way to capture this as evidence.

Finally, videos are essentially moving pictures. If one picture speaks 1000 words, then each second of footage speaks 24000 words (each second in a film is typically 24 frames/pictures). Make good use of this format as well. Just make sure that people aren't watching you record videos. Even if you are in the right, it can come off as suspicious behavior, which is asking for trouble. Additionally, similar rules apply with video recordings as do voice recordings. You must follow the same rules if you are video recording an interview, as you would for a voice recording. If they tell you to stop, or you don't have permission to record them, stop. Consider recording objects only, and only when you are alone. If you are concerned about using a lot of data to upload videos, consider dumping the videos onto your computer and using a free temporary file-hosting service like SendThisFile.

This was kind of a short post today, but that basically sums everything up that I can think of. I may go back and polish these posts as I gain more insight, or as people ask me more questions (I haven't gotten any, yet). If you have been following me all the way from the first post on Recordkeeping 101, then congratulations. You pass the class. In our next module, we will begin to introduce internal and external resources to getting help with filing complaints and grievances. Stay tuned for another interesting miniseries. I look forward to seeing you again.



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