Chapter 5 Lab culture

5.1 Why talk about lab culture?

Please see accompanying slides until this chapter is built out more.

5.1.1 Science benefits from diversity

And we need to be deliberate about welcoming and including people from diverse backgrounds.

A few recent articles from Nature with many more links within:

5.1.2 Sexual harassment is rife in the sciences

Sexual harassment is rife in the sciences, finds landmark US study. Existing policies to address the issue are ineffective, concludes a long-awaited report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Most common form is gender harassment: it’s the “put-downs as opposed to come-ons”.

5.1.3 Put your values forward

Model the behavior you want to see in your lab & in academia. (lab, dept, campus, online)

5.1.4 Building trust

Have to build trust and be intentional, don’t hope for organic

5.1.5 Sustain the culture

Overtly showing kindness & a Code of Conduct can filter out people who don’t want to be subject to its enforcement – rOpenSci

Labs have people coming and going all the time; how do you set the tone and have it be sustainable?

5.2 Deliberately setting the tone

Opening remarks at RStudio::conf 2019, in front of an audience of 1700 at a global software conference, Chief Scientist Hadley Wickham announces the Code of Conduct, how to identify RStudio staff if you need help, and how to mingle with welcoming body posture to invite others to join. This set the tone of the whole conference to be the most positive I have ever attended.

5.3 Collegiality

Deliberately setting the tone for collegiality.

5.3.1 Positive, inclusive lab environment.

5.3.2 Safety and accessibility as parts of inclusion and empowerment.

5.3.3 Reslience

Add resilience to your lab. If someone needs to leave for a family emergency, maternity/paternity leave, vacation, set yourselves up so your lab continue smoothly/ — Angela Bassa RStudio talk

Opportunity cost of not doing this. Burnout, people leaving science.

5.4 Lab efficiency

Deliberately setting the tone for lab efficiency

5.4.1 Team mindset: focus on similarities rather the differences.

5.4.2 Sharing & collaboration: default to assuming good intentions.

5.4.3 Advantage to having lab conventions

But need room for different skills people come in with.

Reduce friction and reinventing the wheel.

If they’re more efficient in python, don’t want to force R.

5.4.4 Open software can facilitate open/shared culture

This is (next week’s topic)!

5.5 Enabling & participating

5.5.1 Seaside chats – discuss share data workflows

From Michelle Stuart’s blog about the Pinsky Lab’s first Fishbowl chat:

This open communication has leaked into the general discussion going on in our open work space. Lab members seem more comfortable with asking teammates for help, and it is exciting to see all of us getting on the same page with our data science."�

5.5.2 Hackathons or documentation parties – co-create

5.5.3 Social events

Get to know each other outside of work. Do some during work hours can include more people who can’t participate after work

5.5.4 Onboarding – how to welcome new people to your lab

5.5.5 Asking for help

Create a welcoming environment where they know where to ask for help – They won’t know what questions to ask. Provide structure.

5.5.6 Code of Conduct (next slide deck)

5.6 Post Cohort Call Resources

5.7 Further reading

  • A Practical Guide to Mentoring Across Intersections - Harriot 2020 VanguardSTEM Blog
  • Get it wrong for me: What I need from allies - Carpenter 2020.
    • “Now, when someone asks, ‘what do you need from me’, I say, ‘I need you to learn, I need you to care’. Somehow, we’ve all evolved to underestimate the power of learning and the power of seeking to understand. Knowing what things harm me is a sign that you value me. …Then I want an ally who works to change their individual behavior and change the system around us for the better. Not just one or the other. I want a bunch of people who are interested in becoming allies to me to get it wrong. Because I promise, you will get it wrong, likely more than once. But please get it wrong, for me. Be wrong on my behalf. Try stuff, learn stuff, make attempts, and fail. Embrace the discomfort of not knowing, of not being certain, of not understanding and then be motivated enough to learn and get better. I will give you grace if you give me effort. We are risking our lives; you can risk getting things wrong.”