Chapter 5 Team culture
We discuss team culture because while we know that diverse teams are more innovative, creating spaces where everyone can do their best work and feel safe to contribute takes intention; it does not happen by default. There is a lot of work to do to improve research culture, and we can lead by example in our own research groups and communities.
Slides that have been presented during Champions Program Cohort Calls:
See also the following chapter on Codes of Conduct.
5.1 Why talk about team culture?
Role modeling sets a lot of team culture, and there is a lot we can learn and do to deliberately create a scientific culture that we want to be a part of.
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 We need to unlearn racism and build antiracist culture in science
5.1.4 Put your values forward
Model the behavior you want to see in your research group & beyond (lab, dept, campus, organization, online)
5.1.5 Building trust
Have to build trust and be intentional, don’t hope for organic.
- How to build (and rebuild trust - Frances Frei
5.1.6 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.
We must deliberately set the tone for collegiality to create a positive, inclusive research group environment.
Safety and accessibility as parts of inclusion and empowerment. Does everyone feel safe to speak up? Does everyone have channels to contribute? This is especially true as the tech we use evolves. Who can participate?
This builds resilience to your research group. If someone needs to leave for a family emergency, maternity/paternity leave, vacation, set yourselves up so your team continue smoothly/ — Angela Bassa RStudio talk
Opportunity cost of not doing this. Burnout, people leaving science.
5.2.2 Team efficiency
We must deliberately set the tone to create a positive, inclusive research group environment that fuels team efficiency.
This means create a team mindset, and focusing on similarities rather differences. We all work on different projects and have different research questions, but we all have to wrangle data, organize version files, have things we don’t know…let’s create a space where we can talk about all this and find common ground to tackle together so we don’t reinvent.
There can be an advantage to having team conventions. This can both reduce friction and reinventing the wheel. But there also needs to be room for different skills people come in with. For example, if they’re more efficient in Python, don’t want to force R. But want to create space where folks can interoperate and work together. The tech/software side helps with this, but it’s our mindsets too. We need to be open to it.
5.4 Enabling & participating
Here are some ideas that you can support and participate in to learn and create a kinder team culture:
5.4.2 Hackathons or documentation parties – co-create
5.4.4 Onboarding – how to welcome new people to your research group
5.4.5 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.
5.4.6 Code of Conduct (next chapter)!
5.5 Further Resources
- 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.”
- Inclusivity in STEM: Interview with Dr Mica Estrada (video, 17 mins). “Dr. Mica Estrada is a social psychologist and faculty member at University of San Francisco. Her research explores the role of identity and values in influencing the persistence of historically underserved students in STEM.”
- micro affirmations
- Recreating Wakanda by promoting Black excellence in ecology and evolution — Schell et al (2020)
- Get it wrong for me: What I need from allies — Carpenter (2020)
- A Practical Guide to Mentoring Across Intersections — Harriot (2020)
- For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies — Ariel (2017)
- Dr. Dori Tunstall on Respectful Design: Models for Diversity, Inclusion, & Decolonization — Tunstall (2020)
- Sexual harassment is rife in the sciences, finds landmark US study — Witze (2018)
- All We Can Save — Johnson & Wilkerson (2020)
- Braiding Sweetgrass — Kimmerer (2013)