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.

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.

5.2.1 Collegiality

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:

5.4.1 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.”�

5.4.2 Hackathons or documentation parties – co-create

5.4.3 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

5.4.4 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