This Values and Expectations Statement provides guidelines and implementation details about lab cultural values. This document outlines expectations for lab members in specific roles and guidelines for maintaining lab values, including collegiality, mentorship, diversity, inclusion, mental and physical wellbeing, safety, and scientific integrity.
Lab Values Statement | Expectations | Collegiality | Mentorship and Onboarding New Members | Diversity & Inclusion | Scientific Integrity | Mental & Physical Wellbeing | Safety & Cleanliness | Manuscripts & Authorship | Responding to Reviews | Conferences
Last revised: 2022-12-19
Each member of our lab brings something important to the team. We strive to create an environment where every lab member can achieve their full potential in the lab. Every voice should be heard. Diversity of thought and background are celebrated, and all are welcome. Respect for each other is integral to our lab culture.
This document is shared publicly on our website to remind lab members of the type of environment the CDAC seeks to foster.
Text and ideas in places borrow heavily from https://hammondlab.mit.edu/labvalues/ and https://www.massgeneral.org/neurology/research/mukerji-lab-team .
I expect everyone in our lab to uphold the lab values. Although expectations of lab members vary with time and experience in the lab and, each member is expected to embrace the spirit of our values from the start.
An important part of my job is to facilitate the intellectual advancement of lab members so they can pursue rewarding careers. You should keep me up to date about your professional goals. Part of my job is to help you think about your interests and the opportunities open to you. I am responsible for setting standards for excellence in research and providing a path for you to learn and grow in your scientific abilities. I aim to help you become an independent and ethical researcher and to develop skills in team building, mentorship, communication and other skills that you will need in any career you chose. I will try to be available to you for the critical discussions needed to develop your research problem and plan, discuss results, and to guide your research and career. I will strive to support your professional development, provide opportunities to attend conferences to present your work, engage with peers, and help you develop connections to others in the research community. If you ever have conflicts with other lab members, you can feel safe coming to me. I will do my best to help you address the issue. If you ever need to speak with me one-on-one, you can let me know and we will set up the time – or you can contact my administrative assistant to put you on my calendar. If there is a time-sensitive matter, you can let my admin know and we will do our utmost to accommodate. In general, we will work together on your project idea and concepts, and I will seek to see you take on the lead role in executing and leading the project as you advance in your development in the lab.
Postdocs, Fellows, and Medical Residents
As a postdoc, fellow, or medical resident you should be working toward scientific independence and the next stage of your career. I am ready to help with writing fellowship and grant applications, and big-picture project strategies and design. Postdocs are expected to master the technical, basic science, and medical literature related to their research area, act independently when drafting manuscripts, mentor and train junior members, and act as lab leaders. Depending on your career goals you may be more or less involved in grant applications as a key part of your training.
Undergraduates and other visiting students
CDAC welcomes undergraduates and other visiting students to gain training in both research methods and the scientific process through working with graduate students or postdoc mentors. Undergraduates and visiting students are expected to come to the lab on the days and hours agreed upon and to be willing to learn and make corrections when given feedback. When the time comes for letters of recommendation, the student will be expected to prepare a first draft of the letter. Brandon and the direct mentor will work together to revise and finalize letters of recommendation.
RCs are an integral part of the lab. They are expected to be thoroughly familiar with and to diligently execute laboratory protocols, to manage IRB responsibilities assigned to them, and to maintain data integrity, among other responsibilities. In most cases RCs will report to a fellow, senior PhD student, or a postdoc for day-to-day lab operations. I will gladly assist RCs in achieving their own career goals (e.g. meeting to discuss graduate school or medical school applications). RCs are valued members of the lab with the same level of participation as people in other roles. For example, they will receive the same types of general lab responsibilities, and are highly encouraged to take part in lab meetings and social events sponsored by the lab.
Just like all new lab members, the early stages of your PhD should revolve around developing good scientific questions. Whether your projects are well-defined or in development, this is the time to hammer out a framework for your time in the lab. Work hard to craft and refine your ideas and to communicate the with other lab members and with me. Consider applying for external funding. While your projects are developing, it is also a good time to get experience by assisting with ongoing projects in the lab. This stage of your PhD studies can seem uncertain – don’t be afraid to seek advice from senior lab members, who have been there before. Before long you will be a senior member of the lab. Then you will be expected take on leadership responsibility within the lab, mentorship younger lab members, and execute your project more independently as you prepare to write your papers and thesis. You will be expected to assist with manuscript preparation in non-author (editing) roles, and with grant applications. Embrace these opportunities – these are essential skills for you to learn.
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All lab members are expected to cultivate a collegial, kind, and accessible atmosphere in which each of us can learn and grow. Be welcoming to one another and proactive in opening discussions and offering assistance. Approachability and patience in communication.
Approachability and patience
When discussing your research, remember to start at a basic level. Members of the lab come from different fields and backgrounds, so you should not assume that someone understands the basic concepts that underlie your projects. Be kind when someone asks you a question or for help, even if the answer seems obvious to you. Your reactions can impact somebody’s self-esteem, confidence, and willingness to ask for help again. Keeping in mind the diversity of our personal and scientific backgrounds. Be patient in working through misunderstandings. Everyone in the lab is trying to do their best science and help one another as much as possible.
Asking for, receiving, and giving help
If you are struggling with a particular method or concept, it is preferable to ask another lab member for help than to try to reinvent the wheel. To this end, consider asking newer or less experienced lab members to help on a project that is relevant to their skills. They probably have not yet had many collaboration opportunities, and older lab members may already have their hands full elsewhere.
Fellowship and commiseration
Don’t forget to celebrate one another’s achievements, and don’t be afraid to share yours with the lab. They will be excited with you! By the same token, when you have a disappointing experimental result or receive a “rejection” on an application or manuscript, remember that your lab mates understand what you’re feeling, and are happy to provide empathy and advice.
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There will be two designated Onboarding Stewards for the lab, who will assist with introductions and administrative onboarding tasks. In addition, I will assign a primary mentor for each new member of the lab. This mentor is responsible for ensuring that newer members of the lab feel welcome. New members may include graduate students, postdocs, visiting students and scientists and technicians/staff. The role of the primary mentor includes introducing the new member to the rest of the lab, providing a general overview of lab structure and organization, and ensuring new members are aware of policies laid out by the lab culture document. Mentors will also extend lab social invitations, inform new members of all general lab knowledge (e.g. mailing lists, Slack, lab meetings, etc.), and answer questions related to lab culture, conduct, subgroup-specific protocols. In particular, if the newer lab member is a postdoc, medical resident or fellow, or first-year graduate student, I expect that mentors will include mentees on their projects to learn basic skills while the mentee is establishing their own research project direction. Over time, the mentee, in a collaborative process with input, guidance and approval from me, will be responsible for fully developing and driving their own research directions. If the mentee is a research coordinator (RC), mentors will engage them directly in their research projects and provide the background and technical context to the project. RCs are also encouraged to provide their own input and perspectives on the projects that they are working on in the lab and to work and act independently within the scope of their projects.
Recognize that newer lab members are particularly vulnerable to imposter syndrome. What you may feel to be basic knowledge will not be basic knowledge for everyone. Take this as an opportunity to learn from someone that may have valuable knowledge from a different field.
You are responsible for your success. Asking for help is expected, and you should not feel uncomfortable reaching out to others who can provide mentorship in other, more specific areas (e.g. manuscript-writing, thesis proposals, grant-writing, professional development etc.). I expect longer-term lab members to help in these areas if they have expertise. If it is not clear who to ask for help, lab members can post their questions on the group Slack.
All lab members
Everyone can be a mentor. And everyone can be a mentee. Good lab culture can only be maintained when lab members are equally willing to help and learn from each other. This includes inviting new members (who may not be your direct mentee) to review code, shadow you when conducting clinical assessments, offering to walk through and discuss data, helping out or working as a team when wrangling data, etc etc etc. Bear in mind that the kindness you show others today will be repaid in kind to those that come after.
If ever mentor-mentee relations become strained to the point where conflict is interfering with daily research activities and the wellbeing of either party, it is important to let me know. Particularly when there are power dynamics involved, it may be impossible to resolve such conflict without mediation.
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Calvin Mackie said, “If you do not intentionally, deliberately, and proactively include, you unintentionally exclude.” Lab members are expected to intentionally, deliberately, and proactively include all members at all times. Diversity Lab members should recognize and appreciate the diversity of scientific and personal backgrounds of other lab members. Lab members are expected to have patience and understanding for different cultures and backgrounds and have an attitude of forgiveness towards misunderstandings or conflict. Diversity makes our lab stronger. Everyone has something to contribute and something to learn.
In lab-sponsored or lab-centric social events, it is expected that the invitation be extended to all lab members. For example, the CDAC lab meeting is always open to all lab members.
Lab Policy on Discrimination
Lab members are expected to always show respect towards others. Lab members shall not discriminate or use any behavior or language that might be considered discriminatory. Lab members are expected to follow the discrimination policy outlined in the Harvard Handbook [LINK]. Our lab believes that kindness matters and lab members are expected to act accordingly.
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Lab records – All lab members are required to keep detailed records of methods, data and code. This can be stored in a Dropbox folder or in GitHub, with me as the owner so that the data is not lost when you leave the lab. In either case, digital versions of all notes, data, files, and code must be made available to future lab members. Reproducibility is imperative to good science, and detailed records can save a future lab member months or years of effort in working to repeat your results. Keeping careful records of your experiments will also save you time in the long run. Excellent and detailed recording habits also help should you have an idea or finding that ultimately leads to a patent.
Methods – The methods section of papers can be critical for reproducibility / repeatability of experiments and can impact a lab’s credibility if results are called into question. Lab members should make every effort to carefully record experiments and methods and to provide complete and thorough methods sections in their writing, sufficient to allow others to reproduce your results.
File organization – develop a logical file organization system early on and keep all raw data files in a separate folder (don’t save over them!). This will save you the headache of having to sift through years of data later when you’re writing a manuscript. No one should have to guess at which experiment goes with which result. Our lab uses Dropbox for backing and sharing data. Each lab member should have a personal folder within the lab’s “Team” folder. Additional folders are maintained inside the Team folder for specific projects. All lab-related data should be stored in the Team folder.
Protocols – New protocols or updates to protocols should be deposited to the Protocols folder in the lab Dropbox Team folder, which is overseen and organized by the Protocol Steward.
PHI (Protected Health Information) —All lab members are expected to follow BIDMC rules regarding handling of PHI.
Reporting results – Negative results are just as important as positive results — and can end up saving time and resources for future researchers. For this reason, you are required to include all results (including negative ones) as well as detailed notes on failed procedures and methods.
Data Manipulation and Academic Misconduct
Any form of data manipulation will not be tolerated and can ultimately result in the reporting of the violation to Research & Academic Affairs (R&AA), and ultimately in termination of employment. If you believe that someone else is falsifying results, please come directly to me to alert me of the concerns. This process applies to all other modes of academic misconduct, including plagiarism and malicious interference in others’ projects. If you have any doubts about whether you are presenting and interpreting data correctly, you should seek input from other lab members.
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Harvard can be a stressful place full of high expectations. But remember that you are here first and foremost to learn. Your growth and development are paramount. The lab should be a place people love to be. Be proactive seeking help and be on the lookout for your lab mates’ wellbeing, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Productivity is a better metric than hours in the lab. That said, different disciplines have different metrics for productivity, and at the end of the day, I will judge your time here more by what you learned and how you grew than by what or where you published. Make space for your mental and physical wellbeing. Protect yourself and others by staying home when you are sick. Find alternative uses of your days such as data analysis or manuscript writing.
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Authority and duties of the lab manager
Questions related to safety and cleanliness, maintenance of lab equipment, animal protocols, and procedures should go to the lab manager. All lab members are expected to defer to the lab manager’s decisions on anything related to safety & cleanliness and complete any requested actions (e.g. cleaning) in a timely manner.
Personal spaces and datasets
All lab members are expected to keep their personal spaces organized, clean, and safe.
Cleanliness of shared spaces
All lab members are expected to keep shared equipment and spaces clean, tidy, and organized. These spaces should be left in at least the same condition they were found, if not tidier.
If a piece of equipment is broken, lab members are expected to report the situation to the lab manager and/or the equipment steward immediately upon discovery. Lab members are expected to address the issue if they feel comfortable doing so. Lab members must not ignore the problem or wait for someone else to take care of it.
Annual lab organizational meetings will be held to assign stewardships and discuss changes in the lab. All lab members must attend these meetings.
Individual Contributions to Overall Lab Cleanliness & Safety
All lab members are expected to contribute equally to maintenance of the lab, including stewarding pieces of equipment, participating in lab cleaning days, and helping with additional organized lab clean ups. Lab clean-up days are group activities that only work well when everyone participates; for that reason, it is mandatory that every lab member participates. Clean-up days will be scheduled at least two weeks ahead by the lab manager and for dates and times that all lab members can be present. If a lab member is planning to be absent from an organized lab cleaning event, they must provide a reason and be excused by the lab manager.
Authority and Duties of Equipment Stewards
If you are planning on using a piece of equipment, look up the steward for the piece of equipment and contact them before use. If the equipment requires training by the steward, lab members must request and complete training from that steward before attempting to use the equipment. Failure to do so may result in loss of access to that equipment. Stewards are expected to maintain and repair their equipment and train users as necessary.
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Publishing papers is the most important way that we disseminate our work to other researchers and the public. Since papers are important for applying for grants and fellowships and for putting yourself on the job market, you should plan carefully and discuss your timing and strategy with me. Here are a few things to keep in mind from the beginning of your time in the lab.
Outline Early and Often
You should begin to visualize contents and concepts for your paper as early as possible in a project and after any major result discovery. As soon as you begin a new line of investigation, start to generate research outlines to predict and guide your future research activity. Of course, outlining early means you will need to be flexible and open to major revisions as your research story evolves. Pay attention to opportunities to adapt and streamline your outlines and projects, for example swapping in different types of experiments to better provide data that supports your take-home messages. As an outline grows and matures, be sure to re-evaluate whether it still provides a single, cohesive story. If not, consider splitting it into two outlines and manuscripts to avoid a single, colossal paper.
Writing the Abstract and Introduction Patrick Winston’s VSNC paradigm (Vision, Steps, News, Contributions) is a helpful guide to writing an abstract and introduction that peeople will read. Also use the Inversion heuristic (imagine how the paper would be understood by a reader) to help your scientific writing be understood. The 5 S’s (Slogan, Symbol, Salient, Surprise, Story) can be helpful to help ensure your story is remembered (this applies even more to giving talks).
Use a reference manager. Do not type your references by hand. A reference manager makes it easy to collect new references from the web, to change reference formatting in your manuscript, and avoids the need to manually update references when you add new ones. The preferred reference manager in the lab is Zotero. Zotero is free.
Table 1 is a key part of most papers that we write in the lab. This is the table that presents descriptive statistics of baseline characteristics of the study cohort, stratified by “exposure.” Make Table 1 early on in your project. Doing this early will force you to think clearly about whether you’ve strictly followed (or forumated) your project inclusion and exclusion criteria, whether you have identified and gathered all the variables you need, data missingness, and data quality.
Checklists can be helpful to ensure your manuscript is not missing critical elements. Several of these have been created by thoughtful, experienced people. Checklists that lab members often find useful (or are required to use by reviewers) are on the “Resources” page.
Conversations about Authorship
It can be difficult to define the threshold between simply assisting and making an intellectual contribution to a project or paper. Therefore, we aim to normalize early and open conversations about authorship in the lab. If someone is advising or helping you with a project, it is important to discuss what contributions would be expected from a co-author. To help guide this discussion, you can look at different ways that research groups assign tasks and roles in papers. One example of this is the CRediT Taxonomy: https://www.cell.com/pb/assets/raw/shared/guidelines/CRediT-taxonomy.pdf
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Most papers require revisions before being accepted for publication. Editors rely on volunteer experts to donate their time to critique your paper. Respect the reviewers! While you might feel at times like writing a response like this, it is best to assume reviewers mean well and are doing their best. In any case, your manuscript will not be accepted unless you can satisfy the reviewers.
Some helpful general rules for responding to reviewers are:
In addition, I expect lab members to follow these lab-specific guidelines:
Developing a professional network is an essential part of your training, so each lab member is expected to attend conferences. With the typical exception of one’s first year in the lab, it is reasonable to expect to attend at least one conference per year. Which conference(s) you would like to aim for should be discussed and strategized with me; in cases where you have an interest in multiple meetings, I will ask you to prioritize which ones are key to disseminating your work and advancing your professional development. As you prepare a conference submission, be aware that some submissions are publicly shared and may affect where you can later submit a manuscript on the presented data. Additionally, you should plan ahead so that any submitted abstracts can be reviewed by all coauthors at least two weeks prior to the submission deadline. In some cases you may be able to practice your talk in lab meeting. Even when this is not possible, you are encouraged to ask a handful of lab mates to watch your practice and lend advice or tips for refining the presentation. Finally, remember that you are a representative of the lab when you are attending a conference, and your behavior should reflect the positivity, decorum, and interpersonal respect with which we operate.
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