Lab decalogue

A while ago I wrote a lab decalog and I was not brave enough to post it. I was afraid of being judged as silly, or idealist, or naive, but here it is. I may not always accomplish to follow the following decalog, but trying is the first step.

Lab members should aim to (in no particular order):
  1. Be passionate and curious, enjoy science. We dedicate a lot of time to science, regardless of the low job stability and relatively low salaries, so we should love what we do.
  2. Be nice. You may think science is about ideas and data, but at the end its about the people who is behind. A good rule of thumb in case of conflict is to always assume good faith. The best way to solve problems is to talk about it. Even among labs (but specially within), we are not competitors, but team mates.
  3. Support open science in the degree it is possible for you. Assure reproducibility of your results, deposit you data and code (use Git!), engage with the scientific community, participate of the peer review process and sign your reviews.
  4. Think big. Which is the relevant question that science and/or society needs an answer. Then think how you can contribute. Resources in science are scarce, so we should focus on answering relevant questions (from small applied problems to big unifying theories, but relevant)
  5. Talk a lot. Gain confidence to say what you think. Ask for help when needed, offer collaboration when you can. Know new people and see new points of view. Best ideas can come from anyone.
  6. Go for quality, not quantity. Good experimental designs, solid datasets, well developed methods take time and I understand there is pressure for publishing, but I believe it pays off in the long run.
  7. Never stop learning. And take your time to think about what you learned in each project and make it count.
  8. Prioritize. Be engaged, but say “No” when you don’t have the time to dedicate. Prioritize your goals and do not compromise if you can’t. There is also lots of good things to do in life beside work, and those needs time too.
  9. Read broadly and read a lot. Part of our job is reading papers. Having a holistic view require time to read. Learn how to read, while in some papers you would need to focus in the introduction, others you would like to dissect the methods, do not treat all papers equal.
  10. Start side projects. Even better if you finish them. I explicitly encourage you to make use of the 20% rule. Use up to one day a week for other activities not directly related with your PhD/main project. You can involve me in it or not, you can learn something new, draw bees, have a blog, do an outreach project, develop and test a new method that may not work, collaborate in a crazy idea with someone else, read about a topic out of your area. In the long run, it pays off.
  11. Above all, be flexible. As scientists we require the flexibility to have eleven items in a  decalog. To change our mind on how to best be productive. To adapt to the new challenges.

7 thoughts on “Lab decalogue

    • Thanks Brian, I had a lot of good discussions lately on balancing your own career with doing good science, and probably you have to care about both to balance them.

  1. Thank you for posting this. I like especially point no. 11… Flexibility is actually missing very often. Sometimes I wonder how people can stick to what should be instead of seeing what really is. And then miss a lot of good opportunities.
    And then point 2. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Pingback: Recommended reads #60 | Small Pond Science

  3. I find this really useful. The 20% rule is new to me, but nice!
    In general there is a big imbalance between pressures for publishing and career, doing good science and still having time to other personal interests and personal life in general. But in my experience (despite my short career…haha), reserving some time to other personal interests (not science) have resulted in more creativity and productivity (and that remembers me points 7 and 10).
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. I enjoyed reading your Decalogue and you’ re probably right: all these characteristics make us good scientists and create a healthy and productive environment.
    I wonder though, how many of us are strong enough and manage not to loose their passion and big ideas when simply there is no environment to act or work on.
    It’s the decreasing number of opportunities together with the increasing number of scientists that worries me.
    Thanks for sharing and keeping open this very interesting discussion:)

    • This is a very good point. Pressure to publish a lot and fast to secure your job often works against doing good science. And especially in Spain is desperating to see good scientists struggle to find a job (or even quit science) :(


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