Diversity Improves Science Ten Rules to Make Lab Meetings More Productive
Editor: Alexander Stark
A new paper seeks to help scientists structure their lab-group meetings so that they are more inclusive, more productive and, ultimately, lead to better science. The scientists have outlined their results in ten simple rules.
Amherst/USA — The word “scientist” might conjure images of lab-coated researchers tending bubbling beakers or building supercomputers, but an enormous amount of scientific work takes place around a conference table during weekly group meetings.
Productive lab meetings foster a sense of participation, integration, and inclusion among a diverse lab community, and leverage the diversity of experiences and skills of lab members. Diversity and inclusion starts with the structure of the lab meeting itself. Graduate Student and one of the co-authors of the study, Kadambari Devarajan and her colleagues developed a set of ten guiding principles that help to cultivate lab environments that are inclusive as well productive lab environment, which range from the practical with “Rule 2: Identify roles and rules” and “Rule 6: Manage conflict” to the interpersonal with “Rule 5: Be respectful and practice civility” and “Rule 9: Be aware of biases”.
There is plenty of good research showing that diversity and inclusion make the science itself better
Each of the ten rules came out of the team's own working practice, honed by years of use, in Toni Lyn Morelli's lab, whose members hail from countries around the globe and are in various stages of their careers. Morelli (Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and US Geological Survey), a co-author of the paper and a research ecologist affiliated with the environmental conservation department as well as the organismic and evolutionary biology program, notes that though diversity and inclusion are of interest far beyond the realm of science, there's not always a practical guide to go by. “How does one create a diverse and inclusive lab that enables all members to bring their whole selves? What week-to-week actions can reinforce the sense of community and increase an individual's, and thus the whole group's, productivity?” She hopes that these guidelines can act as inspiration for her graduate students, as well as other lab groups, to build similar and even better spaces in the future.
When answers to practical questions such as these are approached deliberately, the result can be powerful and long-lasting. “Lab meetings can be some of the most memorable and rewarding moments in our academic careers,” write the authors, and can help “increase diversity in science, boost scientific creativity, and facilitate problem solving”.
Perhaps most powerfully, the paper's authors argue that what happens in the lab doesn't just stay in the lab — it ripples out into society at large. “Science isn't isolated from what's happening outside of academia,” says Nigel Golden, co-lead author, graduate student in environmental conservation, and a fellow at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, “the world is influencing our science, and our science is influencing the rest of the world”.
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