The Temperton Lab Pirate Code
During the golden age of piracy, pirate ships were governed by a set of principles that formed the beginnings of democracy and inclusivity that we are still striving towards today. Small teams of ambitious pirates from diverse backgrounds took on the world and won because they worked as tight-knit teams that looked out for each other. They were masters of marketeering, and their reputations were as powerful a weapon as their cutlasses, for both recruitment and conquest.
After reading the book Be More Pirate (which I highly recommend), I realised that running a scientific lab shares much in common with these pirate ships - high pressure, often cramped, limited resources and free to change course and pursue other goals. Most importantly, working as a team brought success to all, with the spoils shared equally among the team.
Underpinning the pirate success was an established code of rules to which each member of a ship would agree to and abide by. Adherence to the code was enforced by the crew themselves to maintain discipline without the need for top-down, heavy handed punishments that so many had escaped from in their previous lives as professional sailors. In a similar vein, the Temperton Lab operates under the following code:
Science is an international profession, and studies show that diverse groups increase creativity by approaching challenges from a wide range of opinions. Behaviour that makes others feel uneasy or unwelcome as a result of their ability, experience, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference will NOT be tolerated. Be respectful of differences and strive to learn from each other.
No one is responsible for the success of your project except you (with guidance from me). If experiments need reagents to be ordered, plasticware to be washed or samples to be taken, it is your responsibility to make it happen. We do not have dedicated personnel for day-to-day lab maintenance. There is some scope for help from others in the group (e.g. with T1 ordering, data analysis etc.), but it is your responsibility to minimise the effort to the person helping you (e.g. give them a product code and a link to the thing you want ordering, getting your data into an appropriate format). It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the lab clean, organised and running smoothly. We have systems in place to record reagent usage so we know when things are running low. Use the whiteboard and/or the Slack ordering channel to note when things are getting low (e.g. below 50%).
Reputation counts for a lot in science. A well-regarded lab attracts the best talent to the benefit of present, past and future members. Represent the lab with pride and integrity, and show respect for others. You are an ambassador for the lab as well as a member - our reputation both inside the University and beyond will be shaped by how you interact with our colleagues. Don’t air dirty laundry in public.
Maintain a legible, organized, and fully-updated lab notebook that includes where all your samples are stored. It is strongly advised that a digital lab book is maintained so that sharing, version control, and cloud backup is implemented. There are numerous tools for doing this. I will provide you with an Evernote Premium subscription to achieve this if you desire one. All tubes, cultures etc. in the lab need to be fully and legibly labelled with your name, date and contents (concentration for reagents; strain for cultures). Strive for a standard where if you fell sick for a week or longer, someone else could keep your research going. We have standard laboratory protocols for many types of experiment. Follow them and record if you deviate, and why. If you think a protocol is needed for a method so that others could repeat it, write it and submit it to me for addition to the digital archive.
Everyone has a bad day from time to time - science is full of failure and rejection. Don’t be that person who is constantly bitching about something. No one ever solved a problem by just moaning about it. Talk to your peers, talk to me and find a solution. Do not undermine the group atmosphere by complaining about other students to one another, or to members of other groups. Any issues with lab members (either in our group or outside) need to be discussed first with that person in a calm, constructive manner, and/or with me if further action is necessary. Accepting criticism can be challenging, but unresolved interpersonal conflict is toxic.
Keep competition within the group to a friendly minimum. Attend all lab meetings where possible and offer advice and constructive criticism to your colleagues. Look out for each other’s mental health. Report any concerns about wellbeing to me as soon as you notice them. Be ready and willing to share your knowledge with others.
There is no such thing as bad data. I don’t expect particular results from experiments, so present what the data is telling you. Nor do I expect lab members to be faultless. Honest mistakes will be made and are part of the training. Breakages and damage to equipment are unfortunate but can be resolved calmly and efficiently, if I am made aware of them. Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve. If you feel you have too much work, talk to me and we will adjust your projects accordingly.
Be Digitally Resilient
You are responsible for your own data. Get a system in place to regularly back up your work and data in two separate places. Hard drives will fail.
You are the next generation of scientists. Take any opportunity to tell the world about the cool science you are doing. Present at and attend research conferences. Engage a wider audience with your research through online seminars, Soapbox Science events etc.
As a member of the Temperton lab, you are expected to:
- Generally maintain a positive, solution-oriented attitude
- Cultivate your curiosity about the work you do and think creatively
- Actively participate in all laboratory group functions
- Treat all lab equipment with respect and care and perform regular maintenance as necessary.
- Be responsible for your own schedule, but you are expected to be doing ~40 hours a week, with at least four hours overlap with the rest of the team (12pm-4pm), and on weekends and evenings when necessary for your project**.
- Be flexible, available, and willing to work beyond your personal schedule in emergencies or crunch times
- Respect other people’s work hours. Avoid unnecessary communication at weekends or evenings.
- Clear any anticipated absences with me a couple of weeks prior to leaving so that all experiments and other work can be properly locked down or handed off for the days you will be gone
- Deal with research challenges in the following order:
- Sit down and think about solutions yourself
- Look for answers in the literature
- Solicit advice from fellow lab-mates
- Seek advice of the PI. I’m always happy to discuss issues, but it’s in all our best interests if you first work on the problem yourself.
- If we’re still struggling, we’ll go outside the lab for advice (see next)
- Include me on all communications regarding any lab research (yours or others). This includes cc’ing me on emails and making me aware of any conversations outside of email. Basic research is a competitive environment, involving valuable intellectual property (ideas and techniques), and intense competition for funding at all levels. All members of the lab are expected to exercise discretion in revealing the details of our work. This does not mean we will not be open with our work among colleagues, only that I need to be aware of the communication beforehand. If you are unsure of what level of detail you can describe to whom, please ask me about it in advance.
- When presenting data to me, do so in an appropriate format (e.g. graph, table, figure). Convince me of what you’re saying with data. Snippets through the Slack channel are interesting, but remember I have many projects to manage simultaneously and important details can get lost. Email is a better format for long discussions.
- When presenting written work to me for feedback, make sure that it has been proofread by at least one other person before I see it (either inside or outside of the lab group). Reviewing documents is much more efficient and constructive if I’m not required to fix grammar/spelling issues.
- My expectation of Ph.D. students is that you produce at least 2 first-author publications.
- My expectation of MbyRes students is to present your work as a poster at a conference.
- Adhere to the code
As the PI of the Temperton Lab, I am expected to:
- Obtain funding from external sources by which to pay for salaries, supplies, and general lab operations
- Ensure the overall integrity, quality, and rigor of the work that is produced by the group
- Provide mentorship, guidance, and support to those who work in the lab, including, but not limited to, technical training for lab protocols and equipment, experimental design, project strategy and planning, manuscript preparation and submission, logistics, job searches, poster and oral presentations, teaching, letters of recommendation and career advice.
- Develop and nurture a culture of curiosity, exploration, learning, teamwork, and positive, solution-oriented attitudes throughout the lab
- Ensure a safe and supportive work environment free from any forms of harassment and dedicated to personal equality
- Develop and nurture collaborations with other PIs and their lab members
- Approve all abstracts, manuscripts, or any other representation of the research that comes from the lab
- Be timely and constructive with comments on abstracts, proposals, and manuscripts in preparation
- Present at and attend research conferences
- Give credit where credit is due and actively promote team members
- Represent the lab with pride and integrity, and show respect for others
- Adhere to the code
As a postdoctoral researcher you are expected to:
- Play a leadership role in managing projects on which you are working. This can include developing your own research ideas, coordinating among team members, securing the necessary materials to complete your work, and developing new collaborations. It also includes setting a good example of proper research conduct, integrity, and work ethic; providing advice and guidance to junior team members; and encouraging a creative, collaborative environment.
- Provide technical training for graduate students and undergraduate researchers.
- Provide high-quality manuscript drafts with publication-ready figures to the PI.
- Discuss possible job applications with the PI in advance so proper time away expectations can be developed.
- Adhere to the code
*Adapted from The Thrash Lab
**Undergraduates are expected to manage their time between lab work and their studies appropriately