Fostering a Healthy Scientific Culture
What can Principal Investigators do?
The Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee leads the integration of diversity and equity informed practices within the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. We promote the positive impact of inclusivity and diverse leadership within the laboratory, inside the classrooms, and at the departmental level. The well-being of each member of the BCS department plays an important role for the prosperity of research and innovation.
Embracing diversity in academia means more than acknowledging the differences we like amongst each other. It means to ensure a space that acknowledges the valid and distinct boundaries, needs, strengths, and limitations of each person.
Scientific leaders who are conscious of and committed to issues regarding anti-racism, discrimination, and intersectionality provide highly effective research environments in doing so.
Creating a lab handbook to model healthy lab culture and advance diversity and inclusion goals
Writing and committing to academic practices informed by DEI-related issues is an important first step that is relevant for all members of the academic community, not only historically marginalized identities. One important way that faculty can establish healthy mentorship practices and encourage productive discussion around anti-racism in their labs is to create a lab handbook. We have provided several templates below, including from our own BCS faculty. We suggest that faculty consider trainees’ feedback when writing and revising these handbooks over time.
By preparing a lab handbook, a Principal Investigator (PI) can:
- Include a fun, accessible description of the PI’s scientific vision for the lab
- Include a mission statement including DEI goals and reflection
- Provide resources for combating racism and other sources of bias in science (e.g., citation bias)
- Make a commitment to be transparent and accountable when it comes to professional goals and personal boundaries
- State expectations for how to interact with other lab members, as well as how to handle conflict, authorship issues, etc.
- Provide guidelines for inclusive language (e.g., respecting pronouns)
- Set the goals of different kinds of meetings within the lab
- Have a “lab culture” page that describes common event such as “new lab member lunch”, “game night”, or a community service performed together
- Set guidelines for a healthy work-life balance
- Set priorities for recruiting and retaining diverse trainees, such as attending conferences for underrepresented minority scholars. Examples: Black in Neuro, Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)
- Provide tips for collaboration within and outside of the lab
- Suggest the establishment of a personalized mentorship plan for trainees who would like more formal goal-setting
Lab handbook examples
- Wei Ji Ma’s Statement on Lab Culture and Expectations
- Elise Piazza’s lab handbook for the SoNIC lab (pdf)
- Adam Snyder's lab manual
- UCSF Guide for talking about race and inequity with your lab