What Are Your Research Group’s Scientific Core Values?

At institutional level a mission statement and set of core values are important to drive decisions and growth. As I have worked with an amazing team at LUMCON to build and innovate, refining and focusing on the mission and values continually prove invaluable. They serve as a consistent reminder of who we strive to be and what we hope to accomplish.

And now I’m wondering if my lab and research group should adopt the same. I’ve worked hard to try to establish a specific lab culture for my group and to give us focus but this remains far from a set of operating principles.

As far as the research mission, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration recently from the Hedgehog Concept and hitting the sweet spot.

Adapted for scientific use…

  1. Understand the science and research you are truly passionate about.
  2. Identify the science and research you do better than anyone else or perhaps better the science and research that is unique to you
  3. Determine the science and research that leads to the greatest impact as you choose to define it (e.g. publications, citations, conservation or policy impact, public knowledge, significant contribution to knowledge, etc.)

And to be honest, scientists most often focus 2 and 3 and forget completely to fully engage what they are passionate about. By the way, I am thinking my sweet spot is resarch at the interstection of energetics, body size, and biodiversity.

As I set squarely in the middle of my scientific career, I am thinking more about re-engaging my passion for science. With this thinking, I have set toward developing a set of core values for my research group, a set of operating principles that drives the actions and behaviors of myself, research scientists, graduate students, technicians, and undergraduates who all work in my lab.

As a first crack, I came up with these

  1. Do awesome science with awesome people. And to make that happen…
  2. Awesome science requires safe spaces for awesome people.
  3. Awesome science is open and inclusive. Awesome people are diverse.
  4. Awesome science stems from being hard on ideas but easy on awesome people.
  5. Awesome science require playfulness.
  6. Awesome science stems from the pursuit of answers above the pursuit of papers, prestige, and payment

And now I want your feedback! What are your lab’s core principles? What is missing from this list?

Hedgehog Photograph By Lars Karlsson (Keqs) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=950134

Dr. M (1800 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


One Reply to “What Are Your Research Group’s Scientific Core Values?”

  1. You make related points, but how about humility. Towards your personal knowledge and work (giving credit to others), also towards our collective knowledge and its limits.

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