Dynamic Lab Environment Guidelines

Letter to Lab Members

Welcome Dynamics Lab Folk!

As we get going with fall quarter, I want to let the new lab folks know about, and remind the old-timers of, some environment issues for the lab. I send a message like this out each year; this version is updated some so please re-read this even if it looks familiar.

General Environment Issues:
If you do not already have a copy of a 5-page hand-out about "good-enough" environments, please let me know and I'll give you a copy of this handout. I'm hoping a copy of this is also posted in the lab. One column is titled "some qualities of good-enough environments" and the other column is titled "some qualities of not good-enough environments." It is not specifically written for a work-place, and some of the items are not completely relevant or appropriate, but still, I think it is the best guide I've yet seen on what sort of environment I'd like us to have in the lab. In email or at our next lab meeting we can discuss anything that anyone wants to discuss from the handout. Please also read the separate page about your giving and getting a response from JJF.

Lab Upkeep:
You are each responsble for keeping the lab looking nice. This means tidying up, making things pretty, etc. There is no excuse for not doing your part to keep the lab in good shape and I shouldn't have to remind anyone about this. If you observe something you cannot fix yourself you should notify JJF ASAP.

This phone is a lab phone and it should not be used for personal calls except for emergencies. It is also currently the message number for Jennifer, so it is important not to tie up the phone. In a separate message I will send a "lab phone answering protocol" for when you answer the phone in the lab.

Lab Space Crunch:
We are once again a large group sharing a small space. I would like everyone to remember that the lab space, including each of the 5 lab rooms, is for research, and is not personal territory to be owned or controlled by one person. Running experiments is always the top priority. I'm hoping everyone can work out the details of sharing space with friendly discussions. Please speak with me or email me if you have concerns about the sharing of space that you cannot resolve happily with each other.

Lab Not a Lounge:
Because running subjects, data coding, and completing research is a priority, socializing with others should be kept in moderation. I want the lab to be a warm environment, but not the Straub Lounge (as it has at previous times had a tendency to become). This means that if you want to meet a friend and talk, try to find a different place to do that than the lab. And personal phone calls should be avoided. Please give your friends your office or home number, not the lab number for all but emergency calls. Basically the issue can be thought of as: does this activity interfere with research and work? If so, try to do it elsewhere. If not, go ahead and do it. One way you can interfere with work is by talking to or near someone who would otherwise be getting work done. Try to be sensitive to how distracting that can become. I know that when I'm in the lab trying to talk to someone, and a person from the department pokes his or her head in to ask if so and so is around, that distracts me from what I'm trying to do...even more if so and so starts talking to his or her friend within hearing distance of the lab.

Work and Personal Use of Equipment:
Same thing with using the computers for personal use (whether personal email, or whatever) -- it should not interfere with lab work but is otherwise okay. We have had in past years people abuse the privilege of the computers to spend inordinate amounts of time playing computer games or what not. This has not happened for some years, and I don't anticipate it as a problem at all, but I thought it would be a good thing to state anyway. Another related issue is letting other people use the computers. The lab computers are for lab members -- not for friends of lab members.

Personal/Work Boundaries in Relationships:
This is a tricky one, but I think it is best to make this explicit. It is my observation that dating between people sharing a close work space is usually a bad idea. It tends to create a difficult mess down the road, and often problems even early on. One problem is that people often don't realize that if the relationship does not work out as permanent (and most relationships don't of course), that the consequences of having had the relationship may make it impossible -- or at least take up a ridiculous amount of time and energy -- to develop a new compatible state of work relating. Often people also don't realize that there are power differentials between people in a work place that can consciously or unconsciously be used to hurt someone after a dating relationship does not work out. Sometimes it might seem there are no differentials, but these power differences may develop and become problematic. I know that sometimes attractions are hard to resist and it would be silly of me to make a rule that no one can fall in love , but I do ask that if you feel the inclination to date someone in the lab, you think through the consequences and ask yourself if this is something that maybe can take another course. I hope by this statement to be sharing my observations and wisdom, not to be imposing rigid rules on people. It seems a difficult territory to negotiate, but I don't think the answer is to avoid the topic altogether.

If you begin with big power differences, I strongly believe a dating relationship in the work place is likely to be harmful and should be avoided. You should also know that the APA ETHICAL PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGISTS AND CODE OF CONDUCT 2002 includes the following:

7.07 Sexual Relationships With Students and Supervisees
Psychologists do not engage in sexual relationships with students or supervisees who are in their department, agency, or training center or over whom psychologists have or are likely to have evaluative authority.

Tensions, Communications:
Tensions and conflicts in a shared work environment are natural. And in this setting we also have the additional pressure of a hierarchy in which I hold a lot of power embedded inside a big giant almost feudalistic system (that is the University). It is natural for people to feel angry or tense at times. My request is that everyone make an effort to constructively communicate issues when they come up. Also, this is another sort of funny one -- but here goes: I don't need to hear other people's comments about me. It is natural for students to complain about their advisors and professors sometimes, and no one should feel an obligation to come tell me such complaints on behalf of someone else. Sometimes just airing the complaints and getting some feedback from a fellow student or co-worker helps. But if the complaint is festering please speak to me yourself before it gets worse.
Please remember that the lab is a work environment situated inside a bigger work environment. While it is natural to get irritated with others at times, it is important for you to be professional and polite to people inside the lab, our research participants, and department members. If you are upset please consider absenting yourself so you have time to consider how you want to handle it, and do not "act out" in a way that will cause long-term harm. Also keep in mind that strained silences or other non-verbal expressions of anger and distress may be just as unprofessional and costly, as overtly nasty remarks. Please speak with me about any festering issues that you are unable to resolve in a reasonable timeframe!
A related communication issue is that of being responsive to requests from lab members. If a lab member sends you an email asking for information please respond promptly. Be RESPONSible. Also see giving and getting a response from JJF.

Records, Back-ups, Lab Organization:
You are each responsible for backing up your computer files. Each individual smaller computer is also shared so best to keep your files on removable media (zip or floppy). We must all share in keeping the lab organized. Each person is responsible for making sure that his or her programs and work are backed-up appropriately so as to avoid disaster should a computer have a disk failure. Keep good and clear records about all experiment running! Date and time things you print out. It may make sense to you today to read some computer code or a data file, but in a few weeks, never mind months, it will be mysterious gibberish if you have not put clear information about what it is and WHEN it was created. Please read specific information about file sharing at: File Sharing / Saving in Lab.
We generally enter data into Excel and then use programs like SPSS or SAS to analyze the data. You may find useful this page about entering data into Excel: http://cc.uoregon.edu/cnews/spring2003/datadesign.html

Human Subjects Compliance:
REMEMBER: Our compliance with human subjects committee is an absolutely sacred part of lab activity. This means that every study we conduct must be pre-approved. Any small change must be discussed with me and I will determine whether the change requires a modification memo. Never ever change a consent form without going through human subjects committee approval. Save all documentation of human subjects approval and file signed consent forms. Confidentiality of data is another absolute requirement. Most confidentiality problems occur out of disorganization - forms being left around. So please be organized and careful - its part of your ethical responsibility when in comes to confidentiality.

Lab Meeting: I expect you to come to lab meetings (and to let me know if you will not be there). Right before or after lab meetings are sometimes a good time to sign forms or have quick conversations. We usually take turns making general announcements for the lab at the beginning of the group meeting. If you are scheduled to make a presentation at lab meeting it is important you consult with me prior to the presentation about the content. If you have a handout or plan a visual presentation I need to preview it in time for you to make changes. One thing that should always be on handouts or presentations is the name of all collaborators, acknowledgements to others who have helped, the date, and usually you should include a disclaimer indicating it is preliminary information and not for citation or distribution. One other tip: Almost all the empirical research in our lab is collaborative. When discussing collaborative research always use the plural rather than singular ("our study" versus "my study" and "Jones' & Smith's project" versus "Jones' project"). If in doubt, err in the direction of sharing credit.

Keep lab doors locked:
Even when you leave the lab briefly, so to go to the water fountain, LOCK the doors behind you!!

Working at Odd Hours:
Sometimes it is easier to get participants scheduled at off-hours (that is, other than 8 AM-5 PM. M-F). It is fine with me if you schedule on weekends or evenings but I do want to make sure we are sensible about safety issues. In particular if it is very late the building and streets will be pretty empty and this reduces safety for both participants and Ras. So some lab policy and guidelines for you and your Ras:


Gathering JJF Feedback/Signature/Recommendation:
Please see the separate message about getting JJF signatures, recommendations, etc.

Well, I hope this information is clear and helpful and complete. I'm always open to feedback.

I'm so pleased to be working with each of you.