CORE Lab 2020 Lab Philosophy/Workflow Hackathon

Today, September 16, 2020, we organized the yearly lab philosophy/workflow hackathon of the CORE Lab. To get all the lab members on one page and to reduce error as much as possible, we have a lab philosophy that is accompanied by various documents to facilitate our workflow. But research standards evolve and we also often notice that the way we conduct our research is not as optimal as we would like it to be. As new tools seem to be created daily, we can also not keep up with new developments without hurting our research. And it is important that those who do research daily provide input in the procedures they work with. That’s why we decided on a meeting once a year, where all lab members can have their say in how we are going to work that academic year. The new product is available here.

This year, the procedure was the following:
  • All lab members (Patrick Forscher, Bastien Paris, Adeyemi Adetula, Alessandro Sparacio, and Olivier Dujols) submitted to Hans in a direct message via our Slack what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to add, and what we should do better (in relation to what is already in the lab philosophy).
  • Hans gathered all the information, organized them by category (commented on some), and then posted them in a public channel in Slack again.
  • All lab members got a chance to discuss each other’s suggestions via Slack. 
  • Hans created a Google Doc and organized the information by category. 
  • This morning and after lunch, we discussed points that we were still not entirely in agreement on or that we thought were important enough to discuss in more detail (e.g., should we write a section on COVID-19? Should we include standard R Snippets on our OSF page? Do we think our Research Milestones Sheet is important, and, if it is, how do we ensure frequent updates? Do we want to keep our Box.com account? Do we want to start integrating GitHub for version control of our data and analysis scripts? Do we want to participate in the paper-a-day challenge or do we want to encourage regular reading in a different way? For all of these: how do we ensure adoption as well as possible?). We also went through a list of new tools that we had found via various sources (usually via Twitter, thanks Dan Quintana), and decided which ones we wanted to adopt.
  • Then lab members claimed tasks they wanted to complete: writing new sections, getting rid of obsolete ones, or adding information to our workspace. All lab members also reviewed our lab canon.
  • To get a sense of community that we usually miss, we ordered food and ate “together” via Skype. 
  • Once the document was finished, Patrick and Hans reviewed the changes and made final decisions.
Here are some things we really liked (this is a non-exhaustive list):
  • Our code review section. 
  • Our section on work-life balance.
  • Our clear communication of lab values. 
  • Our test week data. 
  • Our daily stand up sessions.
Here are some of our major changes (again, a non-exhaustive list):
  • We expanded our onboarding section. 
  • We changed our Research Milestones Sheets (RMS) and added some tools. For example, by default, we will now use Statcheck to check p-values in our articles and use Connected Papers to help with our literature reviews. We also created a new way to ensure regular updating by integrating the RMS into the weekly meeting agenda of the PhD students (and emphasized that people can earn rewards four times a year if other lab members do not earn theirs). 
  • We added a section on intellectual humility, encouraging lab members to write Constraints on Generality and to rely on evidence frameworks to not go beyond their data.
  • We added a section on COVID-19.
  • We already had a journal club and a weekly writing block but did not describe it in the document. This has now been added. 
  • We lagged in regularly releasing releases on our website. We will do monthly releases of our products (e.g., articles, interviews, blog posts), and presentations and appointed lab members who are responsible for checking for updates. Bastien Paris will ask lab members for their updates and Bastien and Olivier Dujols will post the update. Hans will write blog posts to summarize what we release. 
  • We removed information on running studies in Grenoble and moved that to a private component on the OSF. 
  • For the coming year, we will try to integrate Zotero in our workflow. Patrick Forscher will give a brief workshop on how to create and share libraries. Each member of the team will then generate their own libraries, after which we will use that to create various joint libraries. 
  • In our new projects and wherever possible, we will start with collaboration agreements that we borrow from the Psychological Science Accelerator
  • We decided to add a section on the TOP Factor. In the past, we had a section on favoring open access, but the new TOP Factor allows us to articulate our values more clearly (thanks, COS). Flexibility for non-PIs still exists to submit to journals with high JIF, but we felt that articulating our preference for journals with high TOP Factor communicates our values and hopefully changes matters in the long run. 
  • We got rid of our “sprint planning”. While it sounded like a great idea to specify medium-term goals, in practice they did not work as well and did not add much to the daily standups and weekly one-on-one meetings. 
  • We decided against the paper-a-day challenge, but instead we created a Google Sheet where we all report on one article we read per month (starting with those from the lab canon). 
  • We re-emphasized the importance of using our presentation template and appointed Alessandro Sparacio to ask lab members to send him their presentation to post on our lab GitHub.

The coming two weeks we will also update our Research Milestones Sheet for our existing projects and use Tenzing to clearly specify contributor roles in our existing projects. We still struggle with quite a lot. How for example, can we better discuss our longer term goals outside of journal club and our daily standups? (we feel we miss face-to-face contact where we can discuss outside of work). 

We are ready for the new year!

But now…time for some relaxation.

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