This text is partly taken from the KTH Division of Glycoscience‘s Code of Conduct/Welcome document, which Lauren helped to write. New members of the Division are given a full copy of the document when they start working with us at KTH.
The members of this group have diverse scientific goals, but we emphasise our shared values. We want everyone in our group to have a positive personal and professional experience while they are with us. This research group is part of the larger Division of Glycoscience at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. There are currently seven Principal Investigators working within KTH Glycoscience.
All group members are committed to an environment where all of our colleagues feel safe, secure, and supported. We do not tolerate bullying or harassment of or by group members in any form, and we follow these rules governing interpersonal communication:
- Be kind – welcome new colleagues into the group, and do not insult or discriminate against other group members.
- Be supportive – if you have a criticism of someone’s work, present this in a constructive way to help them improve.
- Be professional – jokes that are sexist, racist, derogatory, etc are never appropriate in the workplace. Sexual advances, language, and imagery are never acceptable in the workplace, and will not be tolerated.
- Be positive – contribute actively to discussions in group meetings to help to improve situations in the lab.
- Be respectful – do not interrupt or talk over people in discussions, and always listen to your colleague’s suggestions.
- Be encouraging – we celebrate the success of every person in the group! If you have completed a course, got a good result in the lab, submitted a paper, etc…we want to know so we can celebrate with you!
When recruiting new group members, we strive to be mindful to open these opportunities up to a wide range of people. The greater the mix of people in our group, the greater the mix of skills, experiences, perspectives, and ideas we can collectively draw on. Of course, this requires us to maintain a welcoming and inclusive working environment, by following the guidelines above.
Everyone who performs research in our group is always compensated for their labour. Post-doctoral scholars receive scholarship (stipendium) payments. Employees (post-docs, researchers, technicians, lab assistants, research engineers, faculty) and PhD students all receive salaries. Students who are working on a course or towards a thesis at Bachelor’s or Master’s level are compensated by receiving course credits. Any student who is working in our lab who is not receiving course credit is always being paid from a research grant.
Research shows that there is a worldwide trend towards increasing occurrence of mental health problems among academic workers and doctoral students. We all need to be vigilant about our own mental health and happiness, as well as that of our friends and colleagues in the group. Specific factors that can contribute to stress, and increase the risk of burnout or other mental health problems, are listed below, with some small suggestions that may help promote well-being. If you are struggling, we can help you access counselling services at the university.
- Feeling isolated in your research topic – use the weekly group meetings to stay up-to-date with other people’s work, and share your own experimental successes as often as you can, in coffee (fika) breaks and at lunchtime.
- Feeling down about negative results – it is easy to lose motivation when experiments don’t work out, especially if you are working alone on your project. Again, use group meetings and other daily breaks to talk to your colleagues – you might be surprised to learn that other people have had the same problem!
- Feeling uncertainty in your choice of project or your career plans and prospects – discuss regularly with your supervisor and with colleagues at your level (e.g. fellow PhD students) about career ideas they have. Educate yourself about the huge range of opportunities that will open up for you when you graduate or move on from this group by attending as many diverse career events as you can – sign up for university newsletters so you don’t miss interesting events. Your supervisor should help you make sure you gain a diversity of skills while you are with us: as well as your lab skills, try to develop your writing, presentation, and graphical design abilities, to further broaden your career options.
- Feeling isolated or unhappy in your personal life – we hope that you will make some good friends in this group and at KTH. Most of us moved to Sweden from another country at some point, so we are all familiar with the struggles of settling in, and many of us have felt lonely at times, feeling far from home, family, and friends. So we might have some experience of what you are going through now! As members of a small scientific community, we must do our best to support each other in difficult times. We all have to make the effort to listen to each other, and to talk to each other, so reach out to the group if you are feeling down.
A general issue for us all to be aware of is to avoid working excessive hours. It can be difficult for anyone to maintain a regular working schedule, and as academics we are not required to follow a strict weekly schedule or number of hours per day or week. Indeed, the beauty of working in a university is that we can to a certain extent set our own schedule, as long as we maintain productivity. This means you might work a very long day and then a very short day. You might sometimes choose to work evenings or weekends if an experiment requires, or if you are highly motivated by exciting data. But we never recommend or require anyone to work outside of or in addition to normal working hours, as this encourages over-work, stress, and burnout. Wherever possible, we avoid work-related communication outside of normal working hours.
You are expected to take all of the vacation days you are entitled to in your contract! Time away from the lab is very important for students and employees, so that we can spend time with family and friends, and generally relax and recuperate.
Working together in a shared lab space
Everyone who joins the Division must undergo formal safety training before they can begin with lab work. There you will learn about our protocols for experimental risk assessments and all safety considerations specific to our chemistry and (micro)biology lab areas. The KTH Glyco lab space is used by all of the groups in our Division, and is also shared with the KTH Department of Industrial Biotechnology. Sharing a lab space among many groups and many individuals presents challenges for maintenance of key equipment, so we follow a strict system of individual responsibility. Everyone who spends more than a few months in our lab is made responsible for a specific piece of equipment – it is that person’s job to: i) train new users of the equipment, and ii) take care of any maintenance issues with their equipment, including regular service and emergency repair. There is a “Responsibility List” posted on the wall in the lab, so you can always easily find out who to talk to about training or maintenance for a piece of equipment. We also rotate responsibility for dishwashing on a weekly basis: everyone working in the lab is expected to sign up at least once a semester.
Research collaboration and dissemination
Ours is a strongly multi-disciplinary lab. As a result, there will be many instances where another member of the CAZyme group or the wider Division has a particular competence or expertise that would benefit your own work. If you would like to make use of that person’s skills, you should initiate a formal collaboration with them, primarily by discussing with their supervisor or project leader. We are all young-ish scientists working to further our own publication records and research agendas, so although we are always happy to help each other, we cannot be expected to give our time to projects we will not be given credit for.
A formal collaboration includes being open and transparent about the overall and specific goals of a research project. If you ask someone to analyse a sample for you, they should know what it is and why you are interested in it, and they should become partners in your work. Collaboration involves co-authorship on any eventual publications, and this should be discussed before you begin to work together. You can ask someone to teach you a method they are proficient in, but this should still be seen as a collaborative task within a shared project, especially if they have developed or optimised the method over a long period. Introducing someone to a shared piece of equipment in most cases does not constitute collaborative work.
Authorship on papers should be discussed openly in meetings where every project participant is present. Author lists on papers should include everyone who has contributed significantly to the work. We generally adhere to the so-called Vancouver convention on authorship of scientific papers, as described here by ICMJE. A “significant contribution” can include, but is not limited to, the design or conception of a project or specific topic of study, interpretations of primary data, and development of ideas presented in the work, as well as actual experimental work. It can also include contributions to a manuscript, in writing or making figures. It usually does not include providing samples that were described in previous publications.