Laboratory Ethics, Procedures and Culture
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We strive to address critically important questions of drug response and toxicity, with a particular focus on understanding the significant interindividual variability that limits optimal drug therapy for many patients. Our work is rigorous and applies the most appropriate tools for studying clinically relevant problems. Where possible, we take a reverse translational approach, with our laboratory studies guided by results from clinical studies or human samples. Laboratory studies use a variety of model systems that allow us to define a molecular understanding of human variation in drug response and toxicity. Our vision is that our findings will lead to novel therapeutic strategies to improve drug therapy for diverse populations suffering from cancer and other diseases.
The Kroetz laboratory is committed to the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe that Black Lives Matter and understand that it is our responsibility to dismantle systemic racism in STEM. We must remain fully committed to these ideals to achieve the goal of antiracism in academic science and to reap the benefits of a more diverse STEM workforce.
In the Kroetz Lab, we believe that our vocabulary should reflect the UCSF PRIDE values (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity, and Excellence), and our actions should uphold these standards and principles.
Health and safety are a priority. Keeping ourselves and each other safe is critical to maintain a healthy work environment where productive collaborative work can thrive. To collaborate successfully, we must be inclusive and acknowledge that safety in the lab also means that we are safe to express opinions and ideas. We are welcoming and respectful of all groups, in particular those under-represented in STEM. We hope to promote a lab environment where all voices are heard as we believe that this empowers us to bond over our similarities and learn from our differences. We value our diverse cultural and academic backgrounds and celebrate unity in diversity, as we believe this fosters the type of creative and diverse thinking that results in novel approaches and scientific progress. While we can challenge each other and disagree for the sake of scientific argument and discussion, we do not disparage, nor belittle. As we pursue our scientific endeavors within a societal context, we must remember to be kind and considerate. Solidarity and camaraderie allow us to grow professionally and personally.
With regards to our work in the lab, it is important to remember that we abide by the UCSF Code of Conduct and work for “team science.” There is no room for favorites or egos within a lab environment that promotes open communication and equity. It is important to be motivated and rigorous to achieve one’s full potential in the lab. This also means being adaptable as “team science” plays in an open field filled with unexpected findings and uncertainties. Projects change, hypotheses evolve. Being trustworthy, transparent and reliable nurtures mutual support and positive relationships, as we all work to achieve our professional goals. At the same time, being mindful of our personal aspirations and needs is essential. We value work-life balance. Taking a step back and a moment to breathe allows us to reflect and keep ourselves and each other grounded. Our work is challenging, but with the right tools and company it is also exciting and rewarding.
Working in the Kroetz lab comes with expectations and responsibilities on both sides. We take both personal and professional development seriously, and you can expect substantial tailoring of development activities to your specific needs and circumstances.
When you join the lab, you should expect:
- To be challenged. We will ask you to be more precise, to be more rigorous, to acquire new skills, and to think bigger.
- Regular assessment of your specific needs for hard and soft skills, and help in acquiring them. This includes training in computational and statistical tools for experimental scientists, biological area expertise for computational and statistical scientists, and presentation and writing skills for all trainees.
- An annual review of your progress and goals, guided by your Individual Development Plan (IDP). A written record of the discussion will be captured and the goals will be the first order of discussion for the next annual review.
- To spend at least two years in the lab. It can be hard to make meaningful progress on a topic, collate results and publish a paper in less time, and it is difficult to make the next career step without such visible signs of progress and productivity. Most people find they want to stay longer, and do so.
- Respect, safety, professional courtesy, tolerance, and honesty during and after your time in the lab.
- Regular feedback on experiments, ideas, writing and presentations.
- Regular 1:1 mentorship meetings with Deanna, separate from research meetings. You will have a couple of hours of undivided attention. No question or subject off-limits: work-home balance, how to navigate political situations, long-term goals etc.
- To be included in new project development, and to receive assistance as you develop your own ideas. This includes projects you will take with you when you leave the lab.
- Direct mentorship and collaboration with Deanna in writing your proposals, manuscripts, and presentations. Specific and timely feedback on multiple iterations will be provided.
- Support to attend at least one professional meeting per year with a requirement to present data.
We expect you to:
- Work hard and take breaks. Burn-out is counter-productive. We are all better people, and better scientists, when we rest occasionally.
- Show respect, professional courtesy and tolerance. We critique the work, not the person.
- Maintain the highest ethical standards for research.
- Ask important scientific questions. Life is too short for incremental studies.
- Keep a lab notebook, including sample inventories, directories of data, annotated and versioned code, detailed methods, raw and analyzed data. Information in your lab notebook must be sufficient to reproduce results without additional instructions.
- Attend project meetings reliably. This includes preparation of an agenda ahead of time, material for discussion, and paying attention during the meeting.
- Participate fully in group meetings. These provide excellent opportunities to think about important questions beyond your own project, to support your labmates and to spark ideas for future work. Those presenting deserve your full attention which is not possible if you are doing your own work or on your phone.
- Do your share of general lab responsibilities (inventories, common areas, regulatory compliance issues, ordering etc.). We are a community. There are always little things that make life better for everyone. We do them, even if they are not our “job”.
- Complete all required training on time and provide documentation as requested.
- Participate in projects you do not lead - we contribute to each other’s work.
- Write fellowship applications appropriate to your training level. You will receive substantial mentorship, but you will lead.
- Keep somewhat regular hours in the lab, so you can take part in routine interactions.
- Prepare a thoughtful IDP at least once a year and provide to Deanna with sufficient time to prepare feedback prior to your annual evaluation.
The following guidelines have been compiled to help make everyone’s time in the lab productive, enjoyable and equitable. These should be living guidelines and all members are invited to offer suggestions for improvements at any time.
We value honesty and integrity, cornerstones of ethical scientific practice. These key moral principles that guide and govern our individual and collective behaviors in the lab should be applied at all stages of research from reporting results to attributing collaborators.
The adherence to a code of conduct and work ethics ensures that we can meaningfully contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge by validating research findings, raising new questions, and stimulating discussions. We rely upon the production of unbiased, reliable, reproducible and open-access work to achieve those goals.
We expect honesty in reporting scientific data:
- Use graph or composition notebooks to keep track of everything you do in the lab. This notebook stays in the lab. Online lab notebooks can also be used with co-ownership with Deanna required.
- Experiments should be dated. Be rigorous and remember that there are never “too many details”. Your work is meant to be reproducible; keep in mind that another collaborator should be able to follow your steps and complete the same experiment as intended.
- Do not go back and change anything in your lab notebook at a later date. If you have made mistakes, make notes to explain this. We should be able to admit when we are wrong. Science is challenging but critically analyzing and reflecting upon our work allows us to adapt our science and continue to learn.
- Staple your attachments to your notebook and keep entries dated and organized.
- Carefully transcribe and analyze your data and results to avoid errors.
- Remember to back up your files.
We expect collaborative work and integrity:
- Validation of results through replication either individually, or as a group.
- Open sharing of methods, data, and interpretations in the context of meetings, presentations, and publications. Science does not occur in isolation.
- Crediting of contributors of ideas, information, and data.
- Analysis and interpretation of results that is unbiased by external inputs and expectations. “Null results are results”. Contradictions exist and there are no absolutes. Experiments serve as learning blocks as we challenge ourselves, learn and teach each other with the common goal of advancing our scientific field.
Publishing our results is critical for the dissemination of science, the career advancement of all lab members, and the success of future grant applications. All lab members are expected to publish results in a timely manner and work closely with Deanna to develop the critical writing skills needed for rigorous reporting of scientific results. We believe in open access publishing and will strive to make our data available to the broadest scientific community possible. This includes both posting of manuscripts on preprint servers and publishing in peer reviewed journals. We follow the IJME rules for authorship, although anyone with a meaningful contribution to the published work will be included as an author. Inclusion as a co-author on publications generally requires the following:
- Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work, or the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data for the work; AND
- Drafting or revising the manuscript; AND
- Final approval of the published version of the manuscript; AND
- Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work with regards to the accuracy or integrity of the work.
Conversations about authorship and order of authors should be addressed early in a project but may require re-evaluation as the project evolves. All lab members should bring authorship concerns directly to Deanna so that they can be resolved in a timely and equitable manner.
The best researchers are those who share their knowledge and protocols. It takes time to read several protocols and come up with one that fits your needs. When you get a protocol from another person, you are saving time! So, do the same for others! Make sure you include: descriptive title, author, date, updates, explanation of why each step is necessary, catalog numbers of reagents, links to videos, etc, and highlight the critical steps. When your protocol is ready, name the file properly, share it in the folder: “Kroetz Lab Protocols and contacts” in UCSF Box. If you are making significant changes in one of the pre-existing protocols, save the new file and move the older one into the folder “Old protocols”.
Authorizations and Protocols (MyAccess>RIO)
Keep up-to-date and read all the authorizations and protocols that UCSF requests in order to ensure safety in the lab. The most common are: Radiation Use Authorization (RUA), Biological Use Authorization (BUA), and Controlled Substance Use Authorization (CSA). These include all the procedures we must follow and required training. It is the responsibility of each lab member to strictly follow all approved lab protocols and to promptly complete all required initial and updated training.
Behaviour in the lab
The lab is the place where you spend most of the time. A clean workplace shows professionalism and is key for productivity, helps people stay focused, creates an attitude of respecting the workplace, and reduces the risk of accidents and sickness.
- In compliance with UCSF policies, do not eat or store food in the lab!!!
- UCSF safety policies require that everyone wear appropriate clothing in the lab, including closed toe shoes and long pants. You also need to always wear appropriate PPE when at the bench, in cell culture etc.
- Clean up your bench before and after doing an experiment.
- Keep the shared spaces (cold room, cell culture room, freezers, fridges, scales, Western blot station, chemical hood) clean and tidy.
- Are we running out of something soon? Ask others and order it if not already done.
- More than one unit of the reagent/medium/compound you use? Follow the rule: the first one that expires is the one that you use first.
- Did that instrument get broken while you were using it? Not your fault!!! Just notify other people in the lab and ask for help to repair it.
- Your practices in the lab must be aligned to environmental protection and energy conservation. Try to minimize the use of plastic and recycle! Dispose everything correctly and ask if you don’t know where or how to do it. Instruments, PCs and electrical devices that are not regularly used must be turned off.
Useful resources that you may need during your time in the Kroetz Lab
- UC Chemical: Looking for a chemical compound or solvent? Check UC Chemical before buying anything! These compounds are organized by location and alphabetically, you will find them easily!
- BearBuy: this website allows you to buy reagents, kits, solvents, etc. After you find the items, you will need to complete some sections (see txt file “BearBuy” in folder “Kroetz Lab Protocols and contacts”>“Orders”).
- UCSF Waste: Did you know that the waste you create doesn’t disappear by itself? You have to take care of it, and it is really easy! Go to https://ehs.ucop.edu/waste/#/home, create a tag, dispose it in Room 581B, under the cabinet hood. UCSF EHS will pick it up.
- Cell and Genome Engineering Core: Cell vials are stored in this core located in Genentech Hall S-212. Check “Kroetz lab cell list”, complete the form “Cell Order Form_Kroetz-lab” (1-5 vials/form) in folder “Orders”, send an email to Sai (Thomas) Chin and attach the form (email: [email protected]). Strikethrough the vial in the PDF file “Kroetz lab cell list”. Store the hard copy of the request in the black binder in the lab. For requesting storage of new vials, complete the form “Cell_bank_storage_work_order”, print it out and take it along with the vials to the core.
- My Access > iLab > UCSF Media Production > Place an Order > Choose your item.
- Microscopy: Need a microscope? Go to https://microscopy.ucsf.edu/instruments. First time using this microscope? Before making a RSVP, you will need to be trained; contact people from the corresponding core. Go to iLab (https://ucsf.ilab.agilent.com/homepage/) to make a reservation.
Before you start any work in the lab, you have to do online training to learn about the UCSF requirements for good laboratory practices. Training requirements may vary according to your project. Make sure you have passed all the training courses (My Access>UC Learning) you need and keep them up-to-date.
New people in the lab? Help them with the techniques you know and they need! Even if they have done that before, they need someone to tell them where the things are and how things work in the Kroetz Lab. Did you know that when you are teaching someone you can learn more than the person who is learning? Developing mentoring abilities is also important not only in academic careers but also in other jobs or life.
Leaving the lab
It is important that each lab member sets aside time before leaving the lab to organize all materials and data and to clean up their immediate work areas. Follow this checklist when you leave the lab:
- Share all the files you have generated during your lab period and turn ownership of all Box files over to Deanna.
- Clean up your stuff.
- make sure the samples you have to keep are well-labeled and stored properly
- show someone else where your things are stored
- properly tag and dispose of all waste and unnecessary samples
- Provide Deanna and other lab members with permanent contact information.
Time spent in the lab
We generally expect lab members to be present in the lab for at least a few hours between 10 am and 4 pm. This provides an opportunity to interact with and learn from each other. This also allows for space to ask spontaneous questions and ask for advice and insight from other lab members, especially during early years in training, as you gain familiarity with tools and techniques in the lab. Many academic activities such as workshops, classes, and seminars, which are part of your training, also occur during these business hours. Therefore, your presence in the lab during these hours is beneficial from a learning and safety perspective.
Training in our lab does not require you to be in the lab for excessively long periods of time. In fact, productivity is essential in our lab vision and philosophy. If you are more productive in accomplishing your reading or writing tasks at home or at the library, you are welcome to spend more time there, especially in your more senior years of training. Flexible work hours are common in academic labs such as ours, especially with time points in biological experiments, long protein purification protocols, etc. When long hours in the lab are required, please be sure you feel safe. You can ask other lab members to help you if appropriate with tasks such as collecting timed samples or harvesting large numbers of samples. If long work hours are affecting your health, you must reset your expectations and focus on your health and mental well being. We are all individually responsible in making decisions that are best for our own health, safety, productivity and well-being. A healthy work life is a top priority.
Personal time off
The number of vacation and sick days that employees accrue is dependent on your appointment. All trainees are encouraged to use their vacation hours on a regular basis and to take advantage of the opportunity to relax and reboot. An advance notification of at least a week for a few days off or a month for longer vacations is expected. This helps in project planning and is expected as part of a culture of open communication. However, we also understand that there are emergencies and sudden or accidental sickness; in these cases, please notify Deanna or another lab member as soon as possible.
Communication is an important part of our academic training. Our lab prefers to communicate with each other using Slack channels, which can be used on your phone and your laptop. Although announcements and information are usually shared on the General channel, we also routinely use direct messaging. Prompt replies during business hours facilitate productivity. However, we also understand that people can get busy in the lab and responding to slack messages two or three times a day is acceptable. As appropriate for the situation, you are welcome to use other channels of communication (email, phone calls, text messages). However, keeping Slack as the preferred style of communication avoids misunderstanding and ineffective messaging.
Simple behaviors that lead to a more inclusive and welcoming lab environment:
- Acknowledge each other when you enter and leave the lab.
- Be considerate of others in the laboratory space when playing music, listening to news etc.
- Lightheartedness is fine, but remain respectful and professional.
- Use kind words when asking for help or interacting with others. A ‘thanks’ or ‘I’m sorry’ goes a long way towards making everyone feel welcome.
- Be respectful of sign ups for cell culture, equipment etc.
- Maintain a positive attitude, even when things might not be going your way.
- Have good faith in your labmates and expect appropriate behavior from everyone.
This document was inspired by similar efforts in several labs. In some cases, their practices (and words) were adopted directly and in others they served as the foundation for our lab-specific practices.
- Fraser lab, University of California San Francisco
- Keiser Lab, University of California San Francisco
- Wilson Lab, Arizona State University
- Swann Lab, University of Oregon
- Casteel Lab, Cornell University
- Ingvarsson Lab, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Uppsala University (Uppsala, Sweden)
Below is a reference regarding scientific ethical standards and conduct