Here as part of the Bristol Data Week Research Group Handbook Sprint? Read the workshop information

What is Our Handbook?#

We are working with researchers to build Our Handbook: a research group staff handbook template materials to help you use it. We hope research group leaders and members will work together using these resources to:

  • build a healthy, inclusive, enjoyable research culture in their group

  • produce the most ethical and rigorous research possible

We welcome contributions in order to create a richer resource for others.

Why are we making this template handbook?#

We think research culture could be better:

  • researchers often feel stressed, unsupported, and/or isolated

  • a lack of guidance in how to do research can contribute to unreliable research outputs

A lot of this can come down to the research culture within a group: the (unspoken) processes which impact both how it feels to work there and the quality of research outputs. There is little support for group leaders who wish to improve the research culture in their groups. We want to change that and make it easy.

We hope that, by reducing the barriers for groups to consider their research culture, we will:

  • support group leaders in taking responsibility for it: to help them set standards for the quality of research that comes out of their group, and to create ways of working that protect the health and well-being of their group members and themselves. Your handbook might help you and your group in any of these practical ways.

  • support group members to contribute towards and do their part to improve the research culture in their group.

In addition to the benefits to the research groups that are working this way, we also hope this will impact on broader research culture. We want to normalise the idea that spending some time to building a healthy research culture is worthwhile. We would love universities to consider commitment of PIs to creating a healthy research culture in hiring and promotion decisions.

Why create a group handbook?#

A group handbook can be used to ensure the following practical aims:

  • Everyone knows how to access the available help and support (be it computational/statistical support, counselling, administrative/communications support…), by providing a one-stop-shop for up to date signposting of help and support available to group members.

  • Responsibilities and expectations of group leaders and group members are explicit (e.g. “PhD students send a weekly email detailing their weekly progress using this email template”, or “Group leaders will be available for one-to-ones with each group member once per fortnight”, or “It is Jennifer’s (Group leader) responsibility to organise the group meetings, which happen twice monthly”). These expectations can be as broad, or exact as your group finds useful.

  • Standards for research outputs are clear (e.g. “In this group, we make data FAIR wherever possible”, or “We ensure privacy for research participants”), and the barriers to meeting these standards is as low as possible (i.e. by including or linking to how-to-guides)

  • Group members have agency to impact the research culture of the group (as they can continue to edit the handbook), potential future group members can easily get a flavour of the research culture (the handbook is shared in job adverts), and it’s easy to welcome them when they arrive as everything is in one place (in the handbook).

  • Everyone knows who to go to to ask all kinds of questions (e.g. “Ask Katy about GitHub Actions”, “Ask Matt about multilevel modelling”, “Ask Jessica about contracts”), and where to find important documents (as they are linked to).

Your handbook can be used for as many or as few of these purposes as you like, but it should be a document, which the group continues to author together.

Contact us#

We would love you to contact us if you’d like to any of the following:

  • Make suggestions for improvements

  • Talk about this project

  • Ask for help

  • Let us know about your deployed handbook, or how it has worked for you.

Opening a GitHub issue is our favourite way, but you can also email Natalie.

The Mozilla Open Leadership Training Series was used to help plan this project. It is inspired by efforts to increase the accessibility of science such as The Turing Way and The Carpentries.