Good science anywhere is
good for science everywhere.
I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to what science, at its best, can be. To strive towards this ideal, we will all work hard to ensure that the lab environment is supportive in our daily endeavors, conducive to rigorous science, proactive about collaborating, and full of solidarity. Why can't working in the lab perpetually feel like your first day in science: infused with energy, wide-eyed and ambitious, and ready to drop the mic on the process of discovery? One way of doing this is by focusing on the quality of our science first and foremost, and not by making our primary motivator a need to get a high-profile paper, flashy news coverage, or getting tenure. It's not that these outcomes have zero value; it's that, if we avoid putting these individualistic temptations on a pedestal, which often can collectively and unnecessarily make a field a stressful winner-take-all system instead of a team endeavor, then we are suddenly free to fearlessly science, openly and enthusiastically. We will not let our neuroscience become the Hunger Games.
To that end, the promise I give to my lab is to provide each member with personalized mentorship in the service of performing thoughtful, well-controlled neuroscience, and to facilitate her or his career-specific plans. Just as importantly, we will work together as a team: for every inconclusive experiment, our team will provide ample support and work the problem. When something goes wrong -- when formaldehyde hits the fan -- we won't forget why we fly; we'll remind each other to soar with experiments. And for every triumph, for every positive piece of data we get, our team will provide encouragement and celebrate having made an unknown known, because good science anywhere is good for science everywhere. That is our motto.
In short: our lab is as much as a team as it is a family. My job is to coach this team well and make sure all players gel well on and off the court in the service of pushing the scientific ball down the field efficiently and effectively.
We stand on each other's shoulders,
not on each other's feet.
The etymology of the word professor is to declare publicly -- not just to an ivory tower, not just to a star-studded committee, and not just to a high-impact journal. Science is an international dialogue which, at its best, got us to the moon, gave you the iPhone, and cured smallpox; at its worst, it is overly political, full of Regina George's, and restricted by the constant fear of being scooped. Not surprisingly, I consider science to be at its best when it is fully transparent, when this dialogue is actively engaged on all mediums, and when our community is exactly that -- an open fellowship with common interests and like-minded scientific goals.
Fittingly, you will never have to ask for my permission to talk publicly about an experiment, to tweet about an exciting set of pilot data, or to run up and down the hallways yelling the results of an almost-finished project. I encourage you to engage your peers openly, respectfully, and often, and when the experimental rabbit hole inevitably goes deeper and yields some surprises, we will embrace the fact that data is impartial to dogma and push forward methodically. If there is "competition", we will reach out to them and make genuine attempts to publish back-to-back papers, to collaborate, and to perhaps even compliment each other's data sets. This way, as a field, we stand on each other's shoulders, and not on each other's feet. That's our second motto, because it's a privilege to be a part of our scientific community and to discover for a job.
That said, even if we're met with a "No, thank you" -- or, let's play devil's advocate, even if we're scooped -- we will never not be open about our science, because sometimes we have to become the change we want to see in the world, even if it means having to take a few jabs. I truly believe that, together, this vision can be bulletproof because the brain is big enough for everyone, as a friend once told me. Accordingly, we can never, and will never, run out of exciting experiments to do.
Let's all be a bit less wrong,
one data point at a time.
A philosopher once said that the key to happiness is to find something more important than you are, and to dedicate your life to it. To me, that something is neuroscience. My lab is an egalitarian playground for science: there will be no hierarchy, no arguments from authority, no ad hominems. You work with me as a friend, not for me as a statistic. We'll post our data on this site's blog long before publication, in preprints, open-access journals, etc, and also present at conferences, seminars, and other stages to maximize its accessibility.
The goal is to produce the best, well-controlled, reproducible, and insightful data we can. That's our scientific pie in the sky: data. A data point does not care about gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or age of the person discovering it; a data point does not care about dogma, who tweeted what, or who wants the experiment to work; a data point transcends time and is a way for our voice to reverberate after we are gone. Data points are simply true, forever. I personally find such a narrative rather beautiful and it's my personal reason for science-ing. The story we form around data, however, is provisional. It follows, then, that science is about who's the least wrong, and with every discovery, we're all a bit less wrong.