Welcome to the Team Research Lab. The Team Research Lab is led by John Mills and is based out of the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at the University of Essex. Within this handbook you will find details of how I like the group to work and what I expect from you as a lab member. It is intended to represent my vision for how the lab should function and to complement existing University of Essex policies (which, depending on your funding route, will usually take precedence). All current and potential members are required to read the lab handbook and sign a form indicating that they have done so. If you have any questions or comments before signing, please let me know.
We are primarily based in ESA 3.29 of the Sports Arena. Please note that this is a shared space with other postgraduate students. To aid the development of relationships within the group, I would like lab members to come in as much as they can and try to sit together where possible (at least for the first few weeks of the autumn term). I ask this as: (i) you will need each other at some point in your degree/academic life, (ii) mere exposure leads to preferences being formed (see Zajonc's work), and (iii) it’s much easier to get to know each other over coffee than it is on Zoom. Everything a new lab member needs to know can be quickly found by chatting to people on campus, which is why this is especially important for the first few weeks of the autumn term. Once comfortable, work from home, the cafe, library etc., but do still stay in daily contact with the team.
Lab member expectations and responsibilities
We conduct methodologically rigorous research on topics related to being part of a team. We strive to create and communicate meaningful outcomes for the communities we serve and believe in openness and collaboration.
-Do work that you are proud of.
-Do work that others will care about.
-Do work that does good.
-Double-check your work. Being a little obsessive is essential to good science.
-Be supportive of your lab mates. We are a team.
-Work independently when you can, ask for help when you need it.
-Share your knowledge. Mentorship can take many forms.
-Respect each others' strengths, weaknesses, differences, and beliefs.
-Science is a marathon, not a sprint. Take personal time/annual leave when you need it and cultivate a life outside of the lab. Respect that other lab members also have a life outside of lab.
-Set yourself targets that stretch your capabilities, but do not break you. Update me regularly on your progress or of any challenges you are experiencing.
-Communicate openly and respectfully with other members of the lab.
-If you have an issue with another lab member that cannot be solved by talking with them about it, please talk with me. If you have an issue with me, please reach out to me first, your co-supervisor (if appropriate) second, and then Dr Jo Barton as Senior Tutor, third.
-Academia may feel different from other types of jobs, but it is still a job. You should treat working on your research with the same respect that you would treat any other position. See Hours.
-Do not come into the lab if you are sick. Stay home and get healthy. Do not risk getting others sick.
-Notify me if you will be out, either due to illness or leave. Make a note on Slack if you are ill and give notice if you're going on leave. If you are sick and you had data collection or meetings scheduled that day, notify your participants or collaborators and reschedule. If you need help with this, message the group.
-Keep shared spaces tidy.
-The dress code in academia is generally casual. My only request is that you look semi-professional when interacting with participants and when presenting your work.
All of the above, plus you will be expected to:
-Assist other lab members with data collection or analysis (typically you will be assigned to particular projects).
-Work with me or your research mentor to determine your weekly schedule. If you are not able to come in during your normal scheduled time, you must let me know.
-Provide extra support to help keep the lab running (this may include filing paperwork). If you are in lab and do not have a task to do, you should ask me or your research mentor whether there is anything you can help out with.
-Attend and contribute to lab meetings.
-Present at one meeting during the term.
-Write a short essay on your research topic or experiences at the end of the term.
All of the above, plus you will be expected to:
-Develop a line of dissertation research. Ideally, your dissertation research will consist of at least two cross-sectional studies or one longitudinal intervention that can be packaged into one thesis document.
-Apply for external funding. If nothing else, this is an extremely valuable experience.
-Do some soul-searching as to what type of career you want to pursue (e.g., academic jobs that are research-focused or teaching-focused, non-academic jobs like data scientist, science writer or project management). We can brainstorm ways of making sure you are getting the training that you need.
-Work with a team of undergraduate students. This will speed up data collection and give you some experience with managing and mentoring a team.
-Stay up-to-date (and keep me up-to-date) on any deadlines that you need to meet to fulfil departmental requirements (see Time Management).
-Prioritise time for research. You may need to take on other work, but it should not detract from your degree. You signed up for a full-time degree and if you cannot meet the obligations that go along with full-time study, you should consider going part-time.
All of the above, plus you will be expected to:
-Develop your own independent line of research. Alongside your introduction, literature review and general conclusion, your dissertation will consist of at least three experimental chapters that form a coherent thesis.
-Mentor undergraduate and graduate students on their research projects, when asked or when appropriate.
-Apply for external funding once per year. Applying for external funding is a valuable experience and, if awarded, it will release those dedicated funds for other purposes.
-Wait to apply for jobs (academic or industry) until you have completed the data collection component of your Ph.D.
-If you are planning to pursue a non-academic career, we can discuss ways of making sure that you are getting the training you need, while still doing excellent research.
-Be direct with me and challenge me and the arguments I make. Growth can sometimes be uncomfortable, but please don’t take my being critical at times of work as an ad hominem attack.
-Set high goals that you strive to exceed. I will push you to go beyond what you previously thought possible, but also support you all the way.
Reproducible research is research that can be exactly reproduced. This is related to replicability, in that it has to do with your ability to get the same results again, but it refers specifically to getting the same results given the same set of data. I expect that all of our research will be, at minimum, reproducible (I hope that it will also be replicable).
Conducting reproducible research is more difficult than it sounds, because it requires that you are organized and possess sufficient foresight to document each step of your research process. There are two main things you can do to improve the reproducibility of your research: (1) extensive note-taking (i.e., as much as you can manage), and (2) programming workflows with version control.
Programming workflows help with reproducibility because they take some of the human element out, and in an ideal scenario, you are left with a script or series of scripts that takes data from raw form to final product. Programming alone is not enough, though, because people can easily forget which script changes they made and when. Therefore, all projects that involve programming of any kind (so basically, all projects) must use some form of version control. I strongly recommend git in combination with GitHub (see below), unless you have a pre-existing workflow. This is a hard requirement because a) it is the only way to definitively track the evolution of methods/files over time, b) it allows for easier detection of bugs, c) it facilitates code sharing, and d) it has nice side effects for workflow organization (e.g., thinking in terms of commits, branches, issues). Points a, b, and c are directly relevant to the mission of conducting reproducible research. I am still working towards this ideal myself and will help you as much as I can.
Experiment pre-analysis plans
Most studies undertaken in the lab should be pre-registered or submitted as a Stage 1 Registered Report. This will likely add time on to the front end of a project, but ultimately improves the quality of the final product. There are multiple sites that accept preregistrations including AsPredicted.org and the OSF. Here is an example of a recent preregistration I completed. It is by no means perfect, but it is a start!
We will follow APA guidelines with respect to authorship:
"Authorship credit should reflect the individual's contribution to the study. An author is considered anyone involved with initial research design, data collection and analysis, manuscript drafting, and final approval. However, the following do not necessarily qualify for authorship: providing funding or resources, mentorship, or contributing research but not helping with the publication itself. The primary author assumes responsibility for the publication, making sure that the data are accurate, that all deserving authors have been credited, that all authors have given their approval to the final draft; and handles responses to inquiries after the manuscript is published."
Authorship will be discussed prior to the beginning of a new project, so that expectations are clearly defined. However, changes to authorship may occur over the course of a project if a new person becomes involved or if someone is not fulfilling their planned role. In general, I expect graduate students and PhD candidates will be first authors on publications on which they are the primary lead, and I will be the last author (I will not take on projects I am unwilling or unable to contribute to). Whether you or I act as corresponding author will depend on whether you plan to follow a career in academia or not.
Research with humans
Because we are engaged in research with human participants, it is of the utmost importance that we adhere to the School and University's protocols around research ethics. Unless part of a larger project, you will likely require ethical approval for your project, so please consider the University's guidelines with plenty of time. Please note that there are different forms for undergraduate and MSc students. Please also note that you can only apply for ethics once every three weeks. It is your responsibility to manage your time appropriately and to make sure you have completed the forms in time to give me at least one week's notice (preferably two weeks) to review the application. Failing to do this will result in your missing the deadline. Please respect my time as I respect yours. If there are any questions about the protocols, or if you are unsure whether we have ethical approval to run your study, please search the ERAMs system or ask me for clarification.
If you encounter any problems in the course of doing research that results in a negative outcome for the participant (e.g., if a participant becomes ill or upset, if there is an accident with the equipment, if there is a breach of confidentiality, etc.), you should immediately seek assistance from me or your co-supervisor (if appropriate). In some cases, we may need to report this information to the university or our funding agencies.
Slack will be used as the primary means of lab communication, such as general lab announcements (
#general), sharing links, sharing and/or discussing papers (
#papers), and basically any discussion that does not require official documentation. There are also channels specific projects.
Try to keep each channel on topic, so that people can subscribe only to the channels that concern them. For messages to one person or a small group of people, use the direct message channels, but this should be limited where possible.
Lab members should ideally install Slack to their smart phone. Slack allows for calls, which are often easier than Zoom. If you would prefer not to use Slack on your phone, there are desktop and browser versions. If you absolutely do not want to use Slack, please setup notifications to your email and read about how you can reply via email here. You are not required to respond to messages outside of the core hours, but are expected to reply promptly in core hours. You may also find that others post messages during the evenings and weekends. It is your choice whether to reply at these times. Outside of core hours, please setup the do-not-disturb mode to block off times at times that work for you.
The lab's OSF page should be used as a repository for lab knowledge, particularly as it pertains to ethics, research methods, data, analyses, and documentation of lab procedures/ management. If you learn something new, share it on the OSF page. Each study you run should also be posted to the lab OSF page under a component. I will provide a group tutorial at the start of term. The OSF servers are based in the EU and are compliant with GDPR.
Notion is where we share non-sensitive data (e.g., working drafts of papers, biographies, group projects etc.).
I encourage lab members to write in Google Docs where possible as it allows for collaborative writing and tracks versions in the cloud. When collaborating on a document, please share the doc by invite via email rather than creating a sharable link as this improves security. Collaborators should be invited to edit the document. However, please select the 'suggest' option in the top right corner when making changes. Should you wish to use different software, please make sure it meets the same requirements as Google Docs (e.g., LaTeX). You can link the google doc to the project in Notion to keep everything in one place.
I encourage lab members to use Zotero for their reference management. By all using the same system it allows us to easily share resources and hopefully save time. Zotero is open-source software and can be freely downloaded from www.zotero.org. When conducting literature reviews, I have found a combination of ebscohost and web of science captures the majority of published works. Both websites allow for a more systematic approach to searching, which may be useful down the line. The sites can be accessed at https://search.ebscohost.com and http://apps.webofknowledge.com/WOS_AdvancedSearch.do
Code of conduct
Many topics were covered already in the Lab member expectations and responsibilities section.
All members of the lab, along with visitors, are expected to agree with the following code of conduct. We will enforce this code as needed. We expect cooperation from all members to help ensuring a safe environment for everybody. Please also see the University of Essex's Student Charter.
When communicating in or outside of the lab, I expect lab members to:
-communicate within and outside of the lab in a respectful manner.
-reply to every targeted message (e.g., not newsletters) whenever it is possible.
-keep their messages as brief and structured as possible.
-communicate from their professional email account whenever representing the lab or sending official documents. Professional email account is one with institutional affiliation or any other email with their official name in the address. -use Slack to communicate on all non-official topics.
-check slack at least once daily and reply to messages.
-communicate research achievements, results, and opportunities in a professional manner.
-have a professional photograph, biography, and username on social media accounts.
The lab is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof). We do not tolerate harassment of lab members in any form. Sexual language and imagery is generally not appropriate for any lab venue, including lab meetings, presentations, or discussions.
Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
Members asked to stop any harassing behaviour are expected to comply immediately.
If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact me immediately. If I am the cause of your concern, then please reach out to Jo Barton who is the School's Senior Tutor.
One of the benefits of a career in academic research is that it is typically more flexible than other kinds of jobs. However, you should still treat your time in the lab like a job. Depending on your status (i.e., full or part-time), I recognise that you may have other demands on your time like training, teaching or other forms of work. For full-time lab members, I expect you to work a minimum of 35-hours per week in a typical week. I expect that all full-time lab members to be contactable and available for meetings between 10am and 4pm on weekdays. Part-time members should aim to achieve a pro-rata version of the above. These hours are a requirement of the University of Essex (see PGR Code of Practice), but more importantly, they give you ample time to be an engaged member of the group and produce the level and quantity of research required to obtain a PhD. Depending on your career aspirations, you may also need to undertake additional tasks on top of what is required to achieve a PhD.
Depending on your contract, you will may be eligible for holiday pay. I fully encourage you to use this time. If you do plan to take a break, please give me a minimum of one week's notice and try to avoid taking time during group projects. When away, please set up an automated out-of-office email that includes the name of someone who can be contacted in case of an urgent matter.
Annual leave allocations vary by funder, but typically research students are allocated around eight weeks per year. Please make sure to make arrangements around data collection and let me know in advance if you plan to take leave during a busy period.
I expect members to: -make your calendar open.
-attend lab meetings on the second and fourth Monday of each month. The meeting on the fourth Friday of the month will generally be used for breakout activities.
-avoid the use of mobile phones or laptops during the meetings (except for taking notes).
-avoid eating hot food during meetings.
-keep meetings brief.
-follow an agenda.
-start every meeting by stating its (a) aim; (b) agenda; (c) planned duration.
-update on progress.
In addition to group meetings, I expect to see students at least once per month for supervisory meetings. I am available to meet more regularly should you need, but this is the minimum expectation. In general, I expect students to book meetings when they feel individual support is required. When booking a meeting, please make sure to create and send through an agenda at least 24-hours before we are due to meet. My calendar is accessible here: https://calendly.com/jpmillsphd
If you need something from me by a particular deadline, please inform me as soon as you are aware of the deadline so that I can allocate my time as efficiently as possible. I will expect at least one week's notice, but I greatly prefer two weeks' notice. I will require two weeks' notice for letters of recommendation. If you do not adhere to these guidelines, I may not be able to meet your deadline. Please note that this applies to reading/ commenting on abstracts, papers, and manuscripts, in addition to filling out paperwork, etc. You can expect me to work to these deadlines and I expect you to do likewise on your projects. If we say we will do something, unless something catastrophic comes along we should do it. If we can’t achieve a deadline, we should both be upfront about the circumstances and discuss a revised time. This should not become a habit for either of us though!
Storing active datasets
In general, data will be stored in one of two places:
- The lab folder on our secure departmental server
- Data to store here: consent forms, keys to subject IDs (identifiable data ok)
- Data to store here: aggregated datasets (no identifiable data!!!)
You should only store data locally on your computer when running analyses. Once finished, you should add the analyses and relevant scripts to the relevant server and delete from your computer.
My OSF project components typically look something like this:
- This typically includes your introduction and methods
Measures and methods
- This typically contains documents that explain what measures and methods you have used. This may be original questionnaires and scoring keys, and any composite surveys you have created. Stimuli and presentation scripts may also be included here.
- This typically contains all your aggregated data. Most of what I do is anonymous at source and can be included. Identifiable documents (e.g., with a name and signature) should not.
- This typically contains the scripts from your data analyses. Reviewers should be able to reproduce what you have done. Please use the wiki to describe your process where required.
- This is typically the completed manuscript that you have preprinted/submitted for publication. All revisions should be stored in this folder too and the wiki utilised to explain changes.
Please note that components should be set to private as default. Should you wish to make the contents publicly available, please check with me first.
Archiving inactive datasets
I expect full-time PhD candidates to have completed this training within their first six-months of joining the lab. Part-time PhDs should look to complete all three within their first year. Full-time MSc and MSD candidates are expected to complete Kristin Sainani's course and one of the two statistics focused courses (your choice) within their first six-months. Part-time MSc and MSD candidates can discuss specific needs with me. Although I do not make it a requirement that undergraduates who wish to join the lab complete some or all of this training, preference will be given to applicants who have.
In addition to volunteering in lab, other research opportunities include:
Before you leave the lab, you will be required to document and archive any dataset that you have collected. You should use the Lab’s OSF page for this. I will review the dataset with you before you leave.
Not only is data-sharing the right thing to do, we are actually required to do so for any dataset that was funded by certain funding agencies. We will make these datasets publicly available within a year of publishing the first paper from the dataset. You should also be prepared to share any scripts that you used in your published processing & analysis pipeline. Please note that data collected via financial support from the lab, must stay in the lab until the funding agency requirements are met. This is to protect the funders who have paid for the data to be collected.
Funding for the lab comes from:
Lab member budgets
Lab members studying for a PhD will typically be allocated a budget of around £2,500. This can be used for training and conference travel. At present, a maximum of £700 can be spent on conference travel. There are also discretionary funds within the school we may be able to access to support your development. I also try to pay for M-Level students to attend one conference during their first year in lab. Most of the latter is generated via external grant income and is only available if we are successful in grant applications. I will always try to help lab members out where I can and expect members to apply for grants (e.g., travel, seed etc.) to help contribute where possible.
WADA funding notes
When sharing information regarding research funded by WADA, it must include the following statement 'This project has been carried out with the support of the World Anti-Doping Agency'. This is essential for documenting that we are turning their money into research findings. We must also submit a yearly progress report describing what we have accomplished. Lab members involved in the research will be asked to contribute to the progress report.
The University of Essex provides access to a range of optional training for Postgraduate students via Proficio. You can access details of this via Moodle and searching for PGR information.
The following three courses are also considered core training for the lab:
Undergraduate or taught Masters research
Undergraduate and taught Masters research assistants play an important role in our lab, and we have a few opportunities for them to earn money or credit for their contributions. Because these opportunities require a certain degree of commitment from both the student and the lab, we generally reserve them for students who have already spent at least one term volunteering in lab. If this policy would prevent you from being able to work in lab, please talk to me because we want all students to be able to pursue their research interests.
- If you are and undergraduate student, want to work in the lab, and earn research credit, you can sign up for independent study or undergraduate research (email me for info). We will have to fill out a syllabus contract at the beginning of the term. Typically you would be in lab for 6 hours a week, and you would also be required to attend lab meetings, present at one of them, and write a short statement about your experiences at the end of the term (this typically forms the basis of your assessment in SE201).
- If you are an undergraduate student who wants to work in lab and earn money, you can apply for an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme. Candidates are expected to be academically strong (typically, attaining >60 the majority of their modules) and are expected to work 10 hours per week. Because these fellowships are intended to support your academic development, UROP students will be strongly encouraged to participate in lab meetings. The benefits are quite good and opportunities competitive, so please let me know with plenty of time if you wish to apply.
- If you want to work in lab, earn money, and are eligible for work-study, there may be other paid research opportunities available.
If you're an undergraduate or taught masters student and you want to pursue any of these options, please talk to me. The more notice you give, the higher the likelihood of obtaining a positive outcome.
Letters of recommendation are one of the many benefits of working in a research lab. I will write a letter for any student or lab member who has spent at least one year in the lab. Letters will be provided for shorter-term lab members in exceptional circumstances (e.g., new lab members who are applying for fellowships). I maintain this policy because I do not think that I can adequately evaluate someone who has been around for less than a year.
To request a letter of recommendation, please adhere to the deadline requirements described above. Send me your current CV and any relevant instructions for the contents of the letter. If you are applying for a grant, send me your specific aims or a short summary of the grant. In some but not all cases, I may ask you to draft a letter, which I will then revise to be consistent with my evaluation. This will ensure that I do not miss any details about your work that you think are relevant to the position you're applying for, and it will also help me complete the letter in a timely fashion.
FAQ and who to ask
TBD. Ask me some questions.
This handbook was inspired by similar handbooks and in some places (e.g., here) I have adapted or reproduced content verbatim. The contents of this handbook and of those I have adapted or reproduced is licensed under a CC Attribution 4.0 license. Thanks are given to those scholars for laying the foundations and making the production of this handbook a much simpler task.