26 May 2017

Managing the Research Enterprise

Submitted by Anne Bentley, Lewis & Clark College

This week was the first week in the lab for me and my three summer research students. One of my priorities was to think about how to manage three students working on three different projects. 

I needed a system that allows the students to track their results and their thoughts about future work while I also contribute my ideas / suggestions for experiments. 

Some groups use specialized group management software like Slack. Some groups use an old-fashioned easel (see the photo from a colleague of mine, Louis Kuo) or whiteboard. So far this summer, our group has been leaning on google docs more than ever.

Each student has a doc where they keep a running update about their work (this is in addition to their lab notebook, and the google doc generally is a little less detailed). I can read the doc and add my own notes with suggestions for what to do next. 

I’ve also created a master doc for all three students to share, where I can “talk” to them all at once. I drop in links to interesting stories online or general resources related to research. We used this doc to plan a group trivia outing and organize a miniature periodic table of cupcakes. Another doc contains “Anne’s shopping list”, where students can make a note when we run out of supplies.    

This description makes it sound like I never speak to or see my students. Not true! I’m in the lab with them, especially since they are all new to the lab this summer. But in a summer with a decent amount of work-related meetings and travel for me, I’m happy to have found a communication strategy that can be in place even when I’m not physically present.

What do the rest of you do to coordinate your team’s work?    



I too am using Google Docs this summer but not quite the same way you are I think I need to add these things. I tried to get my colleagues/collaborators to join Slack but to no avail.I got back an email that said " I'm not doing this."

I have been using a mix of Dropbox and a university shared drive for the lab. I really like the idea of a "running research report" over the course of the project, I definately need to start this!

I have been doing something similar for my research group (now in week 2!). I have an individual googledoc for each student, and an overall googledoc for general announcements, etc. My students are also doing a literature review and have started their own doc for that. Its a lot of docs, but I like the ability to monitor in real time what they are thinking about doing in the lab, and it gives them practice writing and getting feedback. I hope it continues to work as well as it has all summer!