Lab Noise, Communication, and Collaboration

All of our work is highly collaborative, and collaboration is oftentimes what makes science fun. Several basic notes follow below, which of course cannot even scratch the surface of what can both right and wrong in a scientific collaboration. In general, we strive for clear and constructive communication that helps us all do better science and enjoy our work. While the lab is a relatively informal environment, mutual respect, professionalism, and supporting each other (broadly, as humans) is essential. Because of the open floorplan, being quite attuned to noise and volume is important for everyone’s work environment. Please reach out to Ted anytime and suggest updates to this pages as other important situations arise.

Lab Noise

We try to maintain an environment conducive to focused work (coding/writing) in the open space in the pod. In the open space, conversations should always use quiet voices. For anything beyond a brief exchange (inc zoom calls), an office or the common area should be used. Ted’s office can always be used for meetings or conversations when it is not already in use. It is encouraged that we nicely remind each others of this– regardless of relative seniority/position– and strive for a practice of thanking the person who is providing the necessary reminder. Note that the soundproofing in the office spaces are not superb either and some volume control is needed even behind a closed door.

Modes of correspondence

In general, open project channels on Slack are preferred. However, note that faculty and senior staff are often a member of dozens of channels and threads can get lost. For specific tasks that take time & consideration – like manuscript review, grant feedback, career development quesetions, and letters of reccomendation – email is greatly preferred. Please try to avoid direct messages to Ted except for really quick (“one-off”) queries.

Protected health information (PHI; identifying information including participant names, addresses, etc) should only be transmitted using health-system approved means. PHI should never be placed on slack.

Finally, it is good to remember that all electronic written correspondence (including email and slack) have a poor record of privacy. If the content of your correspondence is not something you’d want a lot of people to see, please strongly consider a phone call rather than a written message.

Slack best practices

For projects use a dedicated project channel for all correspondence.

For general infrastructure / informatics q’s, use the #informatics channel on slack or the #pennlinc_general channel.

For cool papers, post to #pennlinc_papers.

For talks, post to #pennlinc_talks and send to Sophia to update the calendar.

For faculty review of manuscripts, grants, or other documents, send to Ted via email.

In general, try to avoid the slack direct message channels for project correspondence, as they are lost and not searchable.

Setting priorities & expectations

In general, the biggest constraint we all face is time. As such, one thing that should be addressed in every weekly meeting is the relative priority of different tasks / projects. This is important to re-assess continuously to make sure they align with scientific impact, career development priorities, and the demands of funded projects.

A couple general tips follow below. In general, the rule of thumb is “talk to your faculty supervisor early and often.” Specific cases where you should talk to Ted ahead of time include:

1) Starting new collaborations outside the lab.

2) Asking a member of our lab to do something that is likely to be fairly time consuming.

3) Any effort that requires repeated rounds of input / questions to a member of another lab.

4) Meeting with other faculty members outside our immediate group/section. In general, Ted tends to prefer to be present for collab mtgs with other faculty. In general it is a also good idea to keep Ted (via cc) in the loop on correspondence with collaborating faculty outside our section.


In general, the most stressful situations in science often come from inter-personal conflict. Usually this can be resolved with direct and honest communication. In large collaborative efforts, some degree of mis-communication is inevitable – and does not reflect anyone “doing something wrong” – please don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss.