Developing Collaborative Operations Manuals for Research Groups

Thursday, Friday 8:30am-11:30am SERC Building - 108A


Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Laura Lukes, University of British Columbia
Annie Klyce, Vanderbilt University

Transparent expectations for being involved in a research group benefit trainees and PIs alike and help to elucidate the "hidden curriculum" of research. However, what do these expectations look like, and how can you keep them current? The motivation behind this workshop is that transparency helps everyone, but few of us have experience working from or writing transparent guidelines for operating as part of a research group. In this workshop, we will share resources and models for different documents, work with participants to identify key elements of potential documents, and provide opportunities for creating drafts of research group documents that can be shared with trainees. There will also be opportunities to exchange ideas with peers and the option to receive feedback on working documents.


As a PI, you are expected to help students learn and navigate the research process. This workshop is designed to help our community consider the best advice you received (or wish you'd received!) as a student, what advice you've learned to give along the way, and strengthen your confidence in providing lab leadership. Through the workshop, we will share ideas, resources, examples of lab operations manuals and start/develop manuals for our own research documents.

Target Audience

This workshop is designed for anyone leading or interested in leading a research group involving postdocs, undergraduate and/or graduate students. This includes current graduate students who think they might one day supervise student research projects, early career faculty in the process of establishing a research group, or more senior researchers who are interested in making their research group expectations more transparent.


The goals of this workshop are to:

  • Identify information that should be included in a shared research group document, including topics it may be difficult to ask an advisor about (e.g. accessing proposals, balancing research and teaching, taking vacation time, mental health, what funding is available for conferences).
  • Start/Create an outline or draft document for your own research group to share with trainees (current or future!)
  • Formulate a plan to keep research group documents updated.


This workshop will be highly interactive! Each day there will be time to explore examples and discuss lab documentation topics, ideas, questions and concerns with peers, begin (or revise) your own document to share with trainees, and create a personal action plan to maintain your research group document once it's "live."


  1. Look at the examples provided in the participant workspace.
  2. Fill out the reflection questionnaire to let us know your goals, questions, etc. to inform the workshop design.
  3. Share any existing materials that you already have or resources that you have found helpful.

DAY 1:

  1. Check in: Where is everyone in the process of developing a lab manual?
  2. Mini-Presentation: Why do we use lab manuals?
  3. Activity: Key sections of lab manuals
  4. BREAK
  5. Mini-presentation: Potential lab manual formats & strategies for maintaining your lab manual
  6. Individual work
  7. Check in/Wrap up Day 1

DAY 2:

  1. Whole Group Check in: Lingering questions and setting intentions for work time
  2. Individual work time (within groups)
  3. Quick check in/peer feedback
  4. BREAK
  5. Whole Group Check in: Thoughts and setting intentions for the rest of the time
  6. Individual work time (within groups)
  7. Gallery tour: sharing out
  8. Whole Group: Wrap up & next steps