Best Practices Resources for Cultivating a Productive, Inclusive Research Environment

This is a curated set of resources to help mentor, guide, and lead your research unit. The resources are somewhat “atypical” in that they present novel insights for thinking more holistically about what conditions underlie productivity, and how faculty can create a culture that synergizes research excellence and collaborative mentorship. Several provide helpful interactive online guidelines that you can share with your team. It is certainly not a definitive list, and we invite you to send us additional resources to add to the list.

Communication, publication, data management

Text recycling is the reuse of textual material (prose, visuals, or equations) in a new document where (1) the material in the new document is identical to that of the source (or substantively equivalent in both form and content), (2) the material is not presented in the new document as a quotation (via quotation marks or block indentation), and (3) at least one author of the new document is also an author of the prior document.

The best practices here are intended as a guide; authors who have questions about whether or how these best practices apply for a specific document should consult with a journal editor or mentor prior to submission. You can download the full guide here.

This interactive data management cycle is a step-by-step example from Harvard Medical School that clearly articulates the process, tools, and resources for effectively managing data and preparing it for sharing and reuse. It provides an effective “big picture” view for your mentees, so that they can understand these best practices as an integral part of the research process. All researchers should ensure they are in compliance with OIST-specific policies, which are provided here.

Chartability is a set of heuristics (testable questions) for ensuring that data visualizations, systems, and interfaces are accessible. Chartability is organized into principles with testable criteria and focused on creating an outcome that is an inclusive data experience for people with disabilities.

This simple method allows you to track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. It can be helpful for students who would benefit from structured and prioritized organization of their various projects, coursework, To-dos, etc.

Inclusive mentoring

This online resource developed by the US National Academies of Sciences provides useful guidance on how to implement effective mentorship—at the institutional level or at the relationship level.

This resource from the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement highlights several blog posts about building and sustaining communities online. There is also a guidebook for how to build an engaging and inclusive community on Slack.

This mapping process may be helpful for your students, postdocs, and other members of your unit. It can facilitate your mentee’s and your ability to see the “big picture” and enable you to identify what aspects of mentorship you can directly support, and what areas your mentee can seek guidance to find additional networks and/or resources.

This resource can be useful for all members of a research unit to foster productive communication, listening, and goal-directed behavior.


  • Faculty guide: recognizing and responding to students in distress

This helpful interactive and downloadable guide from MIT can help faculty learn how to support students and others in distress and direct them to appropriate resources and professionals. The practical advice supports faculty to create an environment where their lab members flourish intellectually and personally.

These honest video clips from two MIT graduate students help to alleviate students’ stress about fear of failure or imposter syndrome. Their shared strategies allow mentees to develop self-compassion and resilience to be their most productive selves.

This thoughtfully curated collection of resources for student well being addresses  some of the key issues that graduate students encounter including: mental health & wellness; self-care; managing stress & PTSD; and failure/imposter syndrome.

Lab Dynamics

This paper delineates practical rules for achieving productive lab meetings across diverse sets of labs and lab structures. The practices are informed by an ongoing commitment of all members to contribute toward a culture that is open, mindful, and respectful and are clustered into three categories: (1) process rules; (2) group responsibility rules; and (3) individual responsibility rules.

  • Lab Dynamics: Management and Leadership Skills for Scientists (Cold Spring Harbor Press) [C-Hub has a copy available in our library for you to borrow}

This manual provides practical advice on managing and leading successful research groups. The book thoughtfully presents best practices in the context of human interactions in science and how they can be made most effective and productive.

Lab Organization and Tools

Below is a small list of example strategies that faculty have used to coordinate research practices, communication, documentation, and project management. We welcome OIST faculty to submit examples that are being successfully used in their units.