Code of Conduct

Overview

The Muscle Physiology Laboratory is housed within the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI), which sits on the Health Sciences campus of UC San Diego. The work performed in this facility largely involves medicine and some other area of expertise on campus. As such, the cultures of medicine, academia, and industry invariably collide. Therefore, everyone working in this space should strive to understand the communication and expectation differences that are inherent to interdisciplinary research.

In the laboratory, we value the participation of every member of our community (lab members, colleagues in our neighborhood, industry partners, and patients) and want to ensure everyone has an enjoyable and fulfilling experience, both professionally and personally. Accordingly, all members of the Lab are expected to show respect and courtesy to others at all times. We create our culture and our culture is inclusive. A hallmark of that culture, which can diverge from traditional medical practice, is a very flat hierarchy. Everyone’s questions and opinions matter. One way that I encourage equal participation is the expectation that people call me by my first name (Sam). I encourage everyone else to adopt this perspective, which facilitates the exchange of new ideas and goal-directed activities and behaviors. For example, there is no expectation that a senior staff member or faculty member is “right”. If you have a question, I expect you to speak up and share your opinions.

Please note that this code of conduct is not a legal document, supplementing, but not supplanting, Department-, and/or university level policies for your level of employment or study. A good resource for University expectations and resources can be found at https://medschool.ucsd.edu/UCSDHSStandardsofConduct.

Inclusivity and diversity

Creative, high-quality research can only be conducted when you feel safe, secure, and supported. In addition, diversity and inclusivity has numerous benefits to us all. Put simply, the greater the mix of people in our group, the greater the mix of skills, experiences, perspectives, and ideas we can collectively draw on. But the benefits of diversity and equality cannot be fully achieved without creating an inclusive environment. A tangible example is the diverse expertise areas of a full-time surgeon versus a full-time molecular biologist. We need both to move the field forward. Similarly, we need diverse backgrounds and perspectives to impact medicine.

All group members are dedicated to a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, and/or religion. We do not tolerate harassment by and/or of members of our group in any form, and we ask all members of the community to conform to the following Code of Conduct:

  • All communication, be it online or in person, should be appropriate for a professional audience, and be considerate of people from different cultural backgrounds. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate at any time.
  • Be kind to others and do not insult or put down other group members.
  • Behave professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist, or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate.
  • Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, 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 discussions, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
  • Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.
  • Contribute to discussions in meetings with a constructive, positive approach
  • Be mindful of talking over others when discussing in groups, and be willing to hear out the ideas of others.
  • As a general rule, if you feel like a conversation (verbal or written) is not appropriate for a wide audience, you probably should not be having the conversation.
  • If there are problems, please contact Sam or any other Primary Investigator in the neighborhood.

Sam will discuss the Code of Conduct with lab members who violate these rules, no matter how much they contribute to the Muscle Physiology Lab, or how specialized or needed their skill set. If inappropriate behavior persists after this initial discussion, formal processes, in line with UCSD’s work practice policies, will commence (Principles of Community: https://ucsd.edu/about/principles.html; Office of the Ombuds: https://ombuds.ucsd.edu/about-us/index.html). To report an issue, please contact Sam Ward; all communication will be treated as confidential except in situations where University policy requires mandatory reporting. In these cases, information will be shared only with those university officials who have a need to know the information to assist in the response to, investigation of and resolution of a complaint. If you do not feel comfortable contacting Sam directly, please feel free to contact another PI in the neighborhood or the Academic Vice Chair of Orthoapedic Surgery (Cheryl Correia). If you would prefer to talk through issues with someone outside of the Lab/Department, please talk with a member of the Postgraduate Research Committee (https://postdoc.ucsd.edu) or Human Resources (https://hhr.ucsd.edu). If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault or harassment, our Title IX coordinator is (Lori Chamberlain, (858) 534-8298). More information about reporting sexual assault or harassment can be found at https://ophd.ucsd.edu.

Mental Health

There is increasing evidence that certain attributes of academic research, including PhD-level studies, Medical School, and Residency may challenge your mental health. Specific factors driving this include:

  • Low pay and quality-of-life issues, particularly as a function of living in an expensive city as San Diego
  • Feelings of isolation in your research; e.g. everyone has their own topic and it can often feel as if you are working on your own
  • Uncertainty in your research, although it should be noted that, in research of all kinds, it is not just the outcomes that are uncertain, but the questions themselves!
  • Uncertainty in your post-PhD career
  • So-called “negative results”; i.e. at some point in your research it is likely that certain questions will be more challenging to answer than anticipated, or that you will feel you have spent days/months/years toiling with little to show
  • Burnout; i.e. feeling the need to work endless hours to make up for the above issues, and the subsequent exhaustion

All trainees come across most of these issues at some level. I strongly encourage everyone in the group to take an active and pre-emptive approach towards the maintenance of their mental health. I assure you that you have the time and resources needed for a highly successful training experience. If there is anything that is placing undue stress, or preventing you from performing at your potential, please do not hesitate to let me or any of the staff in the department know how we can help. You should also be familiar resources on campus: https://wellness.ucsd.edu/CAPS/resources/Pages/default.aspx. Every effort will be made to help you access the right support networks.

UCSD provides free counseling services for faculty and staff. Information and confidential appointments can be made through the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at https://blink.ucsd.edu/HR/services/support/counseling/index.html.

Outputs, publication expectations and standards, and open science

Where possible, understanding certain financial constraints, all research outputs (e.g. papers and data) will be published ‘Open Access’ (OA). Please also note that, we are generally committed to eliminating the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations; and assessing research on its own merits, rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published. Sam is personally committed to these principles, thus you will be encouraged to think broadly about your choice of publication venue. Sam believes that the key guiding principle for choosing a journal is that it is thematically appropriate for the work you wish to publish.

Authorship on any manuscript or presentation will be openly discussed in group meetings and should, if possible, include everyone who has made a significant contribution to the work. A “significant contribution” generally includes, but is not limited to, ideas, interpretations and analysis of primary data, and writing (drafting or editing). It need not include data curation or financial contribution to the work undertaken, but it should always include the ability to accurately discuss the content in public. The order of authors on a manuscript or presentation should be dictated by the relative contribution made by each author (see the ICMJE guidelines for further information). Because projects often span time periods that exceed a trainee’s time in the lab, it is imperative that the trainee takes ownership of staying connected to the project (and authorship) after they depart the lab. Where conflict arises, Sam will facilitate discussion to help resolve the issues. An open dialogue is encouraged about this matter, ideally via authorship ‘check-ins’ that will likely occur several times over the lifetime of the study. To help inform Editors, reviewers, and readers of our papers, we will include an author contribution statement as part of a paper.

Papers must be shown to and receive approval from all co-authors prior to submission; this is consistent with guidance provided by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), who state that all authors must approve submission of work bearing their names. Please give co-authors at least two weeks to comment on paper and abstract drafts; at busy times of the year, they may need longer. Also note that many Lab members are using confidential, human health data and company-provided datasets; for the latter, our confidentiality agreements clearly state we must obtain permission from these companies to publish their data. In these cases, explicit permission must be sought for every paper; i.e. images approved for use in one paper may not be approved for a different paper. Upon acceptance (or rejection) of your paper, you must inform all coauthors of the outcome as soon as possible and ensure all co-authors get a chance to look at and comment on page proofs. Note that after paper acceptance, final text and graphics files must be sent, in raw format (e.g. .docx, .ai.) to all co-authors for their records/use within 14 days.

Data Management:

All computers should be backed up, daily, to at least two locations external to your main computer (e.g. a USB hard drive or network drive). The Muscle Physiology has a data server and file structure. Please consult Shannon Bremner if you have questions about access/use of the muscle server.

Upon completion of a project and where data confidentiality allows, all data and final manuscripts should be placed on the server. All group members must also adhere to UCSDs Research Data Management Policy.

The group operates numerous compute resources (e.g. shared drives). These shared resources should be respected and not abused, and if you need more computation resources then please discuss your individual requirements with Sam Ward or Shannon Bremner.

Conferences

Logistics

You will be supported (financially and otherwise) to attend and participate in conferences related to your training. You can either pay conference and travel fees and be reimbursed, or direct me towards any bookings you need. In either case, you are expected to register for the conference as a student (if relevant or cheapest category) and in advance to obtain discounted registration fees. When possible, you will fly economy class and book the cheapest accommodation possible. You are expected to share hotel rooms if travelling with colleagues, even if they are from outside of muscle Lab. You must book no later than 1 month in advance of the conference, and preferably earlier to obtain the lowest cost travel costs and accommodations. In general, each lab member will be supported to attend 1 conference per year, with costs decided upon ahead of time on a case by case basis. You are strongly encouraged to apply for travel awards to cover conference expenses.

Some conferences that we regularly attend are below (this is by no means exhaustive, and other more specifically, ad-hoc meetings will likely arise):
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Orthopaedic Research Society
American Society of Biomechanics
BioMedical Engineering Society
American Physical Therapy Association
American Association of Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
Keystone Symposia
Gordon Conferences

Note that we will typically aim to attend conferences ‘en masse’, such that accommodation costs can be shared and, based on experience, a more significant group ‘impact’ can be achieved. Exceptions can of course be made for conferences specific to your area of study and/or interest. For any questions or concerns regarding your ability to abide by any part of the travel policy or to request alternate arrangements, contact Sam.

Expectations and requirements

Conference abstracts must be shown to all co-authors at least one week before the abstract deadline. Upon acceptance (or rejection) of your abstract, you must inform all coauthors of the outcome as soon as possible. You must also send a final draft of your presentation or poster to all co-authors at least one week before the date of presentation. Ideally, a near-final draft should be completed two-weeks before the date of presentation, so that it can be presented at a Lab weekly group meeting; in this way, you will be able to receive feedback from your colleagues. Presentation and publishing ethics, both of which are at least partly captured by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), state that all authors must approve submission and presentation of work bearing their names. The same applies to papers (see above). Note that after material has been presented at a conference, this must be sent, in raw format (e.g. .ppt, .ai) to all co-authors and data providers for their records/use within 14 days.

Working hours

We recognize that many of you have personal responsibilities and obligations in addition to your training studies. We appreciate that, at times, it can be difficult to balance those demands, and that a classic ‘9-to-5’ day may not be optimal. Because of this, the exact hours you choose to work are up to you. Being on campus between 1000 and 1600 most days may, however, help facilitate collaborative working and, we hope, lead to a more fulfilling research experience. Where possible, meetings and events will not be arranged outside these hours to allow participation by all Lab members. Sam prefers not to work on weekends unless absolutely necessary – but your work week may be different, and when traveling for work these guidelines may be eroded. Just be flexible with your time, be respectful of other people’s decisions on how they spend their time, and remember it is NOT how hard you are seen to be working, it is the quality of your work and the quality of your accomplishments and outcomes. You will quickly recognize that we are milestone driven and we expect people to set ambitious deadlines for themselves and meet those deadline the majority of the time. If you are lab member, you are welcome to call Sam on his cell phone any time (619)508-9001. Please be judicious about calling outside of 6am-8pm.

Meetings

Group meetings: Group meetings are typically held at predefined times (depending on the group); all group members are expected to attend if they are not otherwise engaged in other research-related activities (e.g. at conference, attending training or a lecture, etc). These meetings are an excellent forum for updating colleagues on project progress, developing research skills, and widening our collective understanding. Meetings provide a forum for the presentation of results, such as ‘dry-runs’ of conference talks, and more informal discussions around research topics arising. As part of your professional training, you will be expected to lead your group discussion as your seniority in the lab increases.

Orthopaedic Surgery Grand Rounds (Wednesday mornings at 7am) and the MARC research meeting (Monday’s at 1pm) are mandatory for trainees.

Individual meetings: These will occur weekly unless canceled by the trainee. These meeting are an opportunity to talk about anything you want to talk about (research, career, politics, etc). They are mentoring meeting. If you want to meet with Sam, please contact Kim Tawfik via email. These will give you an opportunity to discuss your progress and any administrative issues that you need addressed. You are encouraged to send a short agenda ahead of time and to come fully prepared for individual meetings; in this way, discussions can be focused such that all concerns are addressed. Also, it is critically important to start each meeting with an accounting of your action items from the prior meeting.

Please inform Sam or Kim of holidays or notable absences in advance. Permission for holiday is very rarely required, but please respect key deadlines within the calendar year and the fact we work in a research group. It is important to take holidays, respect weekends (or time in lieu) and establish a sustainable work-life balance. It is also important to respect the time and efforts of others, and the contribution of funders, and to note that effective working will improve the quality of your research. Where there are key time pressures, it is important to prioritize work. If you struggle with establishing a sustainable work life balance, please discuss this with Sam at an early stage.

Lab Management

The lab space is shared between members of different labs and research teams. Keeping a clean and organized lab space is the responsibility of all lab members. Please ensure that you are leaving any shared space of equipment in an equal or better state then when you started using it, in order to maintain the quality and function of these spaces. If you are unsure where an item is/belongs, please reach out to ensure that it is placed is its proper location.

Communication

Where possible, avoid sending work-related emails with very short deadlines. If you must, follow the email up with a brief text or phone call to the recipient. That conversation should start with an apology for the short turnaround time.

Social media

In your work-related life, you may wish to engage with social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Please be considerate of others when using these platforms, and respectful of how others may wish to use them. For instance Sam uses Facebook and Instagram, and we have a lab Twitter site that is not well used. Please connect with these platforms in a personal and professional manner- his account has a wide audience (including the Deans and Chairs, friends and family, prospective students, funders, and other academics); you must therefore bear in mind the very public nature of interactions on social media, and that many people (who may not be on a specific platform) will read and hear of online correspondence. We are not compelled to engage with any social media, use any such media for work-related purposes, and we will never pressure each other to ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ each other.

Journals

You should be familiar with recently published material relevant to your training project. The list of journals you need to follow is very large these days, so we recommend that you create MyNCBI and GoogleScholar accounts, and use them to create weekly keyword searches for relevant key words. You will see these routinely forwarded from Sam, but you should create your own.

Vacation

You are expected to take vacation per year, beyond public holidays and the college closure at Christmas. I strongly encourage you to take this time so you can relax, visit family and friends, and generally unwind from the rigors of work. Although not a formal requirement, it is helpful to inform Sam in advance when you plan to take holidays or if you will not be present at Lab weekly meetings.

Thanks, and please enjoy your time in the Muscle Physiology Lab! This Code of Conduct (CoC) borrows heavily and is modified from six open source CoCs: (i) Gilbrt Lab CoC (Jack Gilbert);(ii) BahlaiLab CoC (Christine Bahlai); (iii) WhitakerLab (Kirstie Whitaker); (iv) Hill Lab (Jon Hill); (v) Krevorlab (Sam Krevor); (vi) MicroMicEng (Ben Britton); (vii) Basins Research Group – Christopher Jackson.