Culture

Culture

Commitments

The below commitments are designed to facilitate each of us individually and collectively flourishing. They are in a continual process of refinement; in all aspects of life (including work and science), we experiment, learn, and grow. These commitments augment, and therefore do not replace, official JHU policies, including:

Joining the lab, which is made official by signing documents with JHU where JHU commits to you, amounts to also agreeing to all of the below core commitments. If any individual is not acting in a fashion that is in alignment with these commitments, that indicates that our environment is not adequately supportive of their flourishing, and therefore, we will seek to find something more in alignment with them (which could happen by modifying the commitments, or supporting them to find an opportunity that is more supportive of them).

The expectation is that each of us meet all of these commitments 90% of the time.

Jovo

For everybody in NeuroData, for the duration of your tenure as a team member:

Flourish

I commit to flow in, and expand, our individual and collective flourishing. I commit to supporting all the members of NeuroData to flow in, and expand, your individual and collective flourishing.

Implicit in this commitment is an acknowledgement that each of us defines flourishing and collective for ourselves; thus I commit to support you in your definitions of flourishing and collective, not mine.

Guidance

I commit to providing conscious guidance and direction to the best of my abilities in support of your growth and maturation as a student, scientist, and conscious being.

At various times, this will translate into me being a:

  • coach: in which I encourage you & facilitate self-empowerment,
  • challenger: in which I catalyze you to take action,
  • creator: in which I co-create with you to manifest our desired outcomes.

This commitment includes me not being any of the following:

  • victim: in which I fail to take responsibility for my part of outcomes,
  • villain: in which I blame others for various outcomes,
  • hero: in which I seek temporary relief, rather than empowerment.

Diversity

I commit to maintaining lab diversity.

This includes actively recruiting lab members spanning levels, specifically including individuals with various sex, gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, political views, veteran status, experience or lack thereof, or other historically and contemporaneously marginalized identities.

Modeling

I commit to modeling the way.

This means that I will act in a fashion that I believe is in alignment with our commitments, in an effort to provide an example for you for one way that acting in alignment with these commitments can look. And, I understand that manifesting these commitments will look different for each person.

NeuroData

The following commitments and agreements apply to all current members of NeuroData, Jovo included.

Genius

I commit to focusing the majority of my research energy on a few projects in my zone of genius, and to support and inspire others to fully express their creativity and live in their zones of genius.

Abiding by this commitment requires assessing your zone of genius. Note that this commitment leaves plenty of room to work on non-lab stuff, and play.

Alignment

I commit to focus my primary research project(s) on work that aligns with our mission, our resources/expertise, and my genius.

See how to choose a project for more tips on how to choose a project. In general, the expectation is that each project takes about one year to sufficiently complete to make public (e.g., post to arXiv), and is complete when the manuscript is published in a journal/conference.

Open, Accessible, & Reproducible Science

I commit to conducting my work using the highest standards for open, accessible, and reproducible science.

This commitment leads to all of our research derivatives being open, accessible and reproducible, including code, data, data derivatives, publications, talks, posters, etc. At the highest level, our work is open throughout the entire scientific process. Note that external collaborators may have other commitments, and so are committed to always work to be in alignment with their commitments and ours.

Honesty

I commit to speaking & writing inarguably, including acknowledging all authentic feelings, and only making impeccable agreements.

This means, for example, that we use "I" statements, such as "I heard X," rather than "You said X," and "My judgment of you is that you are X," rather than "You are X." Honesty demands an appropriate level of epistemic humility. This also means we do not overclaim in our discussions, nor do we write things in abstracts that are not yet true.

Play

I commit to play by honoring rest, renewal, and rhythm.

Stuart Brown defines play in his book as “an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and suspends self-consciousness and a sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.” Manifestations of play include participating in daily recess (3pm daily on school days), and/or other regular social/playful events. This also includes taking regular breaks and vacations from work.

Diversity and Inclusion

I commit to co-creating a safe, comfortable, and brave space, and harassment-free experience (see wikipedia's definition of harassment for details), for everyone.

This commitment holds regardless of an individual's sex, gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, political or other views, veteran status, experience or lack of, or other historically and contemporaneously marginalized identity. We recognize the unique struggles of being a member of a marginalized community (and all the more so for individuals who are members of multiple such communities) in STEM. And we recognize ways in which we may benefit from and/or contribute to marginalization of certain groups.

Feedback

I commit to seeking, gathering, appreciating, and learning from feedback. I commit to authentically and consciously offer feedback.

The model for feedback we use is the Conscious Leadership Group's clearing model. It is often best practice to provide such feedback in private. Feedback for Jovo can be provided directly in the #jovofeedback Slack channel, the anonymous feedback form, or by scheduling a one-on-one meeting with Jovo (the preferred format).

Accountability

I commit to being accountable for my contribution to any outcome.

We encourage all communities to resolve issues on their own whenever possible. This builds a broader and deeper understanding and ultimately a healthier interaction. Use the clearing model to resolve any conflict. If that fails, send the information from the clearing model questions and answers to support@neurodata.io, who will seek a win-for-all solution.

Code

NeuroData recommendations for contributing code to widely used open-source libraries, include:

  • Be a member of the neurodata organization on Github, and make your membership status public.
  • Follow FIRM standards.
  • Preface your issue or devlist email with the following: My name is [name here], and I am a member of @neurodata of Johns Hopkins University. We design, build, study, and apply statistical machine learning and big data science techniques, and are highly active in the open source community. You can find a list of our open source contributions here.

We believe that following these steps will add credibility to the contribution, and make it more likely for the issue/PR to be reviewed/accepted.

Papers

NeuroData recommendations for papers are as follows:

  • Follow the recommended guidelines for writing papers.
  • When it is time to start writing a paper, clone our latex template Overleaf repo, invite Jovo to it, and make him owner so that compilation goes faster and we can track changes.
  • Share the preprint with co-authors at least one week in advance of planning to post/submit it. If for some reason a lab member cannot be reached during this time, there is no need to wait for them.
  • Track changes (see below for details).
  • Post/submit when you feel ready, regardless of the feedback (or lack thereof), even from Jovo.
  • Be aware that collaborators outside the lab may have other practices, and seek to achieve win-for-all solutions where everybody is in alignment with all decisions.
  • When we are middle authors, consider proactively inquiring about their lab practices and seek to agree to a procedure that is in alignment for all stakeholders.
  • Encourage and support all co-authors to have access to the final submitted manuscript.
  • If you are a
    • MSE thesis students and Research staff: submit a first author publication each year
    • PhD students: submit a first author publication once per each of the last three years of the PhD
    • Postdocs: submit a first author publication once per year
  • Use quotes sparingly, and be conscious of the current views of the moral standing of the quoted individual.
  • For tracking changes, consider adding comments as: % TODO blah blah ---jovo. This enables everyone to easily find all the comments, including if they are editing locally (or simply not in the Overleaf web app).
  • Upon receiving feedback, address every single piece of feedback in the text itself. Recall: the author of a manuscript is literally the least qualified person in the world to ascertain whether what that person has written is clear to other people, which is the question at hand. Therefore, if you are the author, and you think it was clear, you are wrong, in that it certainly was not clear to at least one person who cares.
  • The person who submits the paper is the first author. After revisions, if somebody else submits the revised paper, the author order may switch.

General Communication

At any NeuroData sanctioned event or content, including: code, talks, presentations, demos, hackathons, workshops, social gatherings, social media, or any other online media, we abide by the following guidelines:

  • Be friendly and patient: Remember you might not be communicating in someone else's primary spoken, written, or programming language, and others may not have your level of understanding.
  • Be welcoming: Our community welcomes and supports people of all backgrounds and identities. This includes, but is not limited to members of any race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, color, immigration status, social and economic class, educational level, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, size, family status, political belief, religion, and mental and physical ability.
  • Be respectful: We are a community of professionals, and we conduct ourselves professionally. Disagreement is no excuse for poor behavior and poor manners. Disrespectful behavior includes, but is not limited to:
    • Violent threats or language.
    • Discriminatory or derogatory jokes and language.
    • Posting sexually explicit or violent material.
    • Posting, or threatening to post, people's personally identifying information ("doxing").
    • Insults, especially those using discriminatory terms or slurs.
    • Explicit or intentional sexual attention.
    • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behaviors.
    • Racial microaggressions.
    • Dress appropriately in lab spaces (both physical and virtual), including covering appropriate body parts and avoiding clothing with offensive or inappropriate designs or stamps.
    • Avoid using profane language in written materials when representing NeuroData.
  • Understand Disagreements: Disagreements, both social and technical, are useful learning opportunities. Seek to understand the other viewpoints and resolve differences constructively.
  • This code is not exhaustive or complete. It serves to capture our common understanding of a productive, collaborative environment. We expect these standards of conduct to be followed in spirit as much as in the letter.

Internal Communication

All data we get in the world is feedback for us, and so the opportunity to learn and grow from each interaction is ever present. Receiving feedback with curiosity and openness, however, can often be a challenge. Similarly, providing explicit feedback to others can also be a challenge, partially because you may not want to offend them, partially because we are not trained to offer or receive feedback consciously.

Consciously offering feedback includes owning my projections and my responsibility for co-creating this situation, and specifically offering it directly to the person(s) with whom the feedback is about, only if they explicitly acknowledge that they are ready for it. Consciously receiving feedback includes understanding that whoever is offering feedback is projecting somewhat, and partially responsible for co-creating this situation, and so are you. It also includes only receiving feedback directly about you, unless there are extenuating circumstances, and only when you are ready.

The most effective means to communicate with other individuals in the lab is to schedule a 1-on-1 meeting. If your weekly 1-on-1 meeting with Jovo is inadequate for some reason, schedule additional time here.

External Communication

Contacting people outside the lab with questions is effectively asking them to spend their limited time helping us for free. Since we would prefer to be the ones offering help rather than receiving it, we recommend, prior to asking them for help, considering what it would take for us to solve our problem without their help (this means searching the literature, exploring and writing code, reading books, talking to labmates, etc).

If we do have to ask people outside the lab questions, clarify to them the extent to which we are grateful for their time, and that we have exhausted our internal resources prior to reaching out. Any questions we ask are about pointing us in the right direction, rather than asking for a time to speak with them.

Reach out to potential collaborators when we find any information that may be useful for the lab, such as algorithms or public code we want to incorporate into our package. Invite them to co-author any papers we produce, and in general include them in our community.

Video Conferencing

Use closed captioning technology when presenting our work virtually, whenever possible. Videoconference technology can make it especially hard for deaf, hard of hearing, and/or non-native English speakers to understand speech. Such technology is available on Google slides, and Microsoft Office 365. In order to make this practice maximally effective, we strive to:

  • keep captioning on even during question and answer periods
  • link audio output to input, so the captioning can pick up speech from the audience. This can be done by playing audio out loud through computer speakers, or by using software such as this.

Presentations

  • Practice before getting in front of other people, because every minute you speak you have implicitly asked many other people to devote to you, so please be respectful of other people's time.
  • Plan to present your work internally about 2x / year.
  • If you just joined the lab, sign up for the beginning of the queue here, and present your life story while wearing a funny hat. Team members can sign up for a slot.
  • When making slides to present to other lab members, use either our google slides folder, or use some markdown presentation system (such as remark or marp (which also has vs code integration), and commit the slides to your repo.
  • Present at >=1 conference per year to get feedback, network, and professional development.
  • Attend any number of conferences you desire, though we recommend you:
  • apply to present your work via some mechanism (posters, talks, or boothing),
  • for conferences with proceedings, provide a "submission ready" draft to co-authors >= 1 month prior to submission deadline, or
  • for conferences with posters, provide a "presentation ready" poster to co-authors >= 2 weeks prior to the event.

Meetings

To facilitate efficient and effective meetings among participants, we recommend the following meeting agenda (adapted from this):

  • Get present: check-in / devotional connection
  • Agree to goal of the meeting
  • Listen consciously to one another's ideas (Yes/and)
  • Define measurable next action steps collectively (who will do what by when?)
  • check whole body yes for all
  • check-out -->

Conservation of Reviews

The scientific canon depends on individuals generously reviewing the work of our peers for free. Every time we submit a manuscript to a journal/conference, we get about three reviews. Thus, to ensure that we are not taking advantage of the system, we agree to review three articles for any journal/conference that we submit to.

Transitions

If you are leaving the lab, make a 'transition' plan no later than 3 months prior to departure, wherein the technical expertise we have acquired in the lab is transferred to at least one individual in the lab. This includes, - If we have written a numerical package, that the core components of it are integrated into another package, so maintenance is no longer dependent on us; - A plan for how to address completing papers that are not yet 'done' (where done means we've already sent proofs back). This includes identifying an individual who will be the point of contact for future correspondence with journals, etc. Authorship inclusion and order may change in this process, including elevating/relegating to/from first author, as deemed appropriate by the co-authors.

Agreements

While these agreements are a living, breathing document, changing them costs energy for everybody, and can lead to an experience of instability. Consider the costs upon proposing a modification. If you propose one, you are responsible for getting a majority of Neurodata members to approve the change.

Activities

Annual Group Hangouts

To build community and deeper interpersonal connections, and to have fun, we have annual activities like going to dinner as a team. These occasions will include a celebration of past successes, as well as a discussion of collective goals for the subsequent year. These occasions will be organized by trainees.

Semi-Annual No Jovo Meeting

We meet at least 2x annually without jovo to discuss ways we can collectively improve the lab, and provide detailed and radically candid feedback.

Annual Reviews

  • Annual reviews are required by the BME PhD program, and recommended for all members of the team, to document goals and assess trajectory, by filling out the following questionnaire.
  • After completing the form, schedule a meeting with Jovo.
  • These meetings will typically happen in July.

Privileges and Responsibilities

Birthday Privileges

On the day of a lab members' birthday, all other members shall refer to them as "Your Supreme Superbity." Also, all lab members must spontaneously break out into an enthusiastic chicken dance at their command.

Other Privileges & Responsibilities

We collectively co-create our community. Being a part of this community affords us access to many amazing resources. Associated with access to those resources and privileges are a number of responsibilities.

  • The privilege of being an official member of the team comes with the responsibility of
    • being physically present in the lab 2+ days/week for all full weeks in the academic calendar, modulo vacations, disease, or family emergencies,
    • responding to other lab members' queries in a timely fashion (e.g., within a week),
    • posting any papers (in which I am the first author) to a preprint server no later than the date of submission,
    • making any code necessary to reproduce the figures in any paper I write open access no later than the date of submission to preprint server,
    • updating our lab CV no later than one week after posting new papers, revisions, presentations, etc.,
    • proposing updates to our agreements/etc. whenever potential improvements are envisioned, and
    • making a reasonable effort to attend official lab events.
  • The privilege of being a PhD student in the lab comes with Jovo offering 1 hour per week of devotion, and the responsibility to cancel the meeting in the calendar as soon as you chose to not attend (there is no need to request or explain anything to anybody, just cancel).
  • The privilege of being a senior member of the team (have successfully submitted >=1 first author peer-reviewed manuscript on our team) comes with the responsibility of accepting a buddy mentee. The responsibility associated with this mentee will be to onboard the mentee. There is a lot of literature to suggest this is good for everyone on the team, for example, see here and here.
  • The privilege of being a PhD student or postdoc comes with the additional responsibility of
    • attending the weekly lab meeting regularly,
    • presenting at lab meeting once per cycle,
    • applying to present at a conference annually
  • The privilege of being a postdoc comes with the responsibility of applying for funding to cover each year you are here, targeting a solicitation >3 months in advance.
  • The privilege of being funded by a grant comes with the responsibility for contributing to all grant-related agreements, including making/giving talks, attending grant meetings, regular reporting, and any other agreements specified in the grant, and addressing all jovo grant related requests no later than the end of the next business day (e.g., if the request arrives at 4pm Friday, then it is completed no later than 5pm on Monday.
  • The privilege of accessing commercial cloud resources comes with the responsibility of first
  • trying things locally on your computer, then
  • trying things locally on institutional resources, then
  • writing (not winning) an AWS Cloud Credits for Research grant for $10k for small projects, and checking the status every three months, then
  • educating oneself about proper use of commercial cloud resources, then
  • trying things on commercial clouds for which we have credits, then
  • spending grant money on additional commercial cloud resources.

Jovo specific responsibilities

  • I am responsible for providing the financial, computational, space, and other resources appropriate for your position, potentially including salary, benefits, computing costs, conference fees, travel expenses, publication fees, a desk, a laptop, monitors, etc. Crucially, expenses never impact your salary or benefits.
  • I am rensponsible for devoting at least 1 hour per week in person with each PhD student, except for weeks that I am traveling, or when the week is short due to academic calendar days off, or in the case of a disease/family emergency. These meetings will always be in person unless Jovo is not in person for some other commitment to family.

Other

Brave Space and Training

A brave space is one which abides by the following tenets:

  • “Controversy with civility,” where varying opinions are accepted
  • “Owning intentions and impacts,” in which students acknowledge and discuss instances where a dialogue has affected the emotional well-being of another person
  • “Challenge by choice,” where students have an option to step in and out of challenging conversations
  • “Respect,” where students show respect for one another’s basic personhood
  • “No attacks,” where students agree not to intentionally inflict harm on one another

To support this goal, we encourage all lab members to attend diversity training opportunities hosted by the university (e.g., Safe Zone Training). Our purpose in attending diversity training is to gain knowledge and skills we can use to co-create a welcoming and productive lab environment for people of all backgrounds.

The lab website will display badges for all members who have completed any such training, to express our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Summer Community Outreach

We agree to support >= 1 summer student each summer. There are a variety of summer mentorship opportunities in partnership with some Baltimore public education institutions (e.g., state university, public high school) that can foster stronger connections with our surrounding community. Examples include:

  • ICM Summer Internship with UMBC or Morgan State - website
  • Mentor student from local college through JHMI Summer Internship Program - website
  • Research experience for women in Baltimore City schools through WSE's WISE program - website
  • Volunteering at CodeScholar, a summer bootcamp for Baltimore School System students - website

Mentors can anticipate that many of their mentees may experience imposter syndrome. This can be compounded by stereotype threat and experiences of discrimination that have happened in the past or their current environment (which should be addressed by the team). Mentors can support their mentees (and vice versa) by educating themselves on imposter syndrome’s causes, indications, and counteractive tools or practices. Mentors can thus learn to listen in a new way to their mentees and validate their experiences, to use positive and constructive feedback to affirm their value, to share their own uncertainties and learning process, and to ask if their mentees would like support in connecting with resources such as affinity networks for people with shared experiences or articles with tools for managing imposter syndrome.

The following resources are recommended to all lab members, especially to those who serve as mentors. They are also encouraged to seek additional resources to learn how to create an equitable and supportive lab environment.