On July 6th, 2023, the Good Scientific Practice working group at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB) organised a Cafè Culture – an event that invited the whole community to reimagine research culture, and help build a better research environment.
The event consisted of group discussions around several areas of the current research environment that respondents to a recent survey by the Wellcome Trust had highlighted as the major issues to solve about our research culture.
Over 50 people from all six centres at the park participated in the event. The 10 groups were formed based on the career stage of the participants, from junior to senior researchers, leadership and management positions, and included technicians and other support staff (research managers, training, communications officers, etc).
Cafè culture: a workshop designed by the Wellcome Trust
PRBB residents were given cards with some facts and opinions from the Wellcome report, as well as some facts related to the PRBB and its centres. They were also invited to include their own experiences in the discussions.
Based on the initial discussions with these cards, each group had to identify what the most important challenge was for them, and then brainstorm to find solutions; either existing good practices, or new ideas they thought could be applied to our context.
Finally, all groups shared their ideas with the rest; everyone voted their three preferred ideas; and everyone wrote one thing they committed to start doing right away to improve the research culture.
Many challenges and even more solutions
From the discussions that arouse, it became clear that research culture is important, and that some key topics are of especial concern to our community; topics that have been highlighted also by the scientific community at large whenever similar dialogues have taken place. These included:
- Harassment/micro-aggressions and impact on mental health and wellbeing
- Assessment of researchers and too much competition
- Supervision issues / hierarchies and lack of open communication about interpersonal problems
- Precariousness and job insecurity
- Sustainability in the lab
Gladly, there were many interesting proposals to deal with these issues: from small, individual actions such as “asking my colleagues more often about how they are and whether I can help with something” or “plan experiments more carefully to reduce plastic consumption”, to institutional-level proposals such as “anonymous surveys on the researh environment“, “policies on digital disconnection”, “including supervision as part of the PIs evaluation” or “creating permanent contracts for ‘non traditional’ positions”.
The two hours were clearly not enough for the participants, who valued the event very positively (marks 4.6 out of 5).
Indeed, many of the feedback comments asked for more similar discussions – or smaller, more focused events on a particular topic of interest. There was also a general pledge for more presence of senior researchers and the involvement of the leadership, to ensure that all this brainstorming and idea generation reaches the decision-making spheres.
A good research culture is paramount to ensure excellent research.
What’s clear is that a good research culture is paramount to ensure excellent research, and that the PRBB residents have a lot to say. We will continue the open dialogue with all stakeholders to help build a better, more open, fair, responsible and creative research environment for all. Watch this space!