Creating inclusive and productive research labs

Do you want to create an environment that brings out the best in your team?

A lab manual can help! 

Lab manuals make information easily accessible, providing clarity on rules and procedures, addressing commonly asked questions, and setting out expectations around values and behaviours. 

Download EDI Lab Manual (.DOCX)

Guidelines for BrainsCAN Research Lab Manual

Having a lab manual means:

  • Every lab member reads the same expectations in the same words, putting everyone on an equal footing
  • Rules and policies are available in writing; lab members do not have to rely on informal instruction
  • Questions are answered without new lab members having to ask
  • New lab members understand the requirements and expectations before they start
  • There is mutual understanding of expectations around behaviour and codes of conduct
  • Lab members understand your research philosophy
  • Expectations are set around working hours and time off
  • There is understanding of the support lab members can expect from you and others
  • Lab members know where they can turn if they are struggling
  • Lab members know what they need to do if they make a mistake

BrainsCAN’s template provides the foundation of a lab manual that you can tailor for your own lab.

Template Contents:

Core Values

  • Commitment to ensure everyone is respected and treated fairly
  • States that the opinions and insights of trainees and collaborators are valued
  • Explains that science should be undertaken as carefully, accurately and honestly as possible
  • States conduct in meetings will be inclusive, appropriate and sensitive to others’ roles, knowledge, skills, background and the cultural or historic barriers that otherwise prevent full and equal participation

General Lab Practices

  • Lists compulsory and recommended training to be undertaken
  • Explains commitment to Open Science
  • Explains commitment to DORA principles - Responsible assessment of research
  • Offers guidance on knowledge mobilization and impact
  • Outlines guidelines for record keeping
  • Provides expectations and guidance for arranging social activities

Lab and Individual Meetings

  • Explains purpose of meetings
  • States when, where and how often meetings take place, ensuring meeting times are accessible to everyone
  • Sets out frequency of meetings with PI
  • Sets expectations around conduct at meetings
  • Notifies team that they are expected to present their ideas/findings

Lab and Office Space

  • Expectations around space – what should and should not take place in various locations
  • How to get the most out of research space
  • Lists locations of space/meeting rooms that can be booked for specific research activities, meetings or quiet time

Lab Communication

  • Provides etiquette rules for communication
  • Lists channels of communication e.g., Slack, MS Team Channel, Basecamp, Wiki, email
  • Encourages inclusiveness
  • Use of calendars for communicating events as well as religious holidays and national events such as Pride month, Black History month.
  • Encourages flat communication structure
  • Sets expectations for response times e.g. two weeks notice for reviewing papers, grant applications etc.


  • Why conferences are important
  • Transparency around conference attendance
  • Where the team can find information on relevant conferences
  • Information on where to seek funding
  • Guidance on claiming back expenses
  • Details on covering childcare costs if applicable

Research Design

  • Considerations specific to your lab
  • Best practices in SGBA+
  • OurBrainsCAN as a tool to help with diversity in human participants
  • Barriers to human participation such as accessibility, time of day, safety considerations

Writing and Authorship

  • The importance of needing to write well to communicate research outputs
  • Ways to improve writing skills
  • Selecting journals to publish in
  • Sets out contributions required to be an author on a journal publication and how authors are ordered

Expectations and Roles

  • Roles and expectations for research assistants, honours students, MSc Students, PhD students, postdocs, staff scientists and PI
  • Who supervises which roles
  • Research independence level for each role
  • How often research should be presented
  • Frequency and timing of meetings with the lab director/PI
  • Expectations around background reading
  • Thesis requirements for graduate students

Alba - Building An Inclusive Lab Environment