Edited by
Julia Deathridge

Research Culture: A Selection of Articles

Research culture needs to be improved for the benefit of science and scientists.
Image credit: Vivid Biology
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There are growing concerns that the research system no longer benefits science or scientists. The pressures to publish and obtain funding, along with a lack of job security for early-career researchers, have created a working environment that values novelty and quantity over rigor and quality, sometimes at great personal cost. The articles in this selection explore a variety of topics within the broad area of 'research culture'. Other aspects of research culture are covered in our collections on mental health, being a scientist and parent, equity, diversity and inclusion, and being neurodivergent in academia. eLife also runs a number of initiatives to improve research culture.


  1. Research Culture: Using reflective practice to support PhD students in the biosciences

    Jennifer Tullet, Jennifer Leigh ... Emma Hargreaves
    Reflective practice can help postgraduate students to navigate work environments, deal with difficult supervisory relationships, and improve their work-life balance.
  2. Research Culture: Why every lab needs a handbook

    Benjamin C Tendler, Maddie Welland ... The WIN Handbook Team
    By explaining how a lab works, outlining what is expected of everyone, and describing the culture the lab is aiming for, a good lab handbook will benefit all the members of a research group.
    1. Ecology

    Research Culture: Highlighting the positive aspects of being a PhD student

    Camille Bernery, Léo Lusardi ... Franck Courchamp
    Articles about doing a PhD tend to focus on the difficulties faced by research students: here we argue that the scientific community should also highlight the positive elements of the PhD experience.
  3. Research Culture: Surveying the experience of postdocs in the United States before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Andréanne Morin, Britney A Helling ... Nancy B Schwartz
    The pandemic adversely affected the mental health and research productivity of postdocs in the US, and institutional resources helped to alleviate some of these stresses.
  4. Research Culture: Welcome to the lab

    Andrey Andreev, Valerie Komatsu ... Maurice Y Lee
    Having a formal onboarding procedure for new lab members can lead to a happier and more productive working environment.
  5. Point of View: Promoting constructive feedback on preprints with the FAST principles

    Sandra Franco Iborra, Jessica Polka, Iratxe Puebla
    Ensuring that public feedback on preprints is focused, appropriate, specific and transparent (or FAST) will help to develop a thriving culture for reviewing and commenting on preprints.
  6. Research Culture: Creating SPACE to evolve academic assessment

    Ruth Schmidt, Stephen Curry, Anna Hatch
    The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) has developed a new tool called SPACE to support universities and institutions working to improve the assessment of research.
  7. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Racial inequity in grant funding from the US National Institutes of Health

    Michael A Taffe, Nicholas W Gilpin
    Grant applications submitted to the NIH by African-American/Black PIs are less likely to be funded than applications from white PIs, and the NIH must find a solution that eliminates this racial disparity.
  8. Research Culture: A survey of early-career researchers in Australia

    Katherine Christian, Carolyn Johnstone ... Michael R Doran
    Job insecurity is putting stress on early-career researchers in Australia, compromising their career development and potentially reducing the quality of research.
  9. Research Culture: Virtual conferences raise standards for accessibility and interactions

    Sarvenaz Sarabipour
    Virtual conferences benefit the scientific community by increasing the number and diversity of attendees compared to in-person conferences, and by being less time consuming, more economic and environmentally friendly.
  10. Research Culture: Why scientific societies should involve more early-career researchers

    Adriana Bankston, Stephanie M Davis ... Vincent Boudreau
    Appointing early-career researchers to positions of influence within scientific societies would be mutually beneficial for both.
  11. Research Culture: Changing how we evaluate research is difficult, but not impossible

    Anna Hatch, Stephen Curry
    The DORA initiative offers practical guidance on improving the assessment of research by universities, research institutions, and funders.
  12. Research Culture: Actionable recommendations from trainees to improve science training

    Stephanie M Davis, Harinder Singh ... Fátima Sancheznieto
    Early-career researchers propose seven actions that can be taken by research institutions and departments to improve science training.
  13. Research Culture: A survey-based analysis of the academic job market

    Jason D Fernandes, Sarvenaz Sarabipour ... Amanda Haage
    A survey of over 300 applicants for faculty positions reveals that there are many paths to securing a job offer.
  14. COVID-19 and the Research Community: The challenges of lockdown for early-career researchers

    Nicola Byrom
    Thousands of UK doctoral students and early-career researchers shared the repercussions of lockdown on their work and wellbeing.
  15. Research Culture: A survey of travel behaviour among scientists in Germany and the potential for change

    Verena Haage
    A survey of scientists working in Germany reveals that most already travel to conferences in a sustainable manner and would be willing to make further changes to protect the environment.
  16. Research Culture: Framework for advancing rigorous research

    Walter J Koroshetz, Shannon Behrman ... Shai D Silberberg
    Establishing a community of 'rigor champions' and building a comprehensive educational platform to teach the principles of rigorous science will help to ensure that the outputs of scientific research remain reliable and robust.
  17. Research Culture: Setting the right tone

    Tanita Casci, Elizabeth Adams
    Improving the research culture of an institution may lead to a fairer, more rewarding and successful environment, but how do you start making changes?
  18. Research Culture: Career choices of underrepresented and female postdocs in the biomedical sciences

    W Marcus Lambert, Martin T Wells ... Linnie M Golightly
    Mentorship, financial security and a positive sense of self-worth increase the likelihood that underrepresented minority and female postdocs will pursue a career in academia.
    1. Microbiology and Infectious Disease

    Research Culture: Co-reviewing and ghostwriting by early-career researchers in the peer review of manuscripts

    Gary S McDowell, John D Knutsen ... Rebeccah S Lijek
    Early career researchers commonly peer review manuscripts on behalf of invited reviewers, often without receiving feedback or being named to the journal.
  19. Research Culture: A survey of new PIs in the UK

    Sophie E Acton, Andrew JD Bell ... Alison Twelvetrees
    The challenges faced by new PIs in the UK include difficulties in recruiting PhD students, maintaining a good work-life balance and securing permanent positions.
  20. Point of View: When it comes to teaching and tenure it is time to walk the walk

    Andrew W Murray, Diane K O'Dowd, Chris D Impey
    Institutions should value teaching and service, and not just research, when considering faculty for promotion and tenure.
  21. Research Assessment: Reducing bias in the evaluation of researchers

    A workshop run by DORA identified a number of ways to reduce bias in hiring and funding decisions.
  22. Workforce Diversity: Let’s talk about race

    A workshop convened by the Medical Research Council gave PhD students the opportunity to discuss how research careers could be made more inclusive for black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals.
  23. Gender Equity: Addressing recruitment at the departmental level

    We suggest five ways in which biology departments can improve their hiring processes in order to achieve gender equity in their workforce.
  24. Research: United States National Postdoc Survey results and the interaction of gender, career choice and mentor impact

    Sean C McConnell, Erica L Westerman ... Nancy B Schwartz
    The quality of mentoring received while a postdoc influences career choice irrespective of field, gender, or ethnicity, according to a 7,603-respondent postdoc survey.
  25. Global Science: Barriers in Bangladesh

    Senjuti Saha, Sudipta Saha, Samir K Saha
    An international effort is needed to overcome the paywalls, customs regulations and lack of local suppliers that hinder research in low- and middle-income countries.
  26. Workforce diversity: Strategies for cultivating inclusion in research

    The organizers of a recent symposium on diversity challenges in science, technology, engineering and math outline approaches to improve diversity and inclusion across all career stages.
  27. Point of View: Competency-based assessment for the training of PhD students and early-career scientists

    Michael F Verderame, Victoria H Freedman ... Wayne T McCormack
    A method to assess the training of scientists, based on a set of 10 core competencies, is proposed.
  28. Point of View: Journal clubs in the time of preprints

    Prachee Avasthi, Alice Soragni, Joshua N Bembenek
    Early-career researchers can learn about peer review by discussing preprints at journal clubs and sending feedback to the authors.
  29. Point of View: The NIH must reduce disparities in funding to maximize its return on investments from taxpayers

    Wayne P Wahls
    A more balanced distribution of NIH grant funding among investigators would strengthen the diversity of the research enterprise, increase the likelihood of scientific breakthroughs, and lead to a greater return on taxpayers' investments.
  30. Point of View: What’s in a name?

    Michael D Schaller, Gary McDowell ... Wesley I Sundquist
    Standardizing the titles, terms and conditions under which postdocs are employed will benefit the biomedical research workforce.
  31. Point of View: The future of graduate and postdoctoral training in the biosciences

    Peter Hitchcock, Ambika Mathur ... David Engelke
    What can institutions and funding agencies do to address an array of issues facing the biomedical research community in the United States?
  32. Point of view: Motivating participation in open science by examining researcher incentives

    Sarah E Ali-Khan, Liam W Harris, E Richard Gold
    A survey of researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital provides insights into the challenges and opportunities involved in adopting an open science policy across an entire patient-oriented academic institution.
  33. Point of View: The sustainable professor

    Elizabeth S Haswell
    Responsible agricultural practices provide a useful lens through which to consider the lives and careers of researchers.
  34. Point of View: Nomad scientists and the ones left behind

    Maya Bar, Barak Rotblat, Oded Rechavi
    To improve the diversity of the scientific workforce, we should not penalize researchers who are unable to move abroad for long periods.
  35. Research: Gender bias in scholarly peer review

    Markus Helmer, Manuel Schottdorf ... Demian Battaglia
    Gender-bias in peer reviewing might persist even when gender-equity is reached because both male and female editors operate with a same-gender preference whose characteristics differ by editor-gender.
  36. Research: Decoupling of the minority PhD talent pool and assistant professor hiring in medical school basic science departments in the US

    Kenneth D Gibbs Jr, Jacob Basson ... David A Broniatowski
    A systems-level analysis of the biomedical workforce in the US shows that current strategies to enhance faculty diversity are unlikely to have a significant impact, and that there is a need to increase the number of PhDs from underrepresented minority backgrounds who move on to postdoctoral positions.
    1. Biochemistry and Chemical Biology

    Point of View: How open science helps researchers succeed

    Erin C McKiernan, Philip E Bourne ... Tal Yarkoni
    Open research practices bring significant benefits to researchers.
  37. Point of View: Avoiding a lost generation of scientists

    Justin Q Taylor, Peter Kovacik ... Christin A Glorioso
    By sharing their experiences, early-career scientists can help to make the case for increased government funding for researchers.
  38. Point of View: Strategies from UW-Madison for rescuing biomedical research in the US

    Judith Kimble, William M Bement ... Hannah S Seidel
    A cross-campus, cross-career stage and cross-disciplinary series of discussions at a large public university has produced a series of recommendations for addressing the problems confronting the biomedical research community in the US.
  39. Point of View: How postdocs benefit from building a union

    Benjamin Cain, Jessica M Budke ... Benjamin Schwessinger
    Members of UAW 5810—the union for postdoctoral researchers at the University of California—describe how their union has led to improved terms and conditions for postdocs.
  40. Point of View: The writing on the wall

    Henry R Bourne
    The biomedical research enterprise in the US has become unsustainable and urgent action is needed to address a variety of problems.
  41. Point of View: What does it take to recruit and retain senior women faculty?

    Fiona M Watt
    eLife deputy editor Fiona M Watt recounts some of her personal experiences as a senior female academic in a male-dominated environment.