Introducing Nowhere Lab
A Remote, Global Lab for Everyone.
Nowhere Lab & FORRT. Nowhere Lab has partnered with FORRT as part of FORRT’s efforts to promote social justice and enable equality of access to open scholarship training! Nowhere Lab members benefit from weekly meetings where they can bring any questions they have about adopting any open scholarship practices (or anything else related to science and/or academia). Dr. Priya Silverstein (Nowhere Lab founder) is also available to answer any questions about engaging in other FORRT initiatives either during the weekly meetings, by reaching out via the Nowhere Lab or FORRT Slack workspaces, or by email. Nowhere Lab also operates informal mentorship – rather than matching mentors and mentees, people with mutual interests and skills are able to be connected and there are several channels in our Slack for seeking help or support for a variety of issues.
Throughout my academic career, I loved being in a lab. I looked forward to biweekly lab meetings as a research assistant, hearing about what the Ph.D. students were up to and wondering about what my own Ph.D. would hold (if I ever got that far). When I finally got a Ph.D. position, I had not one but TWO weekly lab meetings with each of my two supervisors. In the first, we always held journal clubs – taking some of the newest and most exciting developmental science research and dissecting the theory and methods to bits. In the second, we had a mix of journal clubs, presentations, and catch-ups. A Ph.D. can be quite lonely – just you and your super-specific topic – so lab meetings were a welcome time to reflect, process, and think with labmates. During a pandemic-induced furlough from my postdoc, and when I took two alt-academic jobs after this, I really missed this chance to connect with labmates. So, I decided to create my own lab. That’s where Nowhere Lab began.
Who we are
Nowhere Lab ( http://nowherelab.com/) is an online community for people who would like the lab meeting experience but don’t currently have one. We have members from across all populated continents and career stages: undergraduate students, master’s students, Ph.D. students, postdocs, faculty members, and people working outside of academia. We hold weekly meetings and have an active Slack ( join here).
It has been a humbling and often emotional experience to hear the stories of those who have joined Nowhere Lab. Some members have joined when caught at a difficult and awkward time where they don’t feel embedded within their Ph.D. lab (e.g. they’re currently writing up) but also don’t have a new lab. Some members have joined when they get their first faculty job and don’t have any students for their lab yet. Some members have recently left academia and have mixed emotions about this transition. Some have joined because they’re considering postgraduate research but have never had any experience of research due to educational priorities in their country. One member even joined because health issues meant they weren’t able to take on new students and thus no longer had their own lab. We’re a home for the lost and are brought closer together by the stories of why we need Nowhere Lab.
What we do
What we do weekly is entirely dictated by members and has included job interview prep, advice on ongoing projects, discussions, statistical training, journal clubs, and much more. For example, we often have conversations where people who have done a Ph.D. share advice with members who are considering one. We decided to share this advice openly in a Ph.D. survival guide, in the hope that it will help people who are considering embarking on a Ph.D. or have just started. This guide covers things to know about doing a Ph.D., what’s great and not great about doing one, top tips, how to choose between two programmes, what to do when you think you’ve made the wrong choice, signs of a toxic environment, and how (not) to handle stress. As well as being useful, creating this guide was also a cathartic process for some members who had less than ideal Ph.D. experiences and wanted to share things they wished they’d known at the time.
Nowhere Lab aims to open science up to anyone and everyone. For example, we have members who work in tech and nonprofits who would not normally consider themselves scientists or get to engage in a scientific community. In addition to advancing diversity as an essential part of open science, we often focus explicitly on methods-based open science skills and knowledge advancement too. For example, we often read papers on open science and metascience in our journal clubs.
Although the Ph.D. survival guide is Nowhere Lab’s first “output”, we have many other success stories that have come from the lab. We have now had several Ph.D. vivas and graduations – we even got to virtually attend one member’s viva which was really interesting for members who’d never seen one before. Careers have been changed – one member got a job from a Nowhere Lab referral, and two members were offered jobs after doing interview prep with the lab. And friendships have been forged – one member even visited me and stayed at my home!
There are many reasons why someone might want to join Nowhere Lab:
- New faculty who have no one in their lab yet
- Ex-academics who now work in industry
- Keen undergraduates and masters students
- Freelance sci-commers/consultants
- People who are in a toxic lab
- People between jobs
- …and many many more!
If you’re interested in joining Nowhere Lab, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to meet you!
Priya Silverstein [email@example.com]