The short first commandment is: always use Zulip, whenever we can! Zulip is an open-source alternative to programs like Slack and Teams, where we control all of the data and run the server ourselves. It gives us an open, searchable archive of all our communications, without having to worry about backups of e-mails. Easy access to upload files and share comments, and varieties of group and personal messaging, as well as a space for you to take notes.
There are apps for iOS and Android you can install, but you do not need them: you can just visit the site in your browser at https://chat.pencelab.be/.
Every new major lab project (grant, seminar, workshop, conference) should get its own channel, and do your best to immediately invite anybody who is going to be intimately involved in the project to the channel.
The e-mail policy which follows for post-doctoral fellows also holds for Zulip channels.
E-Mail Policy #
Of course, you will have to check your e-mail regularly, because this is a university. (In particular, do make sure to read the CEFISES mailing list submissions whenever they go out! They’re filled with useful information, talks, etc.)
Following a policy I’ve heard about elsewhere (the KLI? Max Planck?), however, I want to explicitly note that post-doctoral fellows are not required to check their e-mail on Thursdays and Fridays, and may make this fact known to others. You’re here to do research, and I want to encourage you to have the time and space to do so.
Of course, we’re all amazingly busy people. That’s what being an academic is about. And part of working on collaborative projects is negotiating what kinds of responsiveness to communication you can expect from others. But a few guidelines are nice. As the PI, it’s my goal to be available for comments and assistance – I say more about that over on the responsibilities page. In particular, I strive to be back to people on anything important within a week’s time.
There will be times of year – other grant deadlines and grading season being the two most obvious, though departmental service and administration tend to also create similar black holes – when I’m liable to miss the mark. But importantly, if you’ve waited a week and not heard anything, feel free to nudge me about it and I can absolutely promise I will not hold it against you. While I try not to, I absolutely do forget things, like anybody else!
I will of course not hold anyone else to any particular communication standard. But what I will demand is that everyone be clear about when and to what extent they are reachable, and that everyone not take it out on someone if they’re working slower than you wanted, but still within the bounds of their own declared standard operating procedure.
For the moment, we are reworking our own lab meeting schedules. (We used to have a weekly paper reading group and monthly check-in meetings. They went away during COVID, and it’s not clear whether and how we’re bringing them back.) For postdoctoral fellows, I do not in general schedule one-on-one meetings, except for on demand. For doctoral and master’s students, we will set up a meeting calendar when you start work, and I expect you to stick to it.
In general, if a particular piece of work (whether a draft or even just reading through some articles) will be required for a meeting, it will be made very clear, at least a week in advance, that you need to have something prepared.