Knox Group

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Our group of researchers includes graduate students, postdocs, myself, and a Professor of Statistics. We have a dual mission, described more below, of making an impact on our field of cosmology, and growing our capabilities while doing so. Along the way, we try to have fun and support each other. Below our photos and descriptions of our research interests are our Mission and Values statements. These serve to let others, and perhaps most importantly ourselves, know what we're about. It might seem oddly corporate for this small academic organization to have these statements, but I find them useful. The values are the core ones I expect group members to adopt, and whose adoption I am committed to assisting. We are grateful to the NSF and Department of Energy Office of Science for their support.

Mission

As part of an interconnected community, inspired by our curiosity about this beautiful cosmos, we advance human knowledge and understanding. We learn by doing, diving into the unknown, working on projects with uncertain outcomes, and problems with unknown solutions, growing our persistence, patience, technical skill, and creativity as needed. We take time for reflection in order to note our successes and to identify opportunities for improvement. 

 

We connect with the larger scientific community through informal collaborations, larger formal collaborations, and by reading papers, writing papers, giving talks, attending conferences, and engaging with visiting speakers. Connection with the broader community is vitally important for sustaining our curiosity, stimulating creativity, and making it possible for our work to have an impact. We improve our communication skills with practice and feedback.

 

We maintain and build an inclusive and supportive environment within our group, that is conducive to learning, growth, and innovation. We treat each other with respect, care, and gratitude. We aim to have a group culture that is worthy of being a model for other groups. 

Values

I have identified three core values for our research group: 1) aim for impact, 2) grow, and 3) take good care.

 

To help us to understand what these values mean and how to translate them into action, I've written out some behaviors associated with each of them.

 

Example behaviors that support ‘Aim for impact.’

 

  1. I work toward production of results worthy of publication, that people will want to read and that will advance the field either with new knowledge, or some new technique.

  2. I work to make those results as easily digestible as possible in written form and in oral presentations, recognizing that the job is not finished just because I solved the research problem. 

  3. I try to do my work in a timely manner as the potential impact of my work in this fast-moving field might drop if its publication is delayed, and because I want to have the opportunity for my next project to make an impact.

  4. I engage with others (by reading papers coming out on the arXiv, talking with visitors, and, when I have the opportunity, participating fully at conferences) to stimulate research ideas, and to understand the audience for whom I am writing. 

  5. I occasionally check to make sure I am working on something that I’m actually curious about, something that I feel highly motivated to solve and communicate about. If it turns out I’m not highly motivated, it might be time to at least consider a change of project, or even moving on from this group to something else that might motivate me more.

 

Example behaviors that support ‘Grow.’

 

  1. I am aware of the distinction between ‘fixed ability mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’ and I do my best to operate with a growth mindset. 

  2. I identify what skills are needed for completion of a research project and I find a way to acquire them if I don’t have them already.

  3. I have the courage to ask questions when I don’t understand something. 

  4. I seek support from other group members and my advisor when it might be helpful and do my best to be open about any areas where I am ignorant or lacking skill, so that others have the best chance of helping me move toward knowledge and skill. 

  5. I welcome opportunities to educate or provide constructive feedback to other group members.

  6. I do my best to embrace a perceived failure as an opportunity to learn. I have the courage to look at it honestly, and with compassion for myself, and to see if there was anything that I might be able to do better next time. 

  7. I regularly seek input from others whom I expect to be able to deliver valuable feedback, and I consider it seriously.

  8. As a group we conduct an annual survey of group members to collect feedback on how well we are doing with living our values. 

 

Example behaviors that support ‘Take good care.’

 

  1. I take responsibility for maintaining and creating an environment where it is safe to expose ignorance and lack of skill. 

  2. I treat my colleagues with respect and compassion by responding when appropriate in a timely and professional manner. 

  3. I practice gratitude with other group members.

  4. I publicly acknowledge their contributions when appropriate.

  5. I am mindful of other people’s time. 

  6. I talk to people, not about them. 

  7. I take breaks from work when I need to.

  8. I treat myself well, acknowledging myself for doing my best at a difficult task, and looking out for and trying to let go of any negative ‘self talk.’ 

  9. I know and practice the “Ouch. Oops.” model

  10. I learn about and practice non-violent communication, also known as the “Situation. Behavior. Impact. Future.” model for giving feedback described on page 23 of the Field Guide to Team Science, an excellent resource.