Epistasis Blog

From the Computational Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania (www.epistasis.org)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The 24/7 Lab - Does Creativity Suffer?

There was an interesting piece in Nature recently about Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa and his promotion of the 24/7 lab. He selects people for his lab that he can motivate to work around the clock. He claims that this intense work ethic yields results. Here is a quote:

>>>Quiñones-Hinojosa credits his professional rise to his resilience and a seemingly limitless capacity for hard work. "When you go that extra step, you are training your brain like an athlete," he says. And the fact that his group has published 113 articles in the past six years and holds 13 funding grants is not, he says, because he is brighter or better connected than colleagues. "It's just a matter of volume," he says. "The key is we submit a couple of dozen grant applications a year, and we learn from our mistakes."<<<

I certainly credit hard work and long hours to my own success. However, I have a very different approach to running my lab. I believe that successful research is about much more than productivity. Productivity must not be achieved at the expense of creativity. I am willing to bet that the intense pressure that Quiñones-Hinojosa inflicts on his staff and students stifles their ability to think creatively. Instead of trying some new crazy idea they are intensely focused on getting the next experiment done so Quiñones-Hinojosa doesn't think they are slacking. I firmly believe that hard work must be balanced with fun and time for creative thought. The role of the PI is to set a good example by working hard, but at the same time to establish a relaxed work environment where innovation can flourish and staff and students aren't afraid to try new things. I have always liked the Google work philosophy and programs such as their 'day to play'. My experience has been that good staff and students work harder naturally when they are allowed to express themselves creatively. Some of our best work has come from people in my lab trying crazy ideas.

Here is a followup comment by Overbaugh posted in Nature.


At 11:53 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I totally agree with your philosophy. I personally know of several labs that put a premium on work-life balance and have had just as much, if not more success in publishing and funding than Quiñones-Hinojosa. There are multiple paths to academic achievement, and some routes are more enjoyable than others.


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