At the end of 2020, the School of Epidemiology and Public Health’s APEAL Research Lab launched its Code of Conduct and Values. This process was led by lab members Zahra Clayborne, PhD candidate, and Mila Kingsbury, PhD, with contributions from other lab members and support from the lab’s director, Professor Ian Colman, Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Epidemiology. The code aims to create an inclusive lab environment by offering guidance to raise awareness and help deal with microaggressions. It is accompanied by useful reference materials, “Ten Rules for Building an Antiracist Lab,” a glossary of terms to make research labs more equitable and open to diversity, and resources on antiracism in epidemiology and academia, sexism, and mental health.
Clayborne was motivated to contribute to the Code of Conduct because of her experiences of discrimination and scientific bias as a woman of colour in academic settings. She says that the lab aimed to “highlight that we work in a research environment that encourages collaboration, inclusivity, diversity and work-life balance, which are critical for ensuring that trainees and staff conduct effective and meaningful research.”
Colman sees the code as an opportunity to use his “position of privilege as a white man” to “make others feel included and acknowledged.” He adds: “We hope that by sharing these values, lab members will be more motivated and more likely to share their ideas. Better research can emerge when people feel they are part of the team, because teamwork is a necessary component of successful research.”
The APEAL Research Lab has also held several virtual events to encourage lab bonding, including a recent “Trivia in the Time of COVID-19” event. These events allow members to have fun without academic pressure and foster well-being among lab members, some of whom are working from home during the pandemic.
The lab maintains a website and active social media presence to make mental health research accessible. By improving accessibility to research and publishing their code on their website, members hope to create a diverse, inclusive lab culture that includes women, members of the LGBTQ community and members of visible minority groups.
For Colman, ensuring representation in mental health research settings is important. Indeed, members from underrepresented communities may be particularly interested in pursuing research in mental health because these communities are disproportionately affected by mental illness.
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