Research Shutdown Idea Generator

Wondering what to do during the shutdown? Below is a list of career-related activities to consider.
– Source: Stephanie Mohr, PhD, Lecturer on Genetics | Director of DRSC

  1. Write papers that report data
    1. Write up complete or near-complete projects
    2. Outline manuscripts for projects in progress and/or draft introductions
    3. Write up Results, Materials & Methods, and detailed reagent information tables to be included in a manuscript in the future
  2. Write other types of papers
    1. Write a detailed protocol manuscript
    2. Write a comprehensive review of a field or technology
    3. Write an opinion piece, related or not related to our current situation
  3. Write grant applications
    1. Find funding opportunities
    2. Draft a set of Specific Aims
    3. Update your NIH Biosketch
  4. Write or illustrate content for online media
    1. Contribute to a site you read such as Genes2Genomes or The Node
    2. Add or improve protocols, images, intro text at an existing lab website
    3. Ask yourself what would your lab website ‘About our research’ page be like if you wrote and designed it now?
    4. Try your hand at writing about (in any language) or illustrating your research in a way that is intended for non-experts. Does thinking about the big picture and using common terms affect how you think about your work?
  5. Reach out to the next generations
    1. Sign up for Skype a Scientist
    2. Reach out to local schools, which are also struggling with a new situation
    3. Challenge yourself to rewrite a paper in a way a school kid could understand—examples and more at Frontiers for Young Minds
    4. Become a virtual mentor with the National Research Mentoring Network
  6. Learn something new and relevant
    1. Take an online course, such as those offered at EdX
      • To learn about the topic
      • To gain skills such as programming or statistical analysis
      • To experience ways in which people teach online effectively
    2. Watch relevant webinars, such as those at Science
    3. Read a body of literature in a field, alone or with an online discussion group
    4. Organize an online journal club focused on a specific topic
  7. Prepare to teach, if you expect to teach in the future
    1. Develop a course you might be interested to teach in your future career—What would the learning objectives be? What course format? What primary literature or textbook would you assign? What if any wet-lab activities would you assign?
    2. Try teaching to peers online to get used to the format, get feedback, and share your areas of knowledge with others
    3. Take an online course(s) to get a sense of how it’s done or how a topic is covered by other experts in the area, for general or expert audiences
  8. Manage your data (better)
    1. What data sets do you have that could be better organized or annotated?
      • Work on organization and curation of these data sets
      • Establish meta data files (also called ‘read me’ files) that provide clear info about each of your data sets—species, genotype or cell line (including BDSC ID or DGRC ID), analysis method (including software version)
    2. Upload and annotate microscope images at HMS OMERO at the IMC
    3. Review HMS best practices guidelines at and implement changes as needed
  9. Analyze data
    1. Analyze new data for the first time
    2. Apply new methods to older data and compare outcomes
    3. Consider a meta-analysis of existing data sets
    4. Compare your data with unpublished data from your lab or collaborators
    5. Compare your data with published data, including from other species
  10. Reach out to collaborators (recognizing that they might face a similar situation)
    1. Have you shared all relevant results with collaborators?
    2. Are there activities related to the collaboration that you could add, such as data analysis originally planned to be done by the other group that you can now do instead, freeing their time for other activities?
    3. Are there new collaborations you could form and contribute to by remote?
    4. Have you written up your part of the results, methods, reagents sections of a future manuscript, for experiments already completed?
    5. Are collaborators facing a similar situation on a different timeframe? Could you learn from their experience or vice-versa? Share a lab checklist for shutdown?
  11. Curate published literature and data sets
    1. What public data sets would you use more or use more effectively if the data were curated in some way? Can you do the curation? Enlist a group to do it with you?
    2. Drosophila experts, consider writing gene snapshots for FlyBase; C. elegans experts, consider community curation for WormBase; others, reach out to databases
  12. Dive into the literature in your topic(s) of interest, pathway(s) of interest, gene(s) of interest, their paralogs and/or orthologs
    1. What online resources could help you find useful information about genes, proteins, pathways, and so on have you not yet fully explored?
    2. What older literature have you read about only in reviews and now have time to read as primary literature? Can you learn from older approaches, results, methods, discussions?
  13. Brush up on professional skills
    1. Resources are available in the form of online content, books, mentors, to help with topics such as those below. In what area would you most want to improve?
      • Hiring and management
      • Budgeting
      • Approaches to grants—when, which, why?
      • Being an effective mentor and boss
    2. Figure out the ‘burn rate’ for your experiments, such that you know how much it would cost to do similar work in your own lab
    3. Read At the Helm or another book that could help you prepare for a next role
    4. Participate in a virtual networking event, e.g. through WEST or MassAWIS
    5. Check out Science’s career-focused webinars
    6. Check out the Postdoc Office’s Career Resources
    7. Check out webinars on work and work/life (login may be required)
  14. Manage your professional presence
    1. Update your CV or Resume
    2. Create or update your ORCID account
    3. Create a Harvard Scholar website
    4. Create or update career-centered social media accounts
  15. Keep active (mind and body)
    1. Find free online workouts, mindfulness programs, and brain games
    2. Read for fun and general learning
  16. Get deep and self-reflect
    1. Consider your career path and choices. Does this experience change them? Focus them? Set them back? If ‘yes’ to any of these, how will you respond? Are there resources to turn to such as books, online content, peers, or mentors able to help as you consider the path forward?

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