Update on the Healthy Lab Initiative

From: Joshua Barker, Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education & Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Ted Sargent, Vice-President Research & Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives
Date: December 3, 2020
Re: Update on the Healthy Lab Initiative

The University of Toronto recognizes the vital importance of healthy laboratory environments for student and faculty success, and for the quality of research that stems from our laboratories. In December 2019, Professor Reinhart Reithmeier was appointed as Special Advisor, Healthy Lab Initiatives, to review the U of T laboratory ecosystem and provide advice and recommendations on best practices in lab management; the development of a Healthy Lab Charter; and strategies for delivering Healthy Lab programming to researchers across the University’s three campuses and in affiliated research institutes.

During this past year, Professor Reithmeier, supported by Ms. Sarah Williams, PhD Candidate in Medical Anthropology and Fellow in the Collaborative Specialization in Global Health at DLSPH, conducted a series of consultations with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, lab assistants, faculty members, chairs and senior administrators. We sincerely thank all individuals who provided their feedback and shared their personal insights about their lab experience at the University.

We are happy to share the Report by Professor Reithmeier and Ms. Sarah Williams titled: Promoting a Healthy Lab Culture at the University of Toronto. The Report encompasses a broad lab environment, including traditional research laboratories, individual or shared office space or field work. The report calls for an approach wherein graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are scholars or mentees whose research training is central “but includes time for course work, teaching, professional development and family, all within an open, supportive, collaborative, and healthy lab environment that recognizes wellness and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as core values.” The Report proposes recommendations related to better training, enhanced communication, and incorporation of identified best practices.

As Dean, School of Graduate Studies, and as Vice-President Research and Innovation, we fully endorse the Report’s vision and believe that there is no better time to work together to address issues, challenges, and opportunities raised in this Report. Our shared goals of continuously improving the quality of students’ educational experiences, and improving the quality and impact of research that stems from our laboratories,will be advanced by striving together to create an even healthier laboratory environment.

We accept all of the eight core recommendations in the Report that are directed to our offices.  The School of Graduate Studies, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation will move to implement these recommendations starting in the new year, with the appointment of a senior faculty member serving as Champion for Healthy Labs who will provide leadership and advice on the implementation of the recommendations, as well as working in collaboration with departments and divisions to ensure the additional recommendations are given full consideration.

We are deeply grateful to Professor Reithmeier and Ms. Williams for this important work. We look forward to working with Professor Reithmeier and others across the University as we continue to foster and promote outstanding graduate learning and research in an environment that encourages an exceptional student experience.