The tools for a modern lab
Many of the faculty at the Integrated Mathematical Oncology department refer to their groups as labs (Jacob Scott's Theory Division is one of the exceptions). This is not strange since we work in a research institute in which the vast majority of the researchers are experimentalists and where the term lab is the standard way to refer to the space/equipment as well as the people working with them. As mathematical oncologists though, and as corny as this will sound, the only strength we have is the people in the group and not the fancy machines or sophisticated techniques we might have. But that does not mean that we do not use tools and that these tools are not very important for our work. An interdisciplinary multi-site group is a possibility nowadays but only when certain types of tools are used which is why our group is now using:
- Slack for internal communication: prettier than IRC, faster than email, fancier than a messenger and more multiplatform that Apple Messages or Google Hangouts would be. Perfect? not entirely: we would be more comfortable with a less propietary system, maybe a Telegram with more group collaboration options.
- Dropbox/OneDrive/GoogleDrive (yes, 3 of them): because that is where our grants/papers/simulation results live.
- Github for code: just trying to get more used to this. Usually code is developed by one person per project so we do not have the same incentives to use Github as larger groups where code is owned by more than one person. But in the interest of transparency and being open acess this is how we intend to share work with the rest of the community.
- Python: to play with the data coming from our models. A lot of us are still more comfortable using Mathematica or Matlab but these are not opensource so that even if we shared the code many people would not be able to do much with it.
- Twitter: the social network of choice for many scientists. You will find many of us on Google's G+ too.
- Skype for when not all the clever people can be in the same room.
- Blackboards. Old school but invaluable if all the clever people are in the same room.
Other important but not mandatory tools include:
- Evernote: Because not everything we produce is code, a grant or paper draft.
- Overleaf: The best way to work on a manuscript those times in which we can get away not using MS Word.
Things we tend not to use? Phone/Fax/Pony express/Carrier pigeons.
Suggestions? The idea is to have a core set of tools that allow us to collaborate and that everybody is happy using. The last is an important point: we are reaching a stage in which people are constantly asked to create more accounts and install new applications that do not talk to each other.
Update (13th Dec 2015): Following Jacob Scott's advice I have added the links to the various services we use.