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Lab Dynamics: Management and Leadership Skills for Scientists, Third Edition

Subject Area(s):  Career DevelopmentHandbooks

By Carl M. Cohen, Science Management Associates, Newton, Massachusetts; Suzanne L. Cohen, Science Management Associates, Newton, Massachusetts

Download a Free Excerpt from Lab Dynamics: Management and Leadership Skills for Scientists, Third Edition:

Preface and Introduction
People Who Do Science: Who They Are and Who They Can Be

© 2018 • 361 pages, illustrated (35 B&W), index
Hardcover • $76 60.80
ISBN  978-1-621823-15-5
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  •     Description    
  •     Contents    
  •     Reviews    


This is the third and completely revised edition of a now classic handbook that focuses specifically on management challenges faced by research scientists and technical professionals. In Lab Dynamics, Carl and Suzanne Cohen draw on their unparalleled professional experience (Carl as a scientist and Suzanne as a psychologist) and as workshop directors to provide invaluable, practical advice on how to succeed in science for working scientists and those in or preparing for management or leadership roles. The book is also required reading for anyone with an administrative role in the research enterprise who must understand that world and its complexities.

At its core, the book is about human interactions in science and how they can be made most effective and productive. The authors explain, without jargon or preaching, how to apply self-awareness and interpersonal skills to problems that science professionals encounter every day.

For this third edition, two new chapters have been added. The new Chapter 4, on hiring scientists, provides a data-driven approach along with step-by-step guidance and editable and downloadable forms for use in evaluating and ranking applicants. The new Chapter 6 gives a guide to keeping scientists focused and motivated through appropriate feedback. Scientists at all levels want and need to hear how they’re doing from mentors, managers, or leaders.

All other chapters have additional sections, many based on case studies and examples shared with the authors by working scientists. They include “Ten essential characteristics of scientific team leaders” with specific examples of each behavior and its impact.

Government organizations, academic institutions, and funders are increasingly focused on the management of science and the improvement of the scientific enterprise. With this update, Lab Dynamics is a resource like no other for those who lead and strive to succeed in a scientific setting.

Praise for the first edition "Lab Dynamics is a highly understandable and practical book…Experienced leaders will find it a practical refresher in mastering their skills, whereas non-management and early–career professionals will find it much more than a survival handbook."
Clinical Chemistry

"... (provides) a comprehensive skill set for surviving other scientists and the pressures of the work place. Scientists who work in settings ranging from industry, government, or academia will likely find the book interesting and useful."
Veterinary Pathology

New to the Third edition of Lab Dynamics:

New Chapter 4

Some of the most important decisions we make involve selecting and hiring the members of our team. Yet despite the fact that our research success depends on the choices we make, most of us go about this process in an ad hoc manner, relying on "intuition" and "gut" feelings more than on data.

In the new Chapter 4 "Bring them on! Interviewing, Selecting and Hiring Scientists" you will learn to use a data-driven approach to hiring scientists. You will learn how to organize the selection process so that you get the data you need to make informed hiring decisions. The Chapter provides step by step guidance and editable (and downloadable) forms that you can use to evaluate and rank applicants. You will learn:

  • How to recognize and avoid cognitive biases in candidate selection.
  • How to assess a candidate’s all-important "personal characteristics," such as their ability to hear and use feedback, to navigate setbacks and adversity, and to manage disagreements and conflict.
  • How to conduct candidate phone screens and face-to-face interviews and how to ‘listen between the lines' during interviews and phone calls with candidate references.

New Chapter 6

Scientists at all levels want and need to hear how they’re doing from their mentors, managers or leaders. Yet all too often feedback is minimal or absent, leaving scientists anxious or uncertain about their performance. The result can be impeded scientific progress. The new Chapter 6, "So, how am I doing? Setting goals, giving feedback and doing performance reviews," gives a step by step guide to keeping scientists focused and motivated. This chapter shows you:

  • How to set meaningful goals for scientists.
  • How to provide feedback, performance reviews and advice that scientists can hear and use.
  • How to use easy to remember scripts and flow charts to help you navigate your way through difficult feedback conversations.
  • How to use Individual Development Plans as a productivity-enhancing tool.

In addition to the new Chapters most of the others have been updated. Most significantly:

Chapter 5 has two new sections:

  • Culture. Defines the meaning of lab culture and shows how you can create a culture that promotes productivity.
  • Delegation. A guide to getting comfortable with delegating responsibilities and tasks to your team members.

Chapter 7 has a new section:

  • Psychological safety. Shows how to promote idea sharing and risk taking in your science team to enhance performance.

Chapter 10:

  • An expanded discussion on how trainees can get what they need from a passive or absent mentor.

Chapter 12 has a new section:

  • "Ten essential characteristics of scientific team leaders." Describes the ten essential behaviors exhibited by effective scientific leaders, with specific examples of each behavior and its impact.

    Other chapters: New case studies and examples taken from stories shared by working scientists have been added.


1 People Who Do Science: Who They Are and Who They Can Be
2 The Mote in Your Own Eye: Manage Yourself First
3 Gordian Knots: Solve the Toughest Problems through Negotiation
4 Bring Them On! Interviewing, Selecting and Hiring Scientists
5 A Herd of Cats: Managing Scientists
6 How Am I Doing? Setting Goals, Giving Feedback, and Doing Performance Reviews
7 Team Meetings: Who’s in Charge Here?
8 A Delicate Art: Manage Your Boss
9 Win/Win with Peers: Make Allies, Not Enemies
10 The Slings and Arrows of Academe: Survive to Get What You Need
11 Science, Inc.: Make a Smooth Transition to Industry
12 Leading Science: Empathy Rules
13 Shape the Future of Science and Technology
About the Authors


review:  “All chapters would benefit younger career scientists or graduate students exploring the leadership skills they may wish to develop if they want to lead or work better in teams. This volume belongs in any collection serving laboratory scientists, and will appeal to both researchers and graduate students.”

review:  “At the university, it is no longer just about specialist knowledge. This extensive manual shows how to manage yourself and others using many practical is no longer just technical expertise that counts, specialist group leaders must also have soft skills and demonstrate leadership skills.”