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Whenever we get a grant funded or papers accepted, I congratulate lab members who worked on the project, yet I normally do not organize dinner or parties.

I respect the decision of others to celebrate and advertise paper/grant achievements with everyone around them, and in whatever way they want. I am more reserved, and I congratulate mentees in the same way, in weekly group meetings. If they want to do something else, I invite them to do so, but I think it is up to them.

Are there guidelines to foster celebrations in labs recommended by academic institutions? I care about maintaining group cohesion and fitting with different personality types e.g. always ask the project leader what they want to do, a cake ceremony for everyone, once a month, etc.

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    What do you mean by "guidelines"? We have academics of all levels here that could offer their advice / perspective; is that what you're looking for, or are you looking for actual guidelines that have been promulgated by some reputable body?
    – cag51
    Aug 1 at 14:18
  • 1
    I might be more inclined to celebrate the actual scientific/intellectual accomplishment, rather than success at passing through gauntlets and gatekeepers. Aug 1 at 21:28

3 Answers 3

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Many academics, including several known personally to me, are introverted, but celebrating the successes of colleagues, including students, can easily be a comfortable and regular thing.

If you have a gathering room, such as a coffee room, it is a place for such things. The department head can announce a gathering when appropriate and could even provide pastries (or such) for those to be celebrated. It can be quite quiet, actually. Participation need not be mandatory, and can hardly be in a large faculty, but some will want a break in any case and it is a nice excuse.

Your idea to do something similar in a working group is also a good one. People may blush to be mentioned, but it is a happy occurrence to be recognized by peers and mentors.

For those who must be remote, an occasional Zoom gathering to celebrate successes is also possible. Again, the head or administration generally, can organize and invite people. Popping in for five minutes to such a meeting is also appreciated by the honorees and is comfortable enough for everyone.

I've also seen such things done at those periodic "all hands" meetings of a department or school faculty, where some celebration is included along with the business.

For large gatherings someone will need to be responsible for assuring that no-one gets forgotten. That can be a clerical function, though.

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  • "Many academics are introverted" citation needed.
    – N.I.
    Aug 1 at 14:24
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    @N.I., "almost all academics are extroverted" is the statement that would need a citation, I think. And even that wouldn't be inconsistent with my statement.
    – Buffy
    Aug 1 at 14:32
  • Actually, some people are very unhappy to be given kudos in public - one needs to be careful and know your group.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 1 at 15:34
  • @JonCuster, but I'd guess that is less a factor at a place that does it regularly and consistently. It also serves an additional purpose to encourage others in their research (etc.) efforts. But yes, there are people who will turn down a Nobel or equivalent for such reasons.
    – Buffy
    Aug 1 at 15:45
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OP's approach is quite similar to what I've met as customary in several groups I've been with or know (in Europe).

  • On acceptance of a paper, the corresponding author emails all the coauthors, and possibly further acknowledged group members that the paper has been accepted. Possibly also their PI/director/...
    This is answered with a round of well-done! Cheers! emails and that's it.

  • Similar congratulations are exchanged by email on grant funding.

  • More of a celebration may happen if someone wins, say, a poster prize.
    That may range from everyone coming along and look through the book that was won over cookies/cake/pizza at the seminar all the way to a BBQ. That is, the one who won the prize would bring the cake to celebrate the occasion with their coworkers on the project*.
    Which also implies (IMHO) that the group/department should make sure such a decision to celebrate is voluntary and not peer-pressure resulting on the proud PhD student who won a 25 € book voucher spending 100 € to feed the whole group.

  • For important grants or prizes, the PR guys may want to do something as well, such as a press release, blog post, .... or they'll get an extra mention in a larger department meeting.


*Possibly related: in my home culture, it's the one whose birthday it is who has to bring cake for the whole office.

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Typically, the "risk" something could go wrong with a celebration, such as an inappropriate comment, could outweigh any benefit. If a celebration is done, it is best to be a voluntary event, and off campus.

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    If such a risk is a relevant factor, the group is really disfunctional. Sure, there is a non-zero probability of inappropriate comments any time people talk to each other but in a professional or academic environment this risk should be so low that it doesn't need to be considered.
    – Roland
    Aug 2 at 5:26

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