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As a follow-up to this question:

Who does a lab belong to? Is the lab the sole property of the PI (lets assume a simple/small lab with a single PI bringing in all the intramural and extramural funding) or is it a joint venture of the PI and the research staff?

  • Should the PI call the lab "our lab" or "my lab"?
  • Should researchers (Undergrads, PhD students, Post Docs, Research Fellows) call the lab "our lab", "my lab", or "my supervisor's lab"?
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    It's the lab of whoever feeds data to the database for the face recognition algorithm of the self aiming laser gun that's installed inside. On a more serious note, this might be different in different countries, cultures or academic sub cultures/faculties.
    – clueless
    Oct 17, 2016 at 15:56
  • Just to add to the cultural differences, it also depends who you are talking to at the certain moment. The PI could say my lab or our lab, depending on his culture or how much he wants to stress that it's the PI's lab. But my lab would not sound awkward. For researchers, I think that when someone represents the lab in a meeting/conference/etc our lab is more appropriate. Talking to fellow/equal-level researchers from other labs, my lab would not sound bad (and definitely would not show taking ownership). But this might all be from my culture... I agree with the comment above.
    – BioGeo
    Oct 17, 2016 at 16:21
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    It also, and more so, depends on whether any other team members are present or not. If they are not present, the PI or any team member can refer to it as "my lab". In that context, that just means "the lab where I work, as opposed to the labs where you all work." But if team members are present, a good team-member will refer to it as "our lab" whether he is the PI or not.
    – user51808
    Oct 17, 2016 at 16:46
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    Do any of the personnel working in a lab "own" it? In the legal sense, probably not: the university owns it. Even if the lab is entirely funded by grants from the PI, legally those grants are still being paid to the university and not directly to the PI. So I think you mean some more informal sense, in which case...some people will say one thing, some another, some will care, others won't even notice the difference. I'm not completely sure this is answerable... Oct 17, 2016 at 17:13
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    The PI certainly doesn't own the lab- he can't sell it. He can't even take the equipment to another institution without the permission of his institution and the funding agency. Oct 17, 2016 at 17:16

2 Answers 2

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TLDR; every member of the lab can call it "my lab" or "our lab". It's all the same.


Just because one says "my lab" doesn't meant that he/she can exercise ownership over it. It is similar to saying "my country" or "my class".

If the question is about rights of property, then it depends on who bestowed the rights and what exactly are those rights.

In the usual case, the management of the institution would give a set amount of rights to the professor to be in charge of a given place. If the professor wishes to form a lab, he/she may do so and appoint an in-charge for the lab. It could a PI or in several cases, the professor him/herself.

If the PI is the professor who erected the lab, then obviously the lab is owned by the professor. If the PI is someone else, the professor could choose over the rights s/he could delegate to the PI. Examples of such rights could be

  • right to rule over certain/all projects done in the lab
  • rights over the control of lab property
  • right to guide the students assigned to the lab

There are also labs which are maintained by a community of members in the institution. Technically, everyone in the lab owns it in such a case, but the place itself belongs to the management of the institution.

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As usual, the answer depends on the country.

In my country, all the equipment belongs to the university, even if it was paid out of PI's grants. If a PI moves to another university, the equipment doesn't move.

Thus, if one strictly looks at the property, no one in the lab would have the right to say "my lab" or "our lab", because it's the university's lab.

But of course, no one looks strictly at the property, and what it counts are the people working inside the lab: for them, it's "our lab". Moreover, usually, almost everyone contributes to the grant requests.

When I was a PhD student, in the group where I did my PhD, we had separate lab rooms for each different experiment, which were run by different people: when speaking among us, I'd have said "my lab" to mean the room where I was running my experiment.

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