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How to Share Lab Duties Effectively

A scientist performing lab duties

In every lab there are tasks that must be completed from time to time in order to ensure the lab runs smoothly and safely. In most labs, these tasks are shared amongst members to some extent, and may include general clean-up and maintenance duties (e.g. defrosting freezers, preparing common stock reagents and ordering reagents).

Follow these tips to streamline the planning and completion of common lab tasks:

  • Create a comprehensive lab clean-up and maintenance checklist that includes separate sections for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks. Use a shared spreadsheet so that tasks can be checked off once completed and easily tracked by everyone in the lab.
  • Delegate common tasks to specific lab members. Task assignment should take into consideration the nature and frequency of each task as well as the existing workloads and schedules of each lab member. Some tasks (e.g. buffer preparation) may be completed as needed, whenever the person responsible has time or stocks are running low. Some labs organize official lab clean-up “parties” where everyone works together to complete their tasks at the same time.
  • Keep an easily accessible binder or electronic folder containing recipes for commonly-used reagents (e.g. buffers) and ensure all lab members are fully trained to prepare shared reagents.
  • Establish and maintain clear rules about reagent inventory management. While every lab has different needs and approaches, each lab member should participate in reagent monitoring, particularly for supplies they commonly use in their own experiments.

Research lab templates, checklists and spreadsheets

Lab Duty Spreadsheet

Every lab should have their own list of cleanup and maintenance tasks and shared lab duties to maximize efficiency. Use these templates as a starting point to develop your own.