How it works

Welcome to The Pitch Workshop. This is how we strategize what we'll work on and how we'll spend our resources.

Rather than living with the feeling that we have this huge backlog of work we need to do and experiments we want to get to, we will divide the year up into 4 3 work cycles. Each cycle, we'll decide what we want to work on most by betting on well-thought out clearly developed pitches. Pitches can be of two main types:
  • On the Research Track, pitches should be well-formed experiments that can be completed in a given cycle (~13 weeks). We'll choose a few experiments to devote resources to each cycle. 
  • On the Improvements Track, pitches should be well-formed ideas about improvements to make in the lab. These can take between 1-4 weeks time.  We'll choose a few (2-4) of these to work on each cycle.

What are the four cycles?

The four cycles correspond roughly to semesters (fall, spring, summer).

Here are the cycles for the upcoming academic year: fall is orange, spring is green, and summer is red.
Lab Work Cycles 2019-2020 Academic Year 45.5 KB View full-size Download
Gray corresponds to the weekend and scheduled breaks in the academic year (e.g. Fall and Spring Term breaks). The first week of each cycle corresponds to betting week: pitches are due Monday of this week and decisions about what we'll work on for the upcoming cycle will be made by the Friday of that week. White corresponds to thinking and rest time, where we take a break from working on scheduled projects, prepare pitches for the next cycle, and work on whatever else we feel like (maybe recess or free time is a good analogy?).

Who can submit a pitch?

Anyone (including undergrads) can submit a pitch at any time to either the Research Track or the Improvements Track.

Why is pitch selection week called "betting week"?

We call it betting week because we want to convey that what we are doing has risk. We're choosing to allocate our time and resources to a project because (1) we think it is a good idea, (2) it's been well thought out and all of the time consuming decisions have already been made (how many test items, what will the stims be, etc), and (3) we are pretty sure we can complete by the end of the cycle.

Who decides which pitches we'll bet on?

I do (
Katie Schuler Katie
). But
Ariel Mathis Ariel
will have a big say, as she'll be the one coordinating resources with me.

What makes a pitch is worth betting on?

There are a couple of things that go into whether or not I'll decide to select a pitched project for the upcoming cycle. On the Research Track, the biggest factors are how clearly the idea has been though out and how convinced we are that it could be completed by the cycle deadline. Is the research question a good one? Is the experiment at a reasonable scope? Have all of the super time consuming decisions (AKA rabbit holes) already been thought through and decided on (what stimuli, how many, and why)? Is there a person advocating strongly for it? If the answer to these things is yes, then it's likely to be chosen.

On the Improvements Track, the same things apply. We'll ask what our appetite is for the improvement (how much we want it and how much time and money we care to spend on making it happen) and if the pitched project lines up with our appetite, we're likely to choose it. Vague ideas will almost never be selected (e.g. "We should get lab t-shirts because, awesome!"), but ideas for which someone has done the pre-work -- thinking through what the problem is and it's likely solution, considering possible roadblocks and rabbit holes, etc. -- are very likely to be selected.

Lab members can voice their excitement (or reservation) about pitches by making comments on the pitches in the Pitch Workshop Message board.
Ariel Mathis Ariel
and I will take your opinions, wants, and needs into account when making decisions. 

What happens if my research pitch isn't selected?

If you submit a pitch and it isn't selected, you have two options:
  • If you really really want to do it, you are very welcome to spend the cycle developing it further and re-submitting it for consideration to the next cycle. I'm always happy to strategize with you and/or help you work out the details of your experiment so you can submit a great pitch. 
  • If you're not that into it anymore, that's fine, that's why we have this process: to find out what is truly important to us. If you don't care enough about it to spend more time revising it and doing the pre-work, you can just let it go and think of a new pitch for next time. Totally your choice.

What happens if an improvement pitch isn't selected?

We won't do it. If you are super disappointed by this, you are welcome to revive the pitch for a future cycle, but it will have to compete with all of the other new pitches that have come in. You'd be welcome to ask me why it wasn't selected and what you could do to give it a better chance of getting selected next cycle.

What happens if my pitch is selected?

Yay for you! On the second Monday of each cycle, I'll announce what projects we will be working on for the Research and Improvement Tracks. If your research pitch was selected, you'll be allocated the resources we think you'll need (money to run adult subjects online, aftercares at which to run child subjects, a research assistant to help you, etc). You'll be designated the "lead" on the project and your job will be to (1) do your experiment and (2) submit a brief summary of your project to the lab HQ by the cycle deadline.

If an improvement pitch is selected, it will be added to the "Improvements Fall 2019" (or whatever cycle we are in) project in basecamp and it will be assigned to our research coordinator and a research assistant or two to accomplish. 

What happens if we don't finish a project on the Research Track?

Don't worry, this is normal. We'll pause to re-evaluate what we are doing and make sure it's a good use of resources. If we want to continue work on it next cycle, we'll submit another pitch summarizing why it's a good idea (we don't commit resources to project that are not pitched). If we want to pause to think some more, we'll do that instead. 

What happens if we don't finish a project on the Improvements Track?

Just like the research track, the projects on the improvement track have a hard deadline. If we don't finish the project by the deadline, it's automatically cancelled. Remember, we decided during betting week that we cared to give X much time and Y much money to making an improvement. When we hit that deadline, it means we've gone past the amount of time we cared to give on the improvement project and we need to stop and evaluate whether we want to keep working on it, or whether we want to move on to something else.

If you are really passionate about the project, still, you can submit it again (with updates and revisions) for us to consider in the next cycle. But it will have to compete with whatever is currently important to us in the lab.

Do I have to submit a pitch every cycle?

Nope!  You can submit a pitch at any time for consideration in the upcoming cycle, but no one is required to submit a pitch. You need to make a pitch if you want resources allocated to you (an RA, $ for adult subjects, or access to child research participants), but you aren't forced to do this!

What will you do for the cycle if you haven't made a pitch?

  • If you are an undergraduate RA and you don't submit a pitch, I'll assume you are happy working in an assisting role on a project and you don't yet desire to the be "lead" on research project. You'll automatically be assigned to assist on one of the selected projects that cycle.
  • If you are a graduate student and you don't submit a pitch, I'll consider you to be on the R&D | Writing Track, in which you are formulating a pitch for a future cycle, doing a lit review, or writing (e.g. maybe writing a QP or dissertation and you need space to do that). If you feel you would benefit from working in an assisting role on someone else's project, you need to let me know this explicitly. You'll never be assigned to assist someone else by default.
  • If you are a research coordinator, you'll always be placed as the lead on the Improvements Track, which means it's your job to make sure we complete the projects on this track by the deadline. Because of this, your opinion about what projects we choose to work on on the improvements track for a cycle will count a lot. You may occasionally be placed as an assistant on a research project and you are of course welcome to make research pitches of your own if you have an idea and you'd like to lead a project!