Expectations in the CAIDA Research Group

This document is required reading for graduate students pursuing a PhD or Masters degree, and postdocs who will be working with CAIDA. If you are a staff member, undergraduate, or join the group in some other capacity, let your supervisor know if you have questions about how this document applies to you.

Thanks to Steven Swanson of UCSD Engineering for the original content.


Welcome to the CAIDA research group

As a research group, our goal is to perform world-class research. All the members of the group have made a decision to make our research one of our top priorities. This has and will continue to ensure the success of the group.

We want a fun and rewarding environment for all in the group, To allow us to work together to achieve our mission, we use this document to make clear the Expectations we have of you as a new member of the CAIDA research group. This helps to promote and ensure the highest quality work from the group. This document outlines what you can expect from your supervisor and what the members of the group can expect from each other.

If you have questions about any of this material, please ask your supervisor. Asking questions is harmless, and the consequences of a misunderstanding can be large.

If you ever feel that a member of the group (including your supervisor) is not meeting the expectations in this document please let me know. This is especially important if you feel unwelcome in the group, are otherwise unable to perform to the best of your ability, or suspect potential academic dishonesty. All the members of the group are committed to fixing problems that arise.

This document is not exhaustive. We add to it when we realize and recognize some miscommunication or misunderstanding about each of our roles or how we perform our work. We expect you to read all of it. If you have questions about it or think of things that should be added, please let me know.

This document is primarily aimed at graduate students pursuing a Masters or PhD degree and postdocs. If you are an undergraduate, staff member, or join the group in some other capacity, let me know if you have questions about how this document applies to you.

After you have read and understood this document, please enter your name and the date in the form at the bottom of the page. If anything in this document conflicts with your employment contract with the university or university rules, the contract or rules takes precedence (Please let me know if you think this is the case, so we can look into it).

Once again, welcome to the CAIDA research group. We are excited to have you on board!

kc claffy

Advisor/Supervisor Responsibilities

The job of your advisor or supervisor is to help you develop as a researcher, to help guide you through your academic pursuits, postdoc, or work in support of the research activities. Eventually, to help you get, or have, the kind of job you want. In addition to these broad responsibilities, your advisor also commits to some specifics. Your advisor will:

  1. do his/her best to help you become an excellent researcher;
  2. provide honest, constructive feedback on the work you do in the group;
  3. provide a supportive, safe, and fun work environment;
  4. provide honest and thoughtful advice on your professional decisions; and
  5. work with group members to set aggressive but reasonable research goals for the group.

Mutual expectations

Doing high quality research requires lots of hard work, and doing great research as part of a group also requires that we work well together. The members of the group expect the following from you (and you can expect the same from other group members):

  1. To treat all members of the group with respect.
  2. To work as part of the team.  We have no tolerance for any attempt to undermine another group member's research or academic efforts.
  3. To behave honestly and, in particular, to not plagiarize or fabricate data. The section below discusses this in more detail.
  4. To work hard to support the group's goal of doing world-class research.
  5. To generally be available during the work week.
  6. To make pursuing the group's research goals one of your highest priorities. That is why you are here.
  7. To follow through on commitments you make.
  8. To show up for meetings on time.
  9. To contribute to the general upkeep of the group (e.g., keeping your work space clean and occasionally helping to clean up the group space).
  10. To provide thoughtful, constructive feedback on other group members' work.
  11. To help make all group members feel welcome in the group regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religious background. Derogatory remarks, jokes, or materials have no place in the group or at any group-related event. This applies even if you believe that no one immediately present would be offended.
  12. To represent the group favorably in professional situations. This includes not airing our "dirty laundry" in public, not disparaging our work or group members, and not behaving unprofessionally at conferences.
  13. To not divulge non-public information about the group without specific written permission. This includes information about ongoing research projects and "insider" information that other group members might share with you about companies or other organizations.
  14. To work with other group members to resolve problems or conflicts that arise in the group.

Expectations of You

The following describes additional expectations of you.

  1. Commit to becoming an excellent researcher. While you are in the CAIDA research group, We commit to training and advising you and securing the resources necessary to support your work (e.g., your salary). This takes a lot of work that we happily undertake as long you do your best to be successful.
  2. Listen to the advice given to you by your advisor. You do not always need to do what gets suggested, but if you consistently ignore advice, it doesn't make sense for you to remain with that advisor.
  3. Get permission from your advisor before undertaking any projects outside the group either at school or otherwise. We are legally accountable for how researchers funded on our grants and contracts spend their time.
  4. Keep track of important graduate program deadlines. It's your job to keep track of deadlines for your advancement through the graduate program (e.g., completing your research exam, courses, and advancement to candidacy). You should let your advisor know when one of these is coming up at least 2 quarters in advance, and then follow up as needed after that point. Your advisor does not track these dates for you. If you have questions about the deadlines, please contact the graduate program coordinator.
  5. As an employee of UC San Diego, you signed an Amendment to Patent Acknowledgment/Agreement that reads:
    "I acknowledge my obligation to assign, and do hereby assign, inventions and patents that I conceive or develop 1) within the course and scope of my University employment while employed by University, 2) during the course of my utilization of any University research facilities, or 3) through any connection with my use of gift, grant, or contract research funds received through the University. I further acknowledge my obligation to promptly report and fully disclose the conception and/or reduction to practice of potentially patent-able inventions to the University authorized licensing office. Such inventions shall be examined by University to determine rights and equities therein in accordance with the Policy. I shall promptly furnish University with complete information with respect to each."

    To fulfill this obligation, CAIDA requires that at least two versions of all the source files (programming source, LaTeX, images, and data) required to reproduce any publication that includes you as author/coauthor during your tenure at CAIDA get checked in to SVN (or other UCSD-owned version control system as directed by your manager) (svn+ssh://svn.caida.org/caida/Papers/YYYY/<publication>/): one version at the time of submission and a second when you submit the final camera-ready version.

  6. Submit weekly reports describing your efforts over the past week and progress toward planned milestones. Please submit your weekly reports by sending them to weekly@caida.org.

Academic honesty

In research, the reputation of our group and of each of us is critically important. Our peers measure our success by the work we do, the results we publish, and the impact that we have on science. Our ideas and results can only have impact if people can trust us to report them accurately and honestly.

We are all part of the same group and all of our papers carry the names of multiple authors, so the actions of any member of the group can impact all of our reputations, and, by extension, our ability to have impact in the future. This has great advantages: When one of us does great work, it makes us all look good. On the other side, if any of us do anything to damage our collective reputation, it hurts all of us.

There is nothing more damaging to a researcher or group's reputation than academic dishonesty, so we want to make it very clear what is and is not acceptable. We expect everyone in our group to carry out their work honestly and to make an honest effort to generate and present results that accurately represent your work and your understanding of the systems you are studying. In particular, we will not tolerate two behaviors in our group under any circumstances: plagiarism and the fabrication of data.

Plagiarism is the theft of another person's writings or ideas. Since our reputation rests largely on the ideas we publish in papers, taking credit for others' ideas can fundamentally undermine that reputation. Never give the impression in any paper, report, thesis, slide deck, talk, or conversation that you are taking credit for work that you cannot claim to have contributed to. Concretely, this means that you should never, under any circumstances, copy text or figures from another person's work without explicitly citing the source. For text, this means putting the copied text in quotes and citing it. For figures, the caption should clearly state that the figure was taken from another source, and you must cite the source. ("Nuts and Bolts of Writing Papers" has details about how how to properly cite sources.)

The prohibition against copying material from papers, etc. from outside your research group without proper attribution is absolute. However, within the group we often reuse text and figures between papers, an individual student's theses, slide decks, etc. As members of a research group, we are all collaborators, and at one time or another we will all use materials created by another group member. For papers and student talks, we will typically be aware of the reuse, and will ensure that it's acceptable. For theses and dissertations, the university will require you to obtain signatures to allow the use of others' work in your thesis. If you ever have a question about whether borrowing slides or text from another group member's work is acceptable, ask their advisor and ask them.

Fabricating data is generating data via any method that does not honestly represent your understanding of the system you are studying. That could range from making up data "out of thin air", to purposely misrepresenting the results, to manipulating experiments in a technically invalid way for the purpose of achieving a particular result. As researchers, our fundamental responsibility is to do our work to the best of our ability and report the results accurately. Anything less is unacceptable.

While sharing the content of papers and talks within the group is often acceptable, the prohibition on fabricating data applies just as strongly inside the group as outside. Group members will assume that you have generated your data honestly and that it reflects your best understanding of the system you are measuring. They may make decisions about research directions based on it or include those results in published works. Presenting fabricated data to the group is dishonest and will not be tolerated.

If even a single paper that comes out of our group contains even a single paragraph or figure that is plagiarized or with data that is found to have been fabricated, it would do irreparable damage to all of our reputations. There is nothing that would be more damaging to our ability to continue our work. It would undermine our ability to raise funding, publish our work, and place graduates in good jobs. It would also endanger your career and degree even after you have left. Several times a year, prominent researchers (and even some politicians) have their careers ruined by allegations of plagiarism and fabricating data (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

The damage can extend beyond the researcher who plagiarized or fabricated. For instance, the university could potentially revoke your Ph.D. because your thesis contains fabricated or plagiarized content, even if another researcher fabricated the data or copied the text into a paper that you then (in good faith) incorporated into your thesis.

To be clear: If you fail to follow the standards of academic honesty described above, the consequences will be severe. We will refer the case to the appropriate campus Academic Integrity Review Board, and we will no longer be interested in working with you as a colleague. There are no second chances on these issues, and you should not tolerate dishonest behavior in any of your colleagues in our research group. If you believe that someone in the group is acting dishonestly, you must let your advisor know. Allowing dishonest behavior in our group is as damaging as the original dishonesty and the consequences will be as severe.

Most cases of academic dishonesty among students arise from an honest misunderstanding of what is and is not acceptable. The goal of the above paragraphs are to make it clear what is expected from you as a researcher, so that you will not endanger your (or your colleagues') reputation by making a mistake. These issues are complex and there are many gray areas. If you find yourself faced with a decision in one of these gray areas or have questions about any of the above, please ask for guidance. That is the only acceptable course given the high stakes involved, and the only way to ensure that we can continue to do exciting, innovative work.

Giving Talks and Writing Papers (Grad students and postdocs only)

Presenting our work in writing and giving talks about it are the two primary mechanisms we use to disseminate our results and influence the course of technology. Since we aim to do world-class research in my research group, we must also strive to produce world-class publications and presentations.

In most cases, new graduate students have not had much experience with either preparing publication-worthy research reports or giving presentations that rise to that standard. That's OK, since you will learn to write papers and prepare and deliver talks in my group over your time in graduate school. This takes time and effort.

To get started, read these documents on writing papers and giving talks. When you write a paper (or part of one) or give a talk we expect you to follow these guidelines in these documents. In addition to providing practical advice about writing papers and giving talks, they also outline your advisor's expectations for your availability prior to paper deadlines (Long hours every day in the weeks leading up to the deadline) and the amount of effort you'll put into papers (everything you've got). We expect all the members of the group to be familiar with the contents of these documents and the responsibilities of authors, in particular.

Time Off (grad students only)

The group's vacation policy for student researchers reflects three competing goals: 1) The importance of time off to recharge, enjoy ourselves, and take advantage of the flexible schedule that grad school offers and 2) the need to get work done, and 3) my legal accountability for how employees funded by my grants spend their time. Here is the policy:

  1. You have two weeks plus one day (i.e., 11 week days) of flexible vacation time. You must get it approved by all your advisors before you book tickets or take any other non-reversible action.
  2. To provide more flexibility in when you work, six days (one week + 1 day) of your flexible vacation time correspond to the annual school holidays (Veteran's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day, Cesar Chavez Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day). You are free to spend them on these days or at other times.
  3. You get two floating weeks of flex time during your graduate school career. They must be taken 1 or 2 weeks at a time. These are meant to accommodate once-in-a-lifetime things (e.g. weddings, honeymoons), but you can use them for anything.
  4. Your flex-time includes any days you are not in the office and working (e.g., family visits, traveling a day early for a long weekend).
  5. Your flex-time includes extracurricular activities and accidental absences including false imprisonment/jail time (it's happened!), visa delays, political protests, etc. If necessary, you may borrow from a future year's flexible days to cover unexpected circumstances.
  6. Jury duty doesn't count towards your flex days, but you should do your best to defer it to a time when it will not conflict with a paper deadline.
  7. During your last year or so, you should expect to take less vacation than normal. You'll be very busy interviewing, writing your thesis, etc.
  8. It may be important for you to be around campus at the beginning of each term because there are forms that need to be filled out (e.g., for visas). It's up to you to make sure you know what needs to be signed when. A good guide is to be back by the "instruction begins" date on the official UCSD academic calendar.
  9. If any of the above conflicts with university policy, university policy takes precedence.

Miscellaneous Guidance

Possibly useful info from a UCSD CSE prof: Steven Swanson's Advisorly Advice.

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