Union of Democratic Labs

Mission Statement

The Union of Democratic Laboratories (UDL) is a scientific society and advocacy group that fights for the bottom-up expansion of radical democracy in the everyday practice of social science. We stand for the establishment of clear standards for fair and humane lab practices, the democratization of scientific workplaces, and making the scientific process more transparent, accountable, and equitable.

We believe that scientists cannot be effective advocates for open and transparent science, let alone an equitable and free world, if we continue to tolerate the stark, unaccountable, and exploitative hierarchies that constitute many academic institutions.

Everyone is welcome to join, including undergraduate and graduate students, research assistants, faculty, and members of the public dedicated to science and the democratic process.

The UDL pursues the following as its central goal:

  • Establish standards for fair, humane, and accountable labs: Few standards exist regarding how labs are run. Many labs have toxic work environments and engage in exploitative practices. Such environments not only incentivize questionable research practices, they help to obscure scientific and personal misconduct, including abuse and harassment. The UDL seeks to establish clear standards for fair and humane lab practices, then fight for the widespread adoption and enforcement of those standards.

The UDL supports the following as allied goals:

  • Unionize academic workers: Many universities more closely resemble feudal states rather than thriving, democratic communities. Whether research assistants, graduate students, adjunct or tenured faculty, all members of the scientific community deserve equal say in the functioning of academic institutions and fair compensation. The UDL supports efforts to unionize workers at all levels of academia, and make institutional decisions more democratic and transparent.

  • Abolish for-profit academic publishing: For-profit academic publishing is a cartoonishly exploitative industry that actively harms the pursuit of knowledge and betrays public trust in science by restricting access to publicly funded research. It must end. The UDL supports efforts from within the scientific community and through the political process to reform academic publishing and make all scientific knowledge free and transparent.

  • Bottom-up, collective action: An organization is only as good as its members! The UDL will actively support the advocacy of its members, and develop new and emergent goals that grow as the UDL expands. We are here to support you in doing good science and making your scientific community more democratic, open, and inclusive.

The UDL affirms the following as core values:

  • Flat academic hierarchies: Hierarchies too often hinder rather than foster scientific progress. Power needs to be more equitably distributed in scientific settings, and hierarchies of expertise should be decoupled from hierarchies of power.

  • Diversity and inclusion: Diversity and inclusion are not merely social goods worthy of pursuit in the sciences, they are fundamental and necessary building blocks of any healthy and legitimate science.

  • Workplace democracy: Scientific settings are workplaces and all participants in the scientific process deserve a say in how labs function, fair credit and compensation for their work, and protections from exploitation.

  • Open science: Scientific knowledge must be free, accessible, and accountable to scientists and the public alike. How research is conducted and the methods/data used to draw conclusions need to be transparent in peer-review.

  • Supportive and fun communities: All community members have a right to feel supported, and all have an obligation to be kind. Disagreement never justifies incivility or harassment. Fighting for progress need not be a somber affair, we believe fun and solidarity go hand in hand.