Running a research laboratory as a worker cooperative


A cooperative or co-op is “a jointly owned enterprise engaging in the production or distribution of goods or the supplying of services, operated by its members for their mutual benefit.” A worker cooperative is a co-op owned and self-managed by its workers. The primary difference between traditional businesses and cooperatives is that the first emphasizes capital as the primary goal of business model while the other emphasizes people.

Likewise, we can think of a research laboratory as a jointly owned enterprise in the production of scientific knowledge, papers, software, etc, operated by graduate students, post-docs, PIs, and so forth, for their mutual social, scientific, and capitalistic benefits. Although papers are naturally the currency of scientific research, it is nonetheless only a bi-product of the primary goal, which is to train and improve the lives of the lab members. Like a worker co-op, internal regulation of the lab is defined by democratically agreed upon regimes and accepted by the lab members. New hires or other major lab-related decisions must be voted on by all lab members based on a one vote per worker-owner system.

Hierarchical structures with decision-making bodies are still present, and must be present for research laboratories. But I think by implementing a worker cooperative model, or at least borrowing ideas from the political philosophy of workers’ cooperative, is fitting for running a research laboratory.

For more information on cooperatives and worker cooperatives:

So, what do you think ?