Facebook Research: Tips from the First Decade

We might be only 10 years old, but we’ve learned a few things.

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This year marks the 10th birthday of the Facebook Research Team, which has grown from a single researcher back in 2008 to more than 450 today. In 2018 alone, our teams conducted over 315 international research trips, traveled to 40+ countries, talked to over 10,000 people, and overall had a blast doing it. I’m really proud of what our team has accomplished and since we couldn’t send everyone a cupcake to celebrate, I’m sharing what we’ve learned: our top 10 tips for growing teams and researchers sustainably.

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Value different perspectives. We’re a group of researchers that stem from many different backgrounds, no matter how you slice it — geographically, culturally, educationally, philosophically. We come from industry and academia, with roots in anthropology, design research, human-computer interaction, social computing, social psychology, sociology, human factors, or market research, among other disciplines. We bring both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as well as agency and product-side perspectives. These differences help us understand people’s worlds in much richer ways.

Embrace vigorous onboarding. Our research-specific onboarding programs teach new researchers about tools, teams, and resources. Giving people time to enculturate to research at Facebook before diving into product work helps get them started on the right foot.

Find the problems that matter. Our researchers work closely with product teams to make sure we’re answering the questions that will have the biggest impact on our products and mean the most to our customers.

Stay tight with other functions. Research succeeds only to the extent that it influences and persuades others. At Facebook, research is closely integrated into product teams and collaborates with product management, engineering, product marketing, data science, product design, and content strategy. This sets researchers up to influence other functions and drive good outcomes in our products.

Do things differently. Creative research methods are a hallmark of Facebook research. Many of our researchers specialize in creatively adapting existing methods or reporting out research in creative ways.

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Always be learning. Our researchers are encouraged to learn new techniques and methods from each other through workshops, continuing education classes, internal notes, and our annual internal research summit that brings together our entire research team across all locations.

Speed, meet rigor. Rigor, meet speed. We move fast, but we also need our research to be rock-solid. As researchers, we have to deliver timely insights that we can rely on to make confident decisions.

Let researchers focus on research. We’ve built a dedicated research operations team that supports research-specific programs and practices such as participant recruiting, lab facilitation, vendor and tools management, learning development, and international project planning. This lets us keep improving efficiency so researchers can stay focused on what matters most: their craft.

Make room for mentorship. Create opportunities for more senior and tenured researchers to support and mentor newer ones. This helps us not just train great researchers, but also to create a tight-knit culture that everyone participates in.

Have fun. A happy team is a healthy team. We’re passionate about making our products better and more useful, but we also know it’s important to balance the work with healthy habits — and fun. We love finding creative ways to let researchers know how much they’re valued. Beyond cupcakes, even.

Want more? We have a downloadable ‘zine edition of our Top 10 most popular Facebook Research posts on Medium. Take a look and maybe learn a tip or two!

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Author: Pratiti Raychoudhury, VP of Research at Facebook
Illustrator: Drew Bardana

Facebook Research

Learnings from the people who study human behavior for…

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