(I’ve had a minor email disaster and lost all Rabbit messages from about the beginning of the year, so I responding “in the dark” here.)
On other lists there was some concern that the science theme of “Lab Assistant” might not play well across our target demographic. Mad Lab Rabbit already _is_ science themed. Switching from Lab Rabbit to Lab Assistant is a neutral move in that respect. We can still keep the lab coats as an informal trademark and still use the Big Experiment term.
The shift isn't so much between a science and a non-science theme one way or the other. It's more about the level of seriousness. To be honest, at places other than game conventions, where LL is relatively well known and well represented, the Lab Rabbit title just sounds goofy, even without the "Mad" lead-in. I've had a few awkward moments introducing myself to, say, the manager at my local Joseph Beth book store, when I actually say the MLR title. It does sound too kid-based. I think Lab Assistant would be a definite improvement.
There is also a subtle shift in role. A lab rabbit is the test subject, while a lab assistant is one of the people running the experiment. The new title would make our role clearer. We're not just there playing games; we're actually running things.
I personally think Lab Assistant is a step up from Lab Rabbit (Mad or otherwise). I'm still not necessarily convinced that "Lab Assistant" is absolutely perfect, but it _is_ better. We can do without the rabbitty bits. I could see, as others have suggested, “Lab Technician”, “Lab Tech” or just plain “Techie”.
I’ve also read that the name change might be cause for some alienation of the “old guard”.
In my opinion, the name change actually removes a long-standing minor irritant, thus making more likely that I'll stay. I've always thought the Rabbit moniker was too goofy, and I've said so at least once every other year. I have no illusions that I speak for a group of like-minded individuals of any size -- I'm just adding one more data point.
Yes, there will be some costs and effort associated with the transition: lab coat embroidery, reprinting any printed materials, editing various web sites. It'll take some time, but I think it'll be worth it.