We are living unexpected times, in which our state of mind depends directly on our mental skills and social settings. Have you given a thought of how your doctoral colleagues are feeling in this very moment? The following are examples of verisimilar situations:
Anne is pregnant. She is in the end of her program, there are only three more months to go. She was supposed to deliver – her baby, not the dissertation – in May. She calculated her pregnancy not to interfere with the defense. The delivery (this time of her dissertation) was in the end of February, and her defense was supposed to take place in the end of April.
Check out the latest version of The Quarterly Digest, the short report on what has been going on in the Leibniz PhD Network between January and March 2020. Read as well on a new funding opportunity, how you can get involved in the network, and a sneak peek on the results of the survey of 2019 regarding our international colleagues. The data is currently being analyzed by the Survey Working Group.
In the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, the first webinar from the newly formed Mental Health Working Group of the Leibniz PhD Network was held online. Many people had already been under some form of quarantine for a few weeks, and it was clear that many junior researchers have been struggling with social isolation, confinement and uncertainty under the pandemic.
Recently, it has become more and more evident that there is an ongoing mental health crisis in academia. For example, a recent survey of 50,000 graduate students in the UK showed that 86% reported significant levels of anxiety. The current pandemic is compounding existing issues.
The aim of the webinar was to:
Raise awareness about potential stressors triggered during the pandemic in the academic community.
Provide tools and strategies to help researchers cope with anxiety, motivational issues, depression and other potential stressors related to working in academia under the current pandemic.
In the webinar, we were fortunate to have an amazing and international line-up of guest speakers share their perspectives:
Dr. Desiree Dickerson (Academic Mental Health & Well-Being Consultant) Topic: Mental health and well-being resources during COVID-19 pandemic.
Meetings with the supervisors and chiefs are being held via Skype, Zoom or any other form.
Social meetings with the colleagues or other doctoral researchers are being postponed or done also via internet.
Doctoral researchers cannot do fieldwork or lab work they need to do for their projects.
Workshops and conferences have been cancelled.
Some doctoral researchers are even afraid to lose their job.
Some others are even right now somewhere outside Europe and will probably not be able to travel back in the next weeks.
These and many other things we are living right now as doctoral researchers. We are hearing these stories from colleagues, from doctoral representatives, but also from you.
We are facing a worldwide pandemic with COVID-19, which in many ways has not just affected our work, but us in a multifaceted way. PhD can sometimes be hard, in times of a worldwide pandemic even more. We, as the Leibniz PhD Network and doctoral researchers ourselves, understand this and we are right now trying to support you as much as we can until we overcome this crisis.
Until then, we encourage you to #stayathome and work from home as much as you can. If you have any issues do not be afraid to talk to your PhD representatives. We will provide you additionally with some useful information and links in a new subtab in the weblog. Additionally, we will still publish some articles here, we prepared last year and would like to share with you.
Finally, we would like to invite you to the first webinar organized by the mental health working group. The webinar with the topic “Strategies for PhD students and postdocs for copying with the COVID-19 pandemic” will take place on April 9th (this thursday!) at 10.30 am (Central European Time) and will be of course in english and via Zoom. The code you need to entry will be provided by your student representative at your institute. If you are not able to attend, it is not a problem! We will upload the recorded webinar it in the next weeks so you can (re)watch it.
The invited speakers are:
Dr. Desiree Dickerson (Spain). Academic Mental Health & Well-being Consultant. Topic: Mental health and well-being resources during COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Hendrik Huthoff (Germany). Scientific Manager of the Jena School for Microbial Communication, Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Topic: The day after the COVID-19 pandemic in academia. How could COVID-19 affect doctoral-programmes?
Dr. Nicola Byrom (UK). Lecturer in psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neurosciences at Kings College London. Topic: Managing anxieties and low mood during social isolation.
And the webinar will be moderated by Dr. Elliot Brown (Germany). Neuroscientist, Scientific Advisor, Mental Health Advocate, and senior research fellow at Charité Hospital & Health Care.
Hopefully many of you can attend the webinar, if you can #stayathome, and stay healthy!
Did your experience as a member of the Steering Group differ from your expectations? If yes, how?
Jonathan Stefanowski 2018/2019 Spokesperson
Yes. I have been a coordinator of the WG Communication before I have been elected as a spokesperson. Therefore, I was informed about the general activities of the network and basic science policy in Germany. In my opinion, informing the doctoral researchers about these activities is very important, which is why I stated the following in my profile at the beginning of my term: “It is obvious that without active support of the doctoral researchers the Network’s work would disintegrate. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to communicate motivation and reasoning to the very people this work is done for – every member of our network.” Since then, we have produced high quality content for our blog, in which we are reporting about our work. However, less than I expected. Experience taught me, that the majority of the steering committee’s tasks involve ongoing and evolving discussions with the Leibniz Association, numerous stakeholders, and active members of the network. This makes it challenging to communicate every step of the process to every doctoral researcher. Additionally, even as a member of the network, gaining an overview about the topics of science policy in Germany takes time but is necessary in order to act responsibly. These are the reasons why the online platform can only reflect a fraction of these discussions and activities. I believe that getting involved in the network, through the direct interaction with the section representatives, steering committee, and other networks the barrier of information is broken down effectively. In this interest, I will continue to provide information to any interested doctoral researcher in the future.