Author: ikilian

A Spotlight on Prevention of Power Abuse – Second online seminar of the Leibniz PhD Network Online

We are all mostly aware of the inherent flaws of the academic system. Short-term contracts, unclear expectations and a real or at least perceived lack of support in situations of conflict are just some of the challenges in the journey of our PhDs. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, hugely impacting our work schedules even more uncertainties around the progress of our research projects arose. It is no surprise that many of us have been feeling under more pressure than usual. Everyone in academia, from PhD candidates to academic leaders and administrative staff, have all been faced with an exceptional situation they may not have been prepared for. In response to these trying times we try to create a greater awareness of potential conflicts and the increased risk of power abuse in academia.

In order to raise awareness of the importance of preventing power abuse, to get a closer understanding of the implications of bad leadership and to come up with some practical advice, the Leibniz PhD Network hosted their second online seminar on 4th June. The topic of the online seminar was  “Prevention of Power Abuse – Leadership, Uncertainty of Working Contracts and Conflict Resolution” The online seminar was organised through a collaboration between the Prevention of Power Abuse and Mental Health Working Groups. If you missed it, you can watch it here:

In the online seminar, we were fortunate to have two exceptional guest speakers to share their perspectives:

Topic: Leadership in Academia

Topic: Leadership and workplace insecurities

The online seminar was moderated by Dr. Elliot Brown (Neuroscientist, Scientific Advisor and Mental Health Advocate at Charité Berlin)

This is a summary of the advice given by the speakers on how to deal with bad leadership and power abuse:

  1. Communication – is a two-way process, clarify expectations, ask for feedback, regard information as something that needs to be proactively spread, but also actively demanded, prepare for meetings beforehand and afterwards.
  2. Find out what ‘type’ your advisor is and interact accordingly (see Prof Peus’ talk)
  3. Find Allies – seek (and provide) social support among peers and join networks, like your local PhD network or others
  4. Mentors – reach out to mentors in your field and beyond
  5. Job crafting – Shape your job conditions proactively (link1, link2)
  6. Report power abuse – if lines are crossed, don’t be silent. 
  7. Leave for a better place – toxic relationships can be a severe burden, be proactive

If you are not sure, if the situation that you are facing is “really” a power abusive situation, we propose to check the definition of the UNESCO Ethics office. The Leibniz Guidelines and the DFG Codex are the guiding principles for every current or past employee in the association to act on. Furthermore we like the more progressive Dutch Code of Conduct on Research Integrity and hope to see more of it in action in Germany soon.  If the suspected case fits with the definitions, then talking to your institutes Ombudspersons, who offer both advice and mediation, can be a possible first step.

If you wonder who else to contact in various cases of conflict, we put together a guide for you that can be accessed here. 

From the Prevention of Power Abuse and Mental Health Working Groups of the Leibniz PhD Network: Anja Jahn, Katharina Willenbücher, Anne-Kathrin Stroppe, Nicole Zerrer, Irene Broer, Dolly Montaño, Stefanie Do and Elliot Brown.

Introducing the WELCOME PACKAGE: a template for a successful start into doctoral research

The working group Welcome Package of the Leibniz PhD Network is very pleased to present the Welcome Package to you!

Several years ago, during the General Assembly some doctoral researchers exchanged experiences on how hard it was for some of them to have a smooth start in their institutes without knowing whom to ask when they had questions and spending a lot of time looking for sources and opportunities in their institutes. Especially, German bureaucracy can be quite overwhelming for international students when first arriving.

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Different people, different ways of coping with isolation

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.

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Second Quarterly Digest

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.

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Successful online seminar about Mental health strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic and more resources for doctoral researchers

In the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020, the first online seminar 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 online seminar was to:

  1. Raise awareness about potential stressors triggered during the pandemic in the academic community.
  2. 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 online seminar, 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.
  • Dr. Nicola Byrom (Lecturer in psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neurosciences at King’s College London)
    Topic: Managing anxieties and low mood during social isolation.
  • Moderator: Dr. Elliot Brown (Neuroscientist, Scientific Advisor and Mental Health Advocate at Charité Hospital & Health Care)

Here is a recording of the online seminar which is available at anytime online:

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