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.
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 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:
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 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.
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 online seminar organized by the mental health working group. The online seminar 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 online seminar 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 online seminar 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 online seminar, if you can #stayathome, and stay healthy!