Author: jantjegoe

Summary of the 5th Future Workshop in Mainz

On Saturday, April 1st, doctoral researchers of various Leibniz Institutes from across Germany gathered in Mainz for the Leibniz PhD Network’s 5th Future Workshop. The evening before the event an informal dinner was arranged, which allowed attendees to get to know each other and exchange about diverse topics including life as a doctoral researcher.

The hybrid event, with around 30 in-person attendees, kindly hosted by the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research (LIR), started with a workshop by Kate Utzschneider on “Resilience: Concepts and Practical Dimensions”. The nearly two-hours’ workshop included brainstorming, group discussions and exercises on the meaning of resilience, stress, mental health, values, self-efficacy, and much more. It was much appreciated by all attendees that actively participated in the workshop.

The workshop was followed by a presentation by network spokesperson Eframir Franco-Díaz introducing the steering committee and the role of the Leibniz PhD Network as well as the different working groups and their members. After a short coffee break working groups Mental Health, Sustainability and Survey presented their current tasks, motivations, and recent outcomes, such as their latest reports and survey results. For example, the recently published sustainability position paper, as well as raising awareness on global on-going issues (mental health, power abuse in academia, etc.).

After a convivial lunch break, on-site and online participants were split into working groups and discussed about ongoing tasks, opportunities, future projects, and key issues.

At the end of the afternoon, each working group presented different ideas and results from their brainstorming sessions. It was a fruitful time which allowed all attendees to participate in the progress of individual working groups and form connections with each other.   

Finally, an informal dinner concluded this successful meeting in a familiar atmosphere.

To sum up, the Leibniz PhD Network’s 5th Future Workshop allowed exchange among fellow doctoral researchers, for each working group to gain new members, for current members to meet in real life and to learn about oneself. The Steering Committee also reassured that each member of the PhD Network can turn to the steering committee if any issue affects them and stressed on the solidarity of the doctoral researchers of the different Leibniz Association institutes and museums.

Author: Armelle Ballian (Senckenberg Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum)

Photos: Eframir Franco-Díaz (Leibniz-Institut für Atmosphärenphysik)

Avoiding a mental health crisis in academia (and beyond)

In the latest issue of the Leibniz Magazine, an article was published, in which a doctoral researcher, a resilience researcher and three managers were interviewed on the topic of mental health at the workplace. Among them Pankhuri Saxena, a former Spokesperson (2020/2021) of the Leibniz PhD Network.

The number of people missing work due to mental health issues is rising, a trend not only present in science and research. Due to the increasingly competitive nature of academia, early-career researchers increasingly suffer from uncertainty, pressure, and stress. The intense pressure and demands of a doctorate can take a toll on a person’s mental well-being, leading to symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you are interested in the interview have a read here.

In November 2021 the “Guide to Mental Health during the PhD” was passed by the Leibniz Association. It was collated by Sebastian Lentz (director of the Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde) in close collaboration with Leibniz institutes and the Leibniz PhD Network. The guide states three fields of action: raising awareness, prevention, and counselling, while it also provides recommendations of measures to be taken. You can find the guide here.

Yet, Jan Klenke (former Spokesperson 2020/2021) critically comments:

“There are still many PhDs on scholarships (i.e., without an official working contract and in voluntary statutory health insurance). This situation enhances the described (mental health) problems in this group. At the same time, this group isn’t on anyone’s budget plan and is usually not mentioned in target agreements. In many cases, the doctoral students are without proper guidance, even if they ask for more supervision.”

Mental health (during the PhD) remains an important topic, seemingly for the foreseeable future. Let us know your ideas and comments on the topic. What would you need to reduce mental stress during your PhD? Leave us a comment or get in touch on our social media platforms.