Huge leap for Mental health awareness: Leibniz Association adopts guide on mental health of Doctoral Researchers.

Recently working group Survey of the PhD Network assessed the well being of the PhD researchers in the various Leibniz associations based on a conducted survey. The lack of proper means to address mental health well-being sparked discussions. Adoption of the mental health guide within the Leibniz Association addresses the issue of mental health of our doctoral researchers.

The guide deals with steps to decrease the psychological stress during the PhD.
Clear fields of actions are stated which can be implemented in all the institutes. Actions like awareness-raising, removing taboos from mental health and how to recognize critical factors leading to mental health issues and many more are elaborated on the guide

Realizing that PhD on its own can be stressful and the uncertainties with the career path ahead can get overwhelming, but knowing that the Leibniz association will be there to guide and counsel the researchers who need it comes as a reassuring support.

The guide is attached as follows.

N² Network Event 2021 (13th to 15th October) Perspectives on Open & Sustainable Research

The N² Event is just next week get you tickets and reserve a place for yourself.

Registration links :

This year’s N2 Network event connects early career researchers from the humanities, natural and social sciences. Bringing together inspiring speakers, trainers, and experts from fields like politics, economy, natural sciences and communication the N2 event will engage in topics around open science and sustainability.

Interested in how to communicate research results in an open and accessible way? Looking to build a more sustainable career or work more sustainably? Then this is for you! Within three days, the online event provides insights on open science publication channels, sustainable career planning, funding possibilities, and offers great opportunities to network. It gives early career researchers of the N2 member organizations the unique possibility to get in touch with peers beyond their own institutions and to exchange with stakeholders in academia and beyond. Additionally, we reserved some spots for early career researchers from the associate and guest members of the network.

The N2 Event 2021 aims to empower participants to grow their network and to offer perspectives on their future in or outside of academia.

This N2 Network Event 2021 is open to all PhD researchers from the full members of the N2 – Network:

Helmholtz Research Centers, Leibniz Research Centers,Max Planck Institutes and its associate and guest members: IPP Mainz, Technical University of Munich (TUM), Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU).

Program Information: The program features keynote speakers, panel discussions as well as parallel workshop sessions in small groups and includes plenty of time for networking.

Days 1-2 (October 13 and 14): Perspectives on Open & Sustainable Research. The program on these two days is included in all tickets. If you wish to attend only these two days please select the ticket: N2 Network Event 2021 Days 1 – 2.

Day 3 (October 15): Career Development – Skills and Perspectives. The program on this third day is included in the following tickets:

N2 Network Event 2021 Days 1 – 3: Helmholtz.

N2 Network Event 2021 Days 1 – 3: Leibniz.

N2 Network Event 2021 Days 1 – 3: Max Planck.

N2 Network Event 2021 Days 1 – 3: N2 associate and guest members.

Please pay attention that the tickets for all three days have fixed quotas for PhD candidates from the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association, the Max Planck Society and from the N2 associate and guest members.

The Event plan is as follows :

PhD Networks delves deeper into “how to make our research more sustainable”.

One of the major guiding goals of the Working Group Sustainability of the Leibniz PhD and PostDoc Networks is to create a sustainable community within and outside of the Leibniz Association.

In order to start a discussion, the working group held a panel discussion entitled Sustainable Research – What can WE do and where do WE start? on the 2nd of June 2021 in which we discussed what role sustainability should play in research in general and in the Leibniz Association in particular.

Four experts from different fields were invited:

  • Diana Born, Business Development Manager at atmosfair gGmbH
  • Andreas Otto, Deputy Director of the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IÖR) and Speaker of the Leibniz Arbeitskreis Sustainability Management
  • Falk Schmidt, Head of Office German Science Platform Sustainability 2030
  • Juliane Schumacher, Researcher at the Leibniz Institute Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO)

The panel discusion centered around the following major topics. They have been briefly summarised as follows:

What impact do individuals have on sustainability?

Greta Thunberg demonstrated very clearly what an individual can do. She became the face of a movement that motivated a whole generation. Her example shows that the main responsibility of an individual is to raise awareness and integrate the topic of global warming into our everyday life. Making conscious decisions about sustainable consumerism on a collective level can steer the money flow away from big corporate emitters. However, it cannot be denied that in a complex system like our society, structural changes like international regulations to enforce sustainable procedures in corporations would have the largest impact. Therefore, political actions are needed, meaning that the main responsibility of individuals is not to change their personal lifestyle but rather to advocate for political and structural changes.

How to do research sustainably?

In order to make research sustainable, fundamental restructuring in institutes and research culture (currently fast paced and economically limited) is necessary. Researchers should not be left alone with the big task of sustainability management in addition to their already high workload. Instead, institutes should allocate capacities for sustainability management and get experts to help researchers work more sustainably. Researchers should look for a connection to sustainability in their respective field of research rather than limiting it to research on sustainability.

The Leibniz Association has already initiated the first steps towards more sustainable research: Leibniz worked together with Fraunhofer and Helmholtz on the LeNa project, which serves as an orientation framework for sustainability management in the non-university field containing 8 criteria in doing research sustainably. Additionally, a Sustainability Management working group and the Leibniz research network Knowledge for Sustainable Development have been implemented. 

What can early-stage scientists do to create a culture of sustainability?

Early-stage researchers should push for change, get involved in political work inside and outside of research and most importantly communicate. Their qualities as early-stage researchers like critical thinking, looking for different solutions and open mindedness can help to create the necessary innovation to make society and research sustainable. In their individual research projects, every early-stage researcher can look for their personal link to sustainability and reflect on their work with the LeNa criteria in mind.

Take home message: 

The most efficient way to improve sustainable measures is by advocating for political and structural changes. Researchers should communicate their wishes for a sustainable research culture openly inside, with their institutes or research associations, and outside of academia.

To integrate sustainability in our “research life”, the working group Sustainability plans to organize further seminars on this topic as well as a science communication workshop for Leibniz members. 

Considering Ethics and Safety in Field Research in the Global South

Field research is an integral part of data collection for many (PhD) researchers. Yet, questions of ethics and safety in the field are not always adequately addressed by institutions, universities, and PhD supervisors. Thus, many insecurities prevail. How to deal with power relations when conducting research in the Global South? And how to make sure that all parties remain safe and sound when dealing with sensitive topics?

In order to discuss such questions and to create a room for exchange, a team of six PhD students from German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA: Niklas Krösche, Lisa Hoffmann, Désirée Reder and Swantje Schirmer) and Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF/HSFK: Simone Schnabel and Clara-Auguste Süß) organized the digital workshop “Considering Ethics and Safety in Field Research in the Global South” on 8th and 9th of December 2020. Thanks to the financial support of the Leibniz PhD Network’s event funding, we virtually brought together 24 doctoral researchers from GIGA, PRIF, Helmut-Schmidt University Hamburg as well as from the Universities of Bonn, Tübingen, and Leiden.

The two-day workshop focussed on two crucial, yet still widely overlooked aspects of field research – ethics and safety – and thereby aimed at discussing and critically reflecting power relations, identity and positionality in the field. The participants were invited to not only share their experiences but also their inquiries which helped to critically assess our role as researchers in conducting research in the Global South. In doing so, the workshop featured participant presentations focusing on individual research projects and questions as well as two keynote speakers followed by Q&A sessions.

The first workshop day on ethics was kicked off with a keynote by Prof. Dr. Timothy Williams (Bundeswehr University Munich) who explored ethical questions and responsibilities arising from social relations with interviewees, research assistants and the state during field research. Special attention was given to aspects related to power, vulnerability, security and data. The keynote led to three major takeaways:

  • First, there is no one size fits all approach when thinking about questions related to ethics. Instead, before entering the field, a detailed and context-specific planning process is of utmost importance.
  • Second, building and sustaining trust is a key prerequisite in field research.
  • Third, ethics is more than an institutional requirement but it is ingrained in and integral to the whole process of research and knowledge production.

Thus, discussions about ethics should be held on a regular basis. Later that day, three participants gave insights in their own research projects, referring to localized ethics, positionality and trust, and to coping strategies when researching sensitive questions and topics.

The second day first started off with a keynote by Ilyas Saliba (WZB/GPPi) on safety aspects before, during and after field research, as well as on digital security. His talk built on both the recently co-edited book “Safer Field Research in the Social Sciences” and his own experiences when doing research in North Africa. Key insights included the importance of a thorough risk assessment of direct and indirect threats and the responsibility of researchers for all involved actors. Two participant presentations then covered local violent conflicts, aggression and road safety, as well as sexual harassment during field research. The workshop closed with an open discussion wrapping up the two days and identifying broad links and overarching questions. 

Thanks to the outstanding speakers and the participants’ willingness to share their experiences and inquiries, the workshop provided very helpful and thought-provoking insights with regard to ethics and safety in the context of field research. Additionally, despite having taken place digitally, all participants and organizers agreed that they succeeded in creating a safe space, which allowed everyone to address and discuss more personal concerns and sensitive topics. Furthermore, the workshop fostered exchange not only within the organizing team prior to the event, but later also within the whole workshop group. There was wide-spread interest amongst organizers and participants to continue this exchange, within a broader setting as well as on a more individual basis, for instance in a topic- or region-centered manner.

We hope that this is only one of many future initiatives discussing the questions of safety and ethics in fieldwork and that cooperation between all involved research institutions will also prosper.

General Assembly 2021

Once a year, all elected PhD representatives of the 96 Leibniz Institutes and Research Museums meet for two days of networking, exchange of best practices and discussions on current and future challenges of doctoral researchers in Germany. This General Assembly is of crucial importance for the Leibniz PhD Network, since it also contains a discussion of the Standing Rules and the election of a new Steering Committee.

Due to the current worldwide crisis, we decided that the Leibniz PhD Network the General Assembly will be held online. It will take place on 23rd and 24th of September. The Assembly will be held over Zoom : the first day of the General Assembly 2021 will be open for all doctoral researchers of the Leibniz Association. We invite all members of the Leibniz PhD Network and our associated networks. Dr. Thomas Kleinsorge from the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo) will give a keynote about “Work-life balance: societal, cross-sectional, and longitudinal perspectives ”. There would also be an interesting workshop “Keeping your work life-balance while working on your PhD” delivered by Heli Korhonen from “Scienza”. On the second day, September 24 (10:00-2:00 pm), the representatives of the institutes elect two new spokespersons, a treasurer and one section spokesperson for each section.

If you would like to run for one of the positions, please do not hesitate to let us know in advance as well (you do not need to be a representative at your institute to be elected spokesperson, treasurer or section spokesperson). This is a very exciting opportunity in which you can learn a lot about the inner workings of academia, get to know many active researchers from all over Germany and practice some leadership skills!

If you are interested in getting elected, but you are not a representative at your institute at the time of the General Assembly, we will set up an extra access to the program of Day 2 for you. For any questions and enquiries we can be reached at