PGR Catalyst Fund resources

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In March 2018 Research England and the Office for Students (OfS) awarded £1.5M to 17 projects to support the wellbeing of postgraduate researchers, through the Catalyst Fund.

Projects developed a variety of resources to support postgraduate researcher mental health and wellbeing. To share these more widely with the sector, Vitae has compiled the following examples below that are publically available for institutions to use to help improve postgraduate researcher wellbeing.

Man using laptop

Postgraduate researcher-led workshops

The Researcher Toolkit developed by the University of Plymouth, is a series of five workshops providing support and guidance throughout the doctorate that have been designed and delivered by postgraduate researchers.

As part of the project, they have created a set of resources to promote the workshops with ideas on how to pitch and advertise the toolkit sessions effectively to PGRs using a video with testimonials from workshop leaders and previous attendees, turned workshop leaders.

Online training and resources for supervisors and researchers

The University of Durham developed a series of four modules for both doctoral researchers and supervisors to support positive relationships and good mental health in order that signs of distress can be recognised and signposted accordingly.

These modules can be uploaded to other institutional online platforms.

The Wellbeing When Writing project was run by the University of Westminster and the resources developed in conjunction with Vitae, will help both postgraduate researchers and researcher developers. Look out for resources for this to be launched this week.

Stories on failure and overcoming barriers

University College London have developed Adapt to Thrive based on leading academics, researchers and industry figures discussing what failure means to them and how they overcame it.

This could be from getting a grant rejection to impostor syndrome or a personal issue in their life that affected their work.

Peer support networks

The University of Bradford have created PGR Connect a video featuring postgraduate researchers discussing the benefits of being part of a peer support network on their mental wellbeing. It explores the theme that researchers can benefit from a sense of community and belonging.

Find out more about PGR Connect including the benefits of the Peer Support Facilitation Training model.

Postgraduate researchers on mental health during the doctorate

The University of East Anglia's Lakeside view blog contains a series of Courageous Conversations that were originally performed during the Courage Festival in September 2019. By sharing the difficulties faced by PGR's it may help others when trying to deal with similar issues.

The University of Sussex produced this podcast on mental health during the doctorate which contains some good tips on sharing advice and protective factors.

Wellbeing Apps

The University of Derby have created The Wellbeing Thesis for postgraduate researchers to support their wellbeing, learning and research throughout the doctoral process.

The University of the West of England have created a Self Help App for Anxiety Management (SAM) for their postgraduate researchers which is available for other institutions on a subscription model: Android, Apple, and Mindgarden (Institutional Subscriptions)

Pin it or Bin it has been designed by the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester and students at Liverpool Life Sciences University Technical College to encourage users to hold on to positive experiences and learn to let go of things which may be holding them back.

CATCH IT - Mindfulness for PGRs was a joint project between the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester. The app prompts the user to reflect on their feelings and experiences with a fresh perspective.

Role of technicians in supporting researchers' wellbeing

This report of a sector-wide survey Providing Frontline and Vital Support for Mental Health and Wellbeing presents the survey results with recommendations targeted at technicians, institutions and membership bodies.

The results confirm that the frontline nature of technicians' roles means that they are also providing important, but often unrecognised, pastoral support for postgraduate researchers on sensitive and personal issues - often with very little formal recognition or training.

Mental health & wellbeing lens on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework

The mental health and wellbeing lens has been developed with the Univeristy of Portsmouth as part of the Catalyst Fund. It provides an overview of attitudes and behaviours that will be useful for researchers to support their own and others' wellbeing and mental health.

The lens aims to improve wellbeing in the research community by focusing on creating a healthy environment and culture. This is one of a series of lenses on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF).

Look out for the Lens being launched during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Resources to encourage self care

The University of Sussex also produced this leaflet on suggested self-care strategies, which covers workplace or professional self-care, psychosocial and spiritual self-care and physical self-care.

The University of Sussex in conjunction with the University of Portsmouth held a PGR Student Voice and Co-creation event in Brighton and produced this useful infographic outlining various interventions for improving PGR mental health and wellbeing.

See dedicated resources outputs page to learn more about what the University of Sussex have done.

Developed by the University of Manchester and Vitae, decision trees providing practical advice, resources and supportive wellbeing interventions for both postgraduate researchers (PGRs) and their supervisors have been developed and will be launched during Mental Health Awareness Week.