How do we prepare researchers for the challenges ahead at a time when the future seems particularly uncertain? part 2

Posted 15/02/2018 by 9a4fa0b2-a68f-44ca-95b6-a2b900c1471a

Dr Kate Jones


Dr Kate Jones, Professional Development Manager at Vitae attended Vitae's Preparing Researchers for an Unknown Future event on 25 January and continues with part 2 of her blog.

Wellbeing and Mental Health

In the final panel of the day on wellbeing and mental health, Dr Rebekah Willson, Lecturer in Information Science at the University of Strathclyde, presented on the transition from doctoral student to early career academic, arguing that expectations are key. Unmet expectations cause anxiety and stress whereas realistic expectations, based on knowledge of how things will be, allow for planning and encourage change. Building relationships with colleagues helps early career academics deal with the transition.

Some questions emerged. What support can and should be offered to doctoral students and early career researchers in relation to their mental health and wellbeing, and who is responsible for providing that support? Should doctoral supervisors take full responsibility or is their role to supervise the research? 

Work life balance

In her talk, Dr Janet Metcalfe, Head of Vitae, shared research findings on the mental health and wellbeing of the UK Postgraduate Researcher population and introduced the Universities UK Mental Health framework. She outlined the researcher developer’s role in promoting the mental health and wellbeing of researchers, which includes health literacy (increasing our knowledge of wellbeing and mental health and taking care of our own mental health and wellbeing), recognising risk factors, and knowing when and how to intervene. 

Sally Wilson, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, spoke of the lessons to be learned about mental wellbeing from other sectors. She emphasised the need to tackle mental health at an organisational level and the importance of the line manager role.

In his closing keynote, John de Pury, Assistant Director of Policy, Universities UK agreed that there are lessons to be learned from other sectors, stating that the higher education sector is good at advising other sectors but not so good at examining itself. Other sectors have understood for some time that wellbeing is key to success. Pebbles Feature

The overall message from the event was clear; Researcher Developers can affect change by making small changes locally in their own sphere of influence and by helping to build supportive and attentive communities.

Read our Focus on work life balance and wellbeing page which contains useful links to resources and tips about staying positive and healthy; work-life balance and supporting the well-being of researchers.

Watch the recording of our live event about staff supporting researchers: Supporting researcher well-being

Watch the recording of our live event about coping with stress and anxiety: health and well-being for researchers

You can read part 1 of Kate's blog here.