At the Academy, we recognise that almost all academic and clinical researchers will have experienced significant disruption to their projects and their careers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Post-graduate researchers (PGRs), including Masters students, PhD students and early-stage post-doctoral researchers, make up a substantial proportion of the UK research workforce. However reports suggest they feel they have experienced a lack of support during the pandemic as they fall into a gap between undergraduate students and independent researchers (PIs). Below we have collated a series of resources to help support both PGRs and their supervisors.
[Page last updated 09 June 2021]
Emma Taylor is a PhD student in veterinary epidemiology at the University of Surrey. In this video, she shares how she initially struggled to engage with support from her university during the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic, but then how she navigated her way out of the COVID-19 fog with help from her supervisor and continued her research. Watch here for some advice to supervisors to support their students – be patient, keep reaching out, provide a safe space to have open conversations.
Conor Scott is a second year PhD student at the University of York. In this video he shares his tips on how he manages his time and work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic, from planning ahead to objective-based goals, in order to avoid the trap of saying: "Okay, I’ll just work for longer.”
Jessica Dobson is a final year PhD student at the University of York. Here, she shares her strategies for resilience and managing her research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jessica tackles issues like lack of access to laboratories due to social distancing requirements, and how this has forced her to slow down and spend a lot more time considering the results of each experiment - "a blessing in disguise".
Grace Cowen, a final year PhD student at the University of York, canvassed views of PGRs through her network to help us better understand the challenges the pandemic poses on the trajectory of their research projects and on their own personal well-being. Grace interned with the Academy from October-December 2020.
The responses from a small group of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers have been collated together in the following articles.
- PGRs and their projects
- Mental health and wellbeing for PGRs
- What have PGRs learnt during the pandemic?
We would like to thank all of the PGRs who agreed to take part in this project, and hope that this page will allow others to share and learn from these experiences, and that senior researchers might better understand the needs of those working within their own research groups.
Our FLIER leadership programme partners Cirrus have provided a number of free resources to download. Cirrus are bespoke leadership, talent and engagement specialists sharing their expertise.
The below resources may be particularly helpful for PGRs.
- Managing anxiety.
- Circle of influences and concern.
- Recognising stress drivers in self and others
- 7 strategies for overcoming isolation and loneliness.
The below resources may be particularly helpful for those supervising PGRs. We would also encourage you to explore our page on Leading your team.
- Motivating yourself and your team during isolation– useful for managers of teams working in separate locations
- How to achieve and maintain motivation.
- Managing remote teams.
Voices of Academia aims to help improve mental health in academia by giving academics a voice. Blogs are published weekly, and are authored by a range of academics, ranging from undergraduates through to senior researchers. It aims to lower the stigma sometimes associated with mental health issues, and to help academics of all levels in starting the conversation about mental health.
All Mental Health aim to increase access to mental health education. They have created a resource hub to support mental health during coronavirus, where you can choose resources that focus on:
- I can't stop worrying
- I want help with relationships and boundaries
- I'm overwhelmed right now
- I want to understand my emotions
Mindfulness for Students provide useful mindfulness information, resources and exercises with a specific focus on students (including postgraduate researchers), which can be a great tool to support our wellbeing, in times of pandemic and beyond.
Students Against Depression hub provides information and resources on self-help, referral processes and supporting those around you. The times of the pandemic have been tough on many and the restrictions and changes can present additional pressures in what is often already a difficult PhD environment. It is important to help ourselves an each other address these.
Dr Zoe Ayres is a mental health advocate and creates posters to raise awareness of issues people face in academia, shared on her Twitter account. Here are a few examples of some of the posters she has created:
Academics Need to Talk is a global movement of the academic community to support each other through the pandemic. ANT want to facilitate face-to-face discussions via video conferencing platforms, to encourage meaningful discussions that have the potential for collaboration, for mentorship and to give people in isolation the opportunity to talk to like-minded people. All academics at ANY career stage are eligible to join Academics Needs to Talk.