Don’t let work eat into your personal life, Academy urges researchers



In a new campaign, launched today (Thursday 23 February), the Academy of Medical Sciences will recognise the different people and diverse working styles currently operating in medical research in the UK.

The campaign, called #MedSciLife, brings together the personal stories of those working in medical sciences to promote different working practices and inspire the next generation of scientists to develop dynamic, creative, and forward thinking approaches to the way they work. In doing this, the Academy is also urging researchers not to neglect outside interests when pursuing a career in science. Each story is accompanied by beautiful photographs of reasearchers in thair work and home lives which can be viewed at www.medscilife.org

Writing in a special issue of The Lancet timed to the Academy’s spring meeting, Professor Robert Lechler PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences said:

“It is the Academy’s view that time outside of work has the potential to nourish creativity, build resilience, and give fresh perspectives on existing problems, precisely the skills that result in the best quality research. A life outside science is not an extra, but an integral part of who we are as scientists.”

A new #MedSciLife website will provide a hub for medical researchers to describe their personal journeys and attempts to blend their work and home lives – providing a valuable resource for those currently working in the field and those considering medical science as a career.

The Academy has also commissioned a series of photographic portraits of Fellows and early career researchers in their work and personal lives, which will be exhibited in the Academy’s prestigious headquarters at 41 Portland Place, London.

The positive impact of having interests outside of work on a research career was an important theme of the case studies collected for the #MedSciLife web resource, and is also highlighted as important by research in 2008 (Root-Bernstein 2008 and 1989) that showed that Nobel prize winners were more likely than members of the public or other scientists to have long term hobbies.

Professor Lechler, stresses the need for the #MedSciLife resource in his Lancet Comment:

“Medical sciences are at the forefront of efforts to solve some of the biggest problems facing our society, including our ageing population, global poverty and health inequalities, and the impacts of climate change and antibiotic resistance.

“If we are going to solve the problems facing us, more than ever we will need to attract and support the brightest and best minds. These scientists will need to be dynamic, creative, and forward thinking to deal with the complex challenges they face.

“They will also work in an increasingly competitive landscape, and they will be tempted to believe that the key to success lies in working longer hours, and at the cost of sacrificing other interests.

“I hope that MedSciLife will help those at all stages of their career to embrace the philosophy of celebrating different ways to blend life and work—giving us the chance to be the best we can now, and pave the way for an even better future.”

Professor Ann-Louise Kinmonth CBE FMedSci, Emeritus Professor of General Practice and Honorary Director of Research at the University of Cambridge, anther contributor, told us about ways she balances work and life and helps others doing so:

“I tended to keep work and home pretty separate but now I invite students home more often. When they face a big loss or a big opportunity; talking things through and throwing a ball for my dog seem good antidotes to the stress.”

Professor Paul Martin FMedSci, Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Bristol, also offered an insight into how he found his work-life balance:

“I find science pretty stressful and so I have several hobbies to ‘escape’ work; my pals who I fish with for bass, or at my Kung Fu club have no idea what REF or an impact factor is - and this is very good!

“You have to love your science because the commitment required to be good and competitive is considerable - but you mustn’t love it more than more important things like family and friends!

“It is so easy to get caught up in the whirligig of a science career which is all consuming of as much of your time as you allow it, and some.”

Professor Catherine Law CBE FMedSci, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology at the University College London, shared her advice to contribute to #MedSciLife:

“Don’t plan everything – leave some flexibility, at least in attitude, for the unexpected opportunity, the irresistible challenge, the slightly scary (but also exciting) request. Doing the next thing that is interesting and worthwhile is rarely a mistake.”

The #MedSciLife campaign supports the Academy of Medical Sciences’ ongoing work to nurture the next generation of medical scientists. The Academy is committed to increasing diversity within medical science and have number of projects to support women researchers at critical points in their career, such as our pioneering SUSTAIN career development programme.

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