Building up a support network whilst being in academia makes the work more bearable. Not only can it help de-stress, but also help with workload, maybe even lead to research collaborations! This is interesting to see how organic theses networks can be, because in disaster research (and others) there is thing called “resilience”, and a social network is one measurement of disaster resilience. When disaster strikes, individuals, households, communities, even a whole country can gain help to recover with their network.Having such a social network in academia should not be any different. When things get tough, call upon your friends and family to help things get better! And it is a two way thing, if your friend is in a rough patch…help them!
These support networks can take on so many forms: going for a coffee, doing some sports together, a night out clubbing or going to the pub (and doing a pub quiz…or karaoke?!), doing literally any kind of fund activity you can do together! You build up a friendship and a strong bond 🙂 As a side: pets are great too!
The diversity of the group(s) and what you do is up to you. An additional group that could be beneficial to anyone is finding people who share a similar culture to you. That way, if you have moved to a place that does not have your cultural community, you make your own! My support groups include fellow PhDs and postdocs here in Aarhus, Denmark and back at Hull.
As well as offline, online support networks is great for connecting people around the world. These have become just as important to me, particularly in the volcanology community where generally we can be found everywhere…because volcanoes are everywhere! Most of my online interactions are through Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes we video call/Skype too! Conversations can be helping make sense of our writing we are stuck on, but most of time, it is just to hangout!
Being friendly, helping each other, championing each other, promoting, praising etc. based on creating a positive and strong team/research community, could be the starting point to making academia seem less “hostile” and the competitiveness less intimidating to an early career researcher. If everyone felt acknowledged and appreciated, not only does that improve everyone’s moods and attitudes to their work, but their institutions too. This in turn, improves productivity! Which could make REF, TEF, student satisfaction etc. better!
I believe that building up support networks, helping each other out, not only makes academia more bearable but improves productivity. Which brings me to pointing out some troubles in academia when it comes to pushing people out. If you are strongly opinionated (like me) or have views that differ from everyone else, they are either looked upon as inspirational, or as a threat. Even if your viewpoint is valid, it will not matter, because you have hurt someone’s ego. Ego can be a terrible thing. It becomes the case of “your wrong, I’m right”. Which should not be the STEM environment, we are all learning about the world together, not everything has to have a right or wrong answer. But trust me, that will not stop some trying to rain on your parade.
Throw in the competitiveness of academia, and all the intense stuff of academia I mentioned in my previous post, you could be pushed out. It sucks. That is why having both online and offline multiple support networks are great as a social network and in turn, your form of resilience. Or you know…maybe the person(s) you are working with are just total ********* and I have said that to many of my friends who have been having a hard time with their co-workers. Why y’all gotta be mean? We are all here to do science, LET US DO SCIENCE IN A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT.
But haters gonna hate, surround yourself with positive, loving and engaging colleagues, friends and family outside of academia and be there for one another offline and/or online. It has helped me get through rough patches without a doubt.
It may take a while for the “hostile” and toxic environment of academia to change, but building up your support network, do loads of fun stuff where you can, and things may just get better for us and our successive STEM generations 🙂