Psychiatrist and meta-scientist Joeri Tijdink conducts research into the well-being of scientists. He has now written an uplifting self-help book: How Do PhD Students Survive in the Academic World?
It is not uncommon for PhD students to begin their PhD research with lofty aspirations and idealistic plans. But working in science isn’t always what they imagined it to be. Above all, it’s much more stressful. It is estimated that 40 percent of all doctoral students suffer from stress or depression.
This must change, says psychiatrist Jowery Tijdenek. He is a member of the De Jonge Akademie, a society of relatively young senior scholars. As a “dead scientist”, he researches integrity and reliability in scientific research. with his new book Happy academic He wants to help PhD students become successful and happy scientists.
There are 34 tips, often witty, in the book. For example, you should immediately stop self-promotion on your website. Why did you choose that mesmerizing tone?
“In all my research on scientists, I’ve had a lot of suffering: publication pressure, scientific misconduct, bouts of depression and anxiety. A lot of scientists are serious people who put a lot of pressure on themselves. I want young researchers to take a more simple look at their own situation.” .
Self-help tips for PhD students
Science is also an exercise in rejection. You have to learn to deal with that
Accept that scientific research is never perfect
Stop using social media excessively
Do not romanticize a scientific career
– Making mistakes is part of it! You are not the sum of your results
– Get used to the fact that sometimes you have to correct your opinion or scientific point of view
Share your problems with others
Think of something other than work: stop working overtime and keep exercising and moving
Take early signs of anxiety or burnout seriously
Don’t forget to enjoy what you do
Why is the book directed primarily to PhD students?
“They have the most problems. At least 30 percent finish their PhD prematurely. That’s a shame. Getting a PhD can be fun and challenging, even if you don’t get into science afterward. As a PhD candidate, you can spend years working On something you find most interesting. This is a real privilege and it is a pity that this particular group has so many problems. After all, PhD students are the future of science. Although they still have a lot to learn, they also have the latest ideas and creative visions. So it is a pity to discourage them.”
The book is highly critical of academic culture. You could have written a book about it and yet you chose the self-help book.
“The same sore points have been published and discussed for decades: the university is too hierarchical, the publishing pressure is too high, there is a lack of oversight and not enough research funding, which means competition is fierce. In recent years, universities have slowly taken a different path with ‘recognition and recognition’. But the lid is still far from complete. And PhD students still struggle with these major structural problems on a daily basis. That’s why I wanted to help them with that.”
What can PhD students themselves do about it?
“Because of the hierarchy at the university, scholars who do poorly can remain in influential positions for a long time. If the head of your department is a narcissist, it is helpful to know how best to deal with such a person, without it being to the detriment of yourself. It is also good Thinking about how you can be productive without working day and night and how you can support each other as scientists without seeing each other as competitors.”
In your book, you advise to stop working with people who make you miserable. But PhD students are very dependent on top researchers. What do you do if this connection is not going well?
“If you can choose a moderator yourself, find someone you click with. If that’s not possible because your project is already associated with certain scientists, for example, make sure during those three or four years that you brainstorm and collaborate with people you are compatible with. You have more options. than you think, even in very difficult situations.
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