Doing a PhD thesis is the way to access a career in research. However, several factors exist that hinder or prevent optimal work in research. Those factors include economic issues, which impact work quality, professional training issues and mood perception during the PhD, such as loneliness, pressure, lack of advisors and inappropriate leadership. This situation affects directly to the mental health of the predoctoral researcher, and may favor the abandonment of the doctoral thesis and a career in research.
This project began in 2017, led by Laura Díaz and Vittoria Spinosa, from the feeling that many of the difficulties concerning PhD students were much more widespread than it was possible to imagine. A deep reflexion about the pre-doctoral research stage pushed the two PhD students and a colleague of theirs, Mattia Gallizioli, to start a literature search which culminated with the elaboration of a short review (available here). This document contains a summary of the evidence on the issues which affect PhD students.
In parallel and unbeknownst to Laura and Vittoria, another SciDF member, Ryan Armstrong, had been working on the same topic through a different perspective. After interesting chats about the topic, Laura, Vittoria, and Ryan decided to join forces and start a project to raise awareness about the peculiarity of this stage and to help students to address the issues described in the review and also to understand new ones that emerged through the research. Subsequently, other SciDF members joined the project.
Currently, SciDF is offering participative workshops aimed at capturing the complex factors that can contribute to mental health issues during the PhD, to help them better face these, and have a positive PhD experience while keeping their psychophysical sanity. Moreover, to address a critical lack of assessment within Spain in particular, SciDF is collecting data in order to have an overview about the current situation of the PhD students from different research centers. Here you can find the link to the online survey.