Splinter Meeting Careers

Healthy Careers in Astronomy

Convenor(s): Victoria Grinberg [1], Marcel S. Pawlowski [2]
[1] U Tübingen, [2] AIP

Academic working environments are associated with a unique set of circumstances that often lead to work-related stressors. This is especially true for early career researchers, many of whom work on short-term contracts far away from their support networks. It is thus unsurprising that studies find that at least 30% and up to 80% of academics (depending on considered subpopulation) are affected by mental health issues, a much higher number than in the general population (https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4089). Astronomy is not immune to such problems. On the contrary, it is particularly affected: career prospects within astronomy itself are rare beyond an academic environment, and the international nature of our field means that many will work abroad, where the new environment and the bureaucratic burdens increase both objective and subjective stressors.
This session aims to address these issues by starting a conversation about stress and mental health in our fields and by sharing resources on how to deal with these problems. We particularly hope that the sessions will contribute to decreasing the stigma around conversations on topics such as mental health, stress management and (career) anxiety. Universities often do not offer sufficient resources. If they do, those are almost never tailored to address the special situation of astronomy. The success of a one-day workshop on mental health and time management for junior researchers that one of us organised in Potsdam demonstrates the need to tackle this issue and provide tools to manage stress. While this session cannot offer similar hands-on training in topics such as mindfulness techniques or time management tools, it will point participants to available resources and raise awareness for the need to take these issues seriously and discuss them openly in our field.
Even though we identify early career astronomers (PhD candidates, postdocs, junior research group leaders) as the especially vulnerable group, this session welcomes colleagues at all career stages. The program will mainly consist of a few longer focus talks (on topics such as stress and its symptoms; academic careers and family; time management; handling career insecurity; project management tools; mental health in academia), but time will also be available for short contributions, structured discussions, and to start building networks.

Related contributions *)

*) submitted abstracts, acceptance pending.