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Ambassador for Wellbeing in Academia

The Researchers Mental Health Observatory (ReMO)

The Researchers Mental Health Observatory (ReMO) is a Horizon 2020 European funded COST-Action programme, that brings together an international european-wide community of early-career researchers, faculty, academic human resource managers, coaches, trainers and practitioners for higher education, as well as science policy stakeholders. It is a growing network of more than 250 members that collaborate across different scientific disciplines to identify which practices and actions are effective at creating research environments that foster wellbeing to prevent the development of mental health issues at the workplace.

Between the 27th and 30th June, 2022 at the 1st ReMO Ambassador Training School in Grenoble, all selected Ambassadors from all over Europe worked together on an exercise booklet to prepare action plans for execution on local level.

Interview for ReMO Ambassador Campaigne originally published here

1. Please tell us something about yourself. What is your professional background?

I am a multidisciplinary scientist with a degree in Molecular Biology, a Ph.D. in Systems Neuroscience, postdoctoral training in Computational Social Science and vast experience in Science Communication and Public Outreach. I am a passionate public speaker and, as a founder and team lead of Soapbox Science Lisbon, an empathic advocate for diversity, inclusion, equity and wellbeing in academia and beyond. After more than 15 years of working in different disciplines, in eleven different institutes, across five different countries (Austria, Singapore, USA, Japan, Portugal), as a female scientist and first generation academic, I am strongly aware of the struggles and challenges one faces to progress in a scientific career. I observed and experienced how our academic research culture impacts not only the wellbeing of individual researchers but also the dynamics within research teams and the success of a research institute retaining and sustaining excellence in science. I started to study the available research on this subject, confirming that there are recognized crucial issues in the academic system that need targeted action urgently. I want to create opportunities to effectively integrate my unique combination of multidisciplinare skills and international academic experiences to foster equity and wellbeing for researchers, to contribute in the reformation of the research assessment system in the scope of Open Science initiatives, and finally help to ensure a successful career progressions of all highly trained talents coming from academia.

2. Why have you decided to become a ReMO ambassador? What was your motivation to apply for the ReMO Training school?

Since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic a public focus and awareness finally went to mental health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, still mental health issues are mainly treated as individual problems and not necessarily addressed as a result of a societal system that is dysfunctional in terms of diversity, inclusion, equality and probably most important equity. Sadly, the same can be said about the academic system. The increasing evidence that academia is in a mental health crisis can not be ignored anymore. I wanted to finally act. I started to share the research and my ideas - of how to improve the academic ecosystem in terms of wellbeing - with my peers and diverse stakeholders. I realized that I am not alone with the great desire for change. But change takes time, courage and allies. Unfortunately but understandably, most researchers are hesitant and intimidated to take action, out of fear to jeopardize their career progression in the dysfunctional academic system that we all have to adapt to - at great cost - in order to survive and keep our academic dream alive. My dear post-doctoral mentor recommended me to have a look at the COST Action programme to find a European-wide network of like-minded researchers to collaborate and work on those urgent issues. That is how I came across the ReMO Ambassador Program. I finally found my allies. Together we are a community of researchers, faculties and human resource managers that do not shy away from the actions and consequences it takes to advocate for systemic change that should improve individual, institutional and systemic mental health. I strongly believe that by focusing on fostering inclusion and equity to raise individual wellbeing our academic system will improve and succeed to sustain excellence in research for society.

3. What is the key issue you would like to tackle in your working environment/your country?

I believe that the building blocks of a successful science institute are its scientists. In order to grow well-trained and confident scientists that are able to collaborate in respect, tolerance, trust, unity, inclusion and equity - and to contribute their unique knowledge and talents to tackle the world's biggest challenges - the career development of each individual member must be cared for. I want to make use of my years of international academic experiences, my multi- and interdisciplinary science knowledge and the privilege to be embedded into the ReMO Ambassador network to empower the careers of young researchers. In Lisbon, Portugal, I want to create a collective, a safe space for discourse and develop interventions - to improve academic research culture and as a consequence wellbeing - that have impact on individual researchers but also organizational policies. My goal is to help to improve and sustain excellence in research for society. I believe by focusing on retaining, preparing and supporting highly-trained talent and culturally diverse thinkers, especially regarding minorities* in academia, the research community can serve at its best to society.

*women, people of color, individuals with disabilities, students from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, first generation academics and members of the LGBTQ+ community


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