About a month ago I went tothe Academy of Management Conference, I was met with a mix of recognition and curiosity. While some attendees were hesitant, others courageously approached me, expressing gratitude and even sharing warm hugs. This experience affirmed one thing: The R3ciprocity Project is working.
We are collectively transforming the scientific landscape.
The Problem: A Competitive, Lonely Journey
Traditionally, academia has been a solitary and grueling race, where the focus is often on the winners, inadvertently encouraging unethical behavior and a toxic environment.
Most of us know this happens. We shrug it off, and say that the market will correct itself.
How does the market correct itself? Depression and anxiety. Academic researchers leaving who ‘could not hack it.’
It’s time to challenge this status quo.
The R3ciprocity Project: A Catalyst for Change
Motivated by my own struggles and the urgent need for reform, I initiated the R3ciprocity Project. This project aims to ensure that no one else has to endure the hardships many of us have faced in our academic careers. Remember, change starts with one person, and that person could be you.
The Project is centered around giving hope. There is a reason why I just did not focus on the technical solutions of creating a writing Platform. There is a reason why I say “R3ciprocity helps students, faculty, and research folk by providing a real and authentic look into doing research. It provides solutions and hope to researchers around the world.”
To truly revolutionize the academic landscape, we need a concrete plan. Here are 10 actionable steps, ranging from the simplest to the most challenging, that each of us can take to make a meaningful difference.
1. Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude is a foundational step in creating a positive academic environment. It fosters goodwill and encourages a culture of mutual respect and appreciation, which can be rare in competitive settings like academia.
- Example 1: Send a thank-you email to a colleague who provided helpful feedback on your research. Say thank you in an email.
- Example 2: Publicly acknowledge the support staff at your institution. When you see them say thank you and strike up a conversation.
2. Offer Compliments
Offering compliments serves as an immediate morale booster. It not only uplifts the individual receiving the praise but also fosters a culture of positivity, making the academic journey more enjoyable for everyone involved.
- Example 1: Compliment a fellow academic after a presentation, especially if it went terribly. Reassure them that the presentation was just with a difficult audience.
- Example 2: Praise a PhD student’s insightful question during a lecture. Better yet, if there is a student that is quite, ask them to share their thoughts. Actually, listen to those thoughts.
3. Share Resources
Sharing resources is a tangible way to support each other. It promotes a collaborative atmosphere and reduces the barriers to academic success, particularly for those who may lack access to certain materials or information.
- Example 1: Share your joy for a colleague, not for their research but for who the person actually is.
- Example 2: Offer your lecture notes to a fellow instructor teaching the same course for the first time. I had that happen this summer – it saved me hours of time, and I deeply appreciated their generosity.
4. Peer Support
Peer support is vital for both personal and professional development. It provides a safety net of constructive feedback and emotional support, making the often-isolating academic journey more communal and less stressful.
- Example 1: Offer to review a colleague’s grant proposal before submission.
- Example 2: Volunteer to be a mock interviewer for a graduate student entering the job market.
Mentorship is a two-way street that benefits both the mentor and mentee. It provides a structured way to pass down knowledge, skills, and opportunities, thereby enriching the academic community as a whole.
- Example 1: Take on a mentee and provide guidance on academic and career development. Go out for lunch every now and then.
- Example 2: Create a mentorship program within your department to formalize support structures.
Collaboration amplifies the impact of academic work. It allows for the cross-pollination of ideas and methodologies, leading to more welcoming academic community.
- Example 1: Invite a junior faculty member to co-author a research paper. This one is much harder to do, and in my experience, colloboration should be done slowly. You need to build an lot of trust.
- Example 2: Organize a seminar series to foster cross-departmental collaboration. I have seen this happen, but it does not last that long. I not not sure if there is much value added, but it might be better just to have lunch and create a support group.
7. Advocate for Mental Health
Addressing mental health is crucial for the well-being of academics. It removes the stigma around these issues and provides the community with the tools and resources needed to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Let’s talk openly!
- Example 1: Propose a departmental seminar on managing stress and work-life balance. This is important, and can be lasting change.
- Example 2: Lobby for mental health resources specifically tailored for academics. I think we need to especially think about resources for those that are easily neglected, and that will have additional demands put on them.
8. Promote Welcomeness
Promoting welcomeness enriches the academic landscape. It brings in a variety of perspectives, making research more comprehensive and teaching more inclusive, thereby benefiting everyone in the community.
- Example 1: Advocate for a more welcoming selection of keynote speakers at academic conferences. They should from all walks and add value in different ways.
- Example 2: Implement a welcomeness module in your PhD courses. What does it mean to welcome all people from all walks of life?
9. Institutional Change
Institutional changes have a lasting impact. By advocating for policies that support work-life balance, mentorship, entrepreneurship or community engagement, especially for those who are most vulnerable, you’re contributing to a more humane and supportive academic culture for future generations.
- Example 1: Propose a change in departmental policy to better support work-life balance, such as a flexible work schedules and increased welcomeness.
- Example 2: Lead an initiative to revise tenure and promotion criteria to include community engagement, entrepreneurship, and mentorship. These things are very important, but the priority is always put on only one definition of success: Research.
10. Public Engagement
Engaging with the public makes us more vulnerable. It makes us more accessible and applicable, thereby increasing its impact on society. This not only elevates our understanding with the public but also fulfills the broader mission of contributing to public good. (I am not sure if this is a good idea – this is still a question for me).
- Example 1: Write op-eds or blog posts to communicate academic inclusivity and welcomeness to the general public.
- Example 2: Partner with community organizations to help solve some of these real-world problems in academia.