An issue for every researcher

Posted on: 25 August 2021 by Roddy Bray (Length: 285 words - Read time: 1 minute, 20 seconds) in Blog posts

Roddy Bray

The National Concordat for Researcher Development states clearly: “promote the wellbeing and mental health of researchers”.

Editor’s note: Ahead of the National Postdoc Conference 2021 on 24 September we will be publishing a series of blog posts that reflect some of the sessions that will be on offer for researchers. In this post we hear from Roddy Bray about developing a wellbeing programme that is accessible, attractive and engaging.

I recently approached a university research staff development team to suggest they add a wellbeing series to their training provision. “Oh no” they said “that is a matter for the Chaplaincy”. Other universities tell me “wellbeing is a matter for the counselling service”.

The National Concordat for Researcher Development, however, states clearly: “promote the wellbeing and mental health of researchers” – it is not something to be fobbed off… nor taken for granted, as if only the unfortunate few should seek help from the chaplain or a counsellor. The injunction is to promote wellbeing. Wellbeing is an issue for every researcher, and for all who support researchers. Wellbeing is at the heart not only of happiness, but also long-term creativity, productivity and an ability to interact positively with colleagues and manage others well. It is vital to career development. A deflated balloon does not rise.

Wellbeing is not the absence of depression… or fleeting feelings of joy. Wellbeing is about becoming wise about oneself and others, discovering and developing practices of awareness and reflection, recognising and changing patterns of thought, feeling and action. It is, in fact, a wonderfully scientific process of observation and experimentation.

But how can we talk about ‘wellbeing’ without being prescriptive? And deliver workshops on how to be wise about our inner worlds when we are each unique in our needs, personality and sensitivities?

At Oxford I have developed and present a series called ‘Being for Beginners’. It is now used in every division and at other universities too. At NPDC21 I will unpack a little more about how it works, and throw in the briefest taste of some of the approaches I use. Find out more about the workshop.

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About the author

Roddy Bray, who facilitates the ‘Being for Beginners’ series at Oxford and other universities, argues that the promotion of wellbeing is vital to the success and career development of research staff.


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