The second GYA professional development workshop for at-risk scholars was held from 9 – 11 September, hosted at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. The in-person workshop, aiming to support the career development of outstanding early-career at-risk scholars and scientists, was conceptualised and run by the GYA At-Risk Scholars Initiative, in cooperation with the Young Academy of ScotlandCara, and individual speakers from universities and the private sector in the UK. 

Over two days, 15 participants met with speakers in-person and online, led by workshop facilitators S. Karly Kehoe (GYA alumna, Saint Mary’s University, Canada), Nesrin Alrefaai (London School of Economics, UK) and Moritz Riede (GYA alumnus, University of Oxford, UK).

Inputs and discussion focused on tangible, practical advice about strategies to succeed in the UK academic system. Annie Tindley (Newcastle University) provided information on the funding landscape in the UK for PhD students and early-career researchers. She also gave an overview of the Research Excellence Framework (REF); why it matters and how it might be factored in when applying for jobs. Matt Smith (University of Strathclyde) conducted a CV and cover letter writing workshop, and offered individual feedback on participants’ CVs following the meeting. A mock interview session run by Karly and Annie allowed participants to observe good and bad practices in action, discuss common lines of questioning, and practice scenarios in small groups.

An academic career path is precarious and highly competitive – not only for at-risk scholars – and a significant aim of the career development workshop was to address this challenge openly. Regardless of origin, the majority of PhD graduates will not find a job in academia. Being aware of this reality is important, so that scholars can react with flexibility and adapt to opportunities that arise, but also understand that failure is often not personal. Jared Wesley (University of Alberta) and Harish Bhaskaran (University of Oxford) spoke about the professional world beyond academia, having both worked in and outside of academia in different fields. This session and a presentation by GYA member Eqbal Dauqan (University of Oslo, Norway) brought up the role of personal life choices in career decisions, as well as the insight that it is not unusual, even for those who end up succeeding in academia, to write countless applications. 

The workshop was well received by participants, who were highly engaged and appreciated the practical skills discussions and the opportunity to network with peers who face similar struggles.

 

The GYA At-Risk Scholars Initiative holds regular (online and in-person) workshops to support different aspects of career development in host countries, and to raise awareness about the challenges faced by scientists and scholars at risk. Read more about the Initiative here: Strategic Project – At-Risk Scholars Initiative | Global Young Academy