Take a look at the contents of Childhood in the Past – Volume 10.1 – 2017: Editorial – Ten Years of Childhood in the Past Eileen M. Murphy Invited paper SSCIP: The First Ten Years Sally Crawford Research papers Landscapes of Childhood: Places and Material Culture Margarita Sánchez Romero Child Bioarchaeology: Perspectives on the Past […]
In the sometimes cut-throat environment of academia with limited funding and job prospects, it can sometimes feel like altruism may be lost forever. Academia can wear you down psychologically and physically, particularly so if you are an early or mid career researcher, and if you are a female and/or from a minority group.
There are always ways to support and encourage others in academia and in some instances even small acts of “giving” may really help those who are struggling. These things may be what you do and think about anyway, so congratulations! To others they may seem inconsequential, but I think that these can make all the difference to your peers and contribute in general to a happier, more collegial environment for everyone.
Here are a few ways that we can support each other:
- If you are writing something and know that there is a student or early career researcher who may be able to contribute their scholarship to the topic, ask them to contribute as an author. This will add to their CV and publication experience, and get their name out into the field. This may make them realise their work is valued while also contributing to the international research community.
- If you are invited to a conference and cannot attend, suggest inviting another scholar (in particular an Early Career researcher) who also fits their criteria. This may be invaluable to the participant’s CV and lead to other academic opportunities. Be mindful that there may be other issues with childcare and breastfeeding etc. that might hinder their attendance.
- Similarly, if you cannot complete a review of a paper, book, or grant etc., nominate an appropriate colleague to do this.
- If you are writing a grant or setting up a research project, see how you can work with an Early Career scholar, and get them involved from the start to make it truly collaborative. See how this may contribute to their other funding opportunities.
- Keep a note of new and existing grant and scholarship opportunities for students and other scholars in the field. I always pick up brochures for students and colleagues when I see them at conferences, and email out new opportunities when I see them online.
- Ask to nominate others for awards as appropriate and take the time to write the best references you can highlighting their positive attributes.
- Ask to nominate others for places on academic committees, and make places on committees for students and Early Career Researchers, and be mindful to make these more than just tokenistic positions.
- If you edit a journal or newsletter, make a space for a student and/or Early Career researcher on the Editorial Board, have a section for student papers, and provide incentives such as student publication awards.
- If you can see that there are issues with research methods and interpretations etc., talk with the researcher directly, rather than to others in the field.
- Look out for signs of mental illness in students and colleagues and offer to help by listening.
- Be kind to one another. “We’re all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind” (@annegalloway)
What are your ideas to help your colleagues?
New research has uncovered the extent of the impact of ill health on the urban underprivileged during the Victorian era with finds of severe growth retardation of infant and child bones. The authors show that the social deprivation at Bethnal Green in London, UK, was so extreme that this affected the growth of the long bones of babies as young as a couple of months of age.
The authors, Rachel Ives and Louise Humphrey, explain that Bethnal Green was recognised as London’s poorest parish and that “by 1847 the parish ‘had long possessed an unenviable notoriety on account of its neglected state and defective sanitary condition’ (Gavin, 1848, 5). Houses were frequently reported as damp, dark and poorly ventilated.”
This research assessed the growth of more than 140 female and male infants and children aged from 2 months to 12 years of age. Because there was sex information from the parish records, the researchers could explore sex-related growth. Here they found that there was divergence between boy and girl growth with evidence that girls experienced more deprivation. The research also showed that there was little catch-up growth in the older children, and that less than 20 percent of the individuals assessed attained 90 percent of the growth of a modern North American standard.
Although there were attempts to improve the conditions at the parish at the time, the need to house a rapidly growing population meant that these initiatives were largely unsuccessful. The health impacts of overcrowding and associated insanitary conditions led to high mortality rates (>50 percent) in children younger than 5 years of age, largely attributed to gastrointestinal disease. For some of the infants at the parish, the need for the mothers to work away from home meant that early weaning or supplementation of breastfeeding with cow’s milk would have occurred. There is evidence that contaminated water was added to cow’s milk, which would have contributed to waterborne bacterial illnesses. The authors describe historical evidence for the lack of clean water due to largely non-functioning water pipes and contamination by nearby cesspools. Furthermore, the crowded living conditions and poor economic situation for many meant that contagious illnesses such as scarlet fever, influenza, measles, smallpox and whooping cough were more easily contracted throughout the community.
It is clear that the very young bore the brunt of the deprived conditions at the time. Further work looking at evidence for maternal health and for stress and disease from the skeletons may provide more information of the children’s shortened lives during this time of unprecedented population growth in Britain.