Is altruism dead in academia? Distinguish yourself by being kind

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Similarly, if you cannot complete a review of a paper, book, or grant etc., nominate an appropriate colleague to do this.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Ask to nominate others for awards as appropriate and take the time to write the best references you can highlighting their positive attributes.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Look out for signs of mental illness in students and colleagues and offer to help by listening.
  11. Be kind to one another. “We’re all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind” (@annegalloway)

What are your ideas to help your colleagues?

3 comments

  1. Kathy Dettwyler · May 8

    I have devoted myself to helping my students and colleagues throughout a long and very successful career. Your list is an excellent place to start. I would add a few more: (1) Offer to share your room at a conference with a student or young colleague, (2) offer to provide child care while a student or colleague gives a paper at a meeting where they have their infant/toddler along with them, (3) provide meals, especially at the beginning of the semester, to your new female colleagues with young children, (4) bring lunch/snacks for these same colleagues for those days when life might be overwhelming, (5) introduce young scholars to your contacts, (6) offer to send pdfs of articles to people who have limited access, (7) if you find yourself always being asked to review a younger colleague’s work, let them know, and offer that they send you the manuscript before submitting it, so you can provide feedback at the earliest stages and they can submit a manuscript with a better shot at acceptance. If you have major concerns about something that has already been published, contact the author directly rather than writing a snarky letter to the editor or trashing them on social media.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Kathy, yes, thank you! Excellent suggestions and these are things that some colleagues have done for me and really made a difference. I especially enjoy doing number 2 for undergrads and Early Career researchers!

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  2. Running a academic jobs website: https://archpostgrad.wordpress.com/

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