Tales & Stories from
Being a PhD student can be tough – it can be one of the most challenging times of your life, but also a very fulfilling time. That is, if you find yourself in the right environment. It can be a great adventure or it can be a painfully long and rocky road.
Tales of PhDs is a platform where you can learn about experiences of other PhDs and share your own experience. We want everyone to know about the situation of PhD students and together change it for the better. Everyone of you has a story to tell – happy tales or nightmares – and we can be inspired and learn from each others journeys.
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According to studies  and our own experiences, the number of PhD students finding themselves in a stressful and potentially harmful situation is significant. Of course, the problems always depend on the country and culture you are in, and we may each react differently to the situation we find our self in. Unfortunately, there are many issues in the science community that can create or endorse an adverse and harmful environment. This can drain your energy, motivation and self-confidence and high stress levels can lead to depression or burnout.
Everyone who has been part of the system knows about the issues. That’s why Tales of PhDs is not about revealing these issues. It is also not about blaming or demonizing specific people, supervisors or research organizations.
Tales of PhDs is rather about exchange, a sense of community and learning from peers who have been through similar situations.
We all have a voice that we can use to tell our tales. By sharing our experiences we can feel less alone in our struggles. Be it happy tales or nightmares, everyone has one to tell and we can be inspired and learn from each others journeys.
We have the hope and the vision that by sharing our tales and creating a community, we can use our voices to change things for the better. We have – along with some of you – also experienced very good working environments, supportive teams and encouraging supervisors. We believe that the situation can be better and want to take action for a better future.
After all, doing a PhD can be a great experience and a great achievement. There are always struggles involved, but in the right environment and with the right conditions, it can be a much more enjoyable and enriching journey.
 Woolston (2019) PhDs: the tortuous truth, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03459-7, Nature 575, 403-406.
Why does it matter?
Why is it important to focus on young researchers?
By doing the groundwork for science, PhD students are the foundation of active research. If not for PhD students and young ambitious scientists, we wouldn’t have gained all the scientific knowledge and progress that we have today. But unfortunately, due to the strenuous working conditions, many young researchers lose their passion for science and decide to turn their backs to the science community. As a result, we lose well-trained, highly-qualified researchers that otherwise may have helped to find solutions for important scientific problems. Therefore, it is crucial to create a welcoming and supportive environment to keep young researchers motivated. Through awareness of the problems and an open debate we aim to change the conditions for young researchers in the future.
We are two young scientists from Germany that have worked in different research institutions and universities during our academic career. We have experienced both sides of the academic world: fantastic and supportive working groups but unfortunately also highly competitive, stressful and harmful research environments. It is clear to us that only good working environments produce good research results and more importantly promote the sanity, health and happiness of scientists.
That is why we decided to work on improving academic structures by stimulating an open debate to spread public awareness, and by establishing an exchange and assistance platform for those affected.
Do you have a story to tell? Was your PhD experience a fairy tale? Or was it a nightmare? Either way, share it! Help us to tell the world about the experiences of young researchers, be it good or bad ones. Help us to keep the dialogue running and to discuss how we can create a more supportive and welcoming environment for the future of science!
Photo credit (Unsplash): 1-Matt Duncan, 3-Shahadat Rahman, 4-Dan Meyers