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Update from the Chair: Celebrating National Postdoc Appreciation Week
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Kate Sleeth

 

As this edition of The POSTDOCket is published, we are in the midst of celebrating the 8th annual National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW). Since 2009, the NPA has led this event to recognize the significant contributions postdoctoral scholars make to research and discovery.

 

Each year, institutions across the United States and beyond host special events in honor of their postdocs. In 2016, institutions in the United States, Canada, and India participated and organized 350 events. I am eager to see how many events are held this year and encourage you to share photos from your events with the NPA. To see what’s happening in 2017, you can check out the NPA’s NPAW events page. If your institution hasn’t arranged anything yet, it isn’t too late – the NPA has a toolkit to help you plan and arrange everything! If you can’t do something this month, several institutions also hold celebrations at other times of the year, including the fantastically named “Postdoctoberfest” at Duke University.

 

I hope that your institution does honor and show appreciation by participating in NPAW, which was officially recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. However, even if you miss our special week in September, it is really important to do something during the year. Postdoc morale is a delicate balance between professional successes and setbacks. Even small things to show that that someone cares and appreciates postdocs can make a big difference.

 

We all know that doing research is a particularly stressful enterprise, with the “publish or perish” mentality leading to immense pressure on everyone in the lab. For postdocs who are trying to establish their careers and will rely on their publications to get academic jobs, this is an exceedingly hard time. A recent report relayed the story of a physics article that was finally accepted for publication following a three-year struggle due to an author’s wish to acknowledge the efforts of a colleague who committed suicide. While I sincerely hope that no one ever feels that the only option is to take their own life, I recognize that mental health wellness needs to be better acknowledged and promoted within the research community. The NPA has two resources on mental health in academia: Mental Health Issues in Postdocs and Promoting Mental Health Wellness in the Postdoctoral Community.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), a free, 24/7 service, can provide free and confidential support for people in distress or those around them with prevention and crisis information and resources. Crisis Text Line also offers free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the United States to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

 

You never know the difference a kind word or unexpected kindness may make to an individual. Although budgets are small and often shrinking, it is important for us to celebrate the vital contributions we each make. I really hope that you all have a wonderful week and feel thoroughly appreciated and celebrated at the end. I know that countless people appreciate you for the work you all do – they just don’t know it is you who does it!

 

Kate Sleeth is associate dean of administration and student development at City of Hope and chair of the NPA Board of Directors.

 

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