Casual Friday #DiversityJC discussion about OCD and academia by @tibbsy07

After our last month’s discussion about #mentalhealth and academia, @tibbsy07 offered to share some thoughts about OCD and academia. In this thread, he explains his struggle and how important is to openly discuss OCD (and any other mental health issue)!

A thread by tibbsy07

Ok so let’s chat a bit about my experience with OCD and academia #DiversityJC

In full disclosure, I am no longer in academia but that has a bit to do with OCD and we’ll discuss as we go, ok?#DiversityJC

When I was young I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and that continued from middle school and into my first postdoc #diversityJC

During that time I went to numerous therapists and docs, did a lot of work. Meds and all #DiversityJC

I bring this up because of a very important thing that I learned about OCD when I was diagnosed. #DiversityJC

Full disclosure here too I am NOT an MD and I am only giving my speciic experience and symptoms and story w/ info from my drs #DiversityJC

People’s symptoms can and will vary and they may experience worse than me. #DiversityJC

Anyways, OCD is like a puppet master using anxiety and depression as marionettes. Often misdiagnosed #DiversityJC

The misconception about OCD is that people count things or whatever just because but it isn’t the case exactly #DiversityJC

The reality is that we do these things (the compulsion) bc we think that someone will come to harm if we don’t #DiversityJC

Or something bad will happen. I think about this constantly. I dont have physica compulsions just mental #DiversityJC

The constant thoughts or harm or bad things and trying to stop them is what separates OCD per my psychiatrist #DiversityJC

I just wanted to get that across before I continue. Even with meds I lose sleep bc I fear my son will fall down stairs etc #DiversityJC

And when a spell hits, it’s a snowball. I can’t turn it off like others might be able to. #diversityJC

But OCD has a lot of other smaller impacts that I am just now starting to learn after my diagnosis in late 2014 #DiversityJC

I don’t have many hobbies. I don’t stick with things and we’re working on it (dr incl) bc I obssess over a hobby #DiversityJC

And I set completely unrealistic goals that are unattainable and it crushes me when I fail so I obssess over something else #DiversityJC

This is the connection to academia – all through grad school and my first PD I had trouble on “the future” #DiversityJC

I locked in on an experiment or something and couldn’t get out of it. I would repeat ad nauseam and think about it constantly #DiversityJC

I didnt think I had any problems but I did. I ended up having trouble reading papers, do anything productive #DiversityJC

All I could think was if I didn’t do this/get this result I would be fired or it would turn out my pub was wrong then retrxn #DiversityJC

It ended up in a breakdown which was good in that it got me diagnosed and into CBT for OCD #DiversityJC

But I lost my first PD even with my own funding and crushed my esteem. I got another PD and it was good and left academia #DiversityJC

There are a Number of reasons I lost the PD, not all OCD, and I dont fault the PI. But untreated OCD was a large part #DiversityJC while I was never sure I wanted to be in academia, it does feel like I failed in a way. Diagnosis and therapy had helped a lot #DiversityJC

But had I paid attention and gotten diagnosed earier my career trajectory might have been very different #DiversityJC

I still struggle and some days are much worse than others. Sometimes it feels like OCD is always worse #DiversityJC

But family, therapy, and meds help. Take care of yourself. Ask questions. Talk with people! #DiversityJC

And dont be afraid to communicate! Had I spoken to my PI about it and not kept in dark it might have been diff #DiversityJC

To them I just basically wasnt a good PD/fit, and I don’t blame them for that. We split amicably and still chat a bit #DiversityJC

Their lab is super great now and my second PD was awesome and they are great too – but 2nd PD knew of my OCD #DiversityJC

So now I work on my OCD to minimize impact of my wife/son, myself and work #DiversityJC

That’s my story basically. I’m always happy to discuss my OCD experience and how it shaped my life – good and bad. #DiversityJC

I can talk about specifics with people and what it was like having panic attacks most days for hours on end for 4 months #DiversityJC

I do not blame anyone but me for my issues, and take full responsibility but know that I might have been able to be different #DiversityJC


Let’s discuss #mentalhealth in academia – #DiversityJC recap

This month our DiversityJC discussed an important topic: what we can do to improve mental health in academia. We are going to share the main insights here, but you can read the full discussion on our storify. We had special (and courageous) guests that recently shared their own personal experiences:

Although there seem to be a bit more dialogue about #mentalhealth in academia, this is still a difficult topic to discuss, and we still rarely engage it fully. For our August discussion, we first asked our guests what prompted them to share their experiences in their blogs:





















Some academics may be inclined to share our experiences, but don’t do it for fear of retaliation. Or as @abigailleigh put it “I worried that my colleagues will look at me strangely, assuming I couldn’t do my research b/c of my mental illness.” But our guests also had positive responses:






















Indeed. While positive our guests had support, it is not always the case – we do need to feel safe discussing those issues openly, with supervisors and colleagues!






Accepting and understanding mental health is a crucial part of the process. For that to happen, it is important we talk openly about mental health to alleviate its toll, making it more manageable. Speaking about mental health also lets other academics know they can talk about health issues. Academia applies constant pressure, which likely plays a role in the prevalence of anxiety and depression (e.g. in grad students), so it’s also likely many of us are hiding related struggles. Further support can come from our institutions, which need to actively promote mental health by developing and making resources available, accessible, and visible.

Many successful academics and other professionals deal with mental illnesses. They are effective despite it. Being able to put down the weight of depression or cut away the thicket of anxiety would make them even better scientists. Living with mental illness takes strength and treating them means making people more themselves.

Thanks to all that joined/listened to our #DiversityJC. We hope that this discussion encourage others to share their experiences and talk about their mental health issues. We are a community, and we must stand for each other!



The human cost of the pressures of postdoctoral research

Mental Health and Conferences: A Practical Guide

Mental health programs in schools – growing body of evidence supports effectiveness

Mental Health resources:

@TWLOHA, @TheMightySite, @healthyminds, @amhc2016, @chron_ac,


Moodlog@headspace, @worrywatchapp,

August #DiversityJC: let’s talk about #mentalhealth in academia


There’s a big elephant in the halls of academia. Nearly everyone in academia has experienced some mental health problem. Anxiety, stress, perfectionism, burnout, depression. There is so much pressure! Deadlines, grants, publications, failed experiments. You name it. However, although everybody admits to these pressures, it is still tough to openly talk about it with your peers and immediate colleagues about struggling to stay on top of them. Even worse, part of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture creates a sense of shame around mental health.

Lately there has been more discussion and more studies about the subject, especially among Ph.D. students. But mental health problems in academia go beyond that – postdocs and faculty are also deeply affected by it. A recent study with graduate students and postdoc showed that they show moderate to severe anxiety, depression and stress rates of 41%, 39%, and 82%, respectively.

There are great blogposts telling personal experiences of mental health issues, and we are happy to welcome a few of those courageous authors as guests to our next #DiversityJC discussion!

We’re excited that these awesome scientists will be joining us, and hope you will too. We need to change this culture of accepting but don’t discussing mental health issues. What can be done? How can we help? Join our #DiversityJC discussion next Friday, August 18th, 2p.m. EST.



#DiversityJC recap: “The dangers of misinterpreted science results”

Last Friday our #DiversityJC got together to discuss the dangers of misinterpreted results. Fivethirtyeight’s piece we brought to your attention explained how Trump uses the peer-reviewed article Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? as an argument to restrict immigration. You can see the full Storify of the discussion here.

We wanted to discuss two main points: first, what happens when science goes out in the wider world, especially with newer findings on particularly polarized topics? And second, what harms the misinterpretation of a study like this, on a polarized topic, can bring to scientists and the scientific community?

Research that moves beyond the lab can fall on deaf ears – or be twisted to fit an existing narrative or world view. Scientists need to be careful when describing and interpreting any data, but particularly those researching polarized topics. Several studies by Dr. Dan Kahan demonstrate that people acquire their knowledge mainly by consulting others that share their values, who they trust. Moreover, Dr. Kahan says that “People will selectively credit and discredit information in patterns that reflect their commitment to certain values.”


Yes. Scientists and their science need to be more accessible to the general public. Us, scientists have a tendency to trust more statements coming from scientists than from non-scientists. And that’s mainly because we are familiar with the scientific process, and we trust it. However, most of the general public does not know exactly how the scientific process works, and tend not to relate to the scientists.

Is it just training or also a product of the ‘publish or perish’ culture? Well, if you’re an academic that might be the case, but if you’re a policymaker reading a study, how do you avoid confirmation bias? One common suggestion over all participants was the importance of Science Communication. Translating research results to general audiences, but also the necessity of Science Outreach to prove science is accessible to kids. But also, how science itself view #SciComm. Even though there are a lot of scientists doing it, it still not widely valued or recognized!

In the US, we’ve been in a privileged position; great minds have come to us, a case of success building on itself. Science is global and though has work to do to be more inclusive, scientists do travel & move globally. Science is enriched and diversified by immigration. Due to the hostile USA environment towards immigrants prevalent now, there are already many cases of researchers not willing or able to come to our conferences, due to immigration problems… It is our duty to prevent this from happening!

Thanks to all that joined/listened to our #DiversityJC, and hope to see you next month!




Links shared:

“The dangers of misinterpreted science results” – May #DiversityJC

zombie_research_illo_1_mcquadeWe are living in an era of post-truth and alternative facts. Politicians and the public cherry-pick the data they trust, and choose to follow gut instincts and emotion over even ample but contradictory evidence. Our current president has been discrediting scientific results regarding many issues, such as climate change and vaccines. These trends are naturally deeply troubling to the scientific community.

But what happens when those trends also threaten the diversity and strength of the scientific community itself?


On our next #DiversityJC, we are going to discuss Maggie Koerth-Baker’s article: The Tangled Story Behind Trump’s False Claims Of Voter Fraud. It is a long piece with several links to relevant related articles, but very much worth the read. In short, it discusses how Trump and his team used the results from the peer-reviewed article Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? to backup his claims that “the election is rigged by millions of fraudulent voters — many of them illegal immigrants“.

This article brings up two themes for our next Diversity Journal Club:

First, what happens when science goes out in the wider world, especially newer findings on particularly polarized topics? The article is not open access, so in reading only to the highlights and abstract of the publication, it seems reasonable to infer that non-citizen immigrants might be voting at a higher rate than most experts thought. However, some additional reading identifies a potential pitfall with using very large databases in the study of low frequency categories, such as that in this paper: “in very large sample surveys, researchers may draw incorrect inferences concerning the behavior of relatively rare individuals in a population when there is even a very low level of misclassification.”

Scientists tend to think that larger samples sizes provide better results. But with some kinds of data, measurement errors come into play. And with large data, it is easy to find patterns that seem significant but are not – if you aren’t careful. For reasons like this, science can move slowly – it’s the process of many scholars reviewing and assessing the work to reduce uncertainty and make sure research is careful. This is clearly important for research using big data.

Yet while science can move slowly to address these issues – the rest of the world does not. Koerth–Baker’s story brings up how research that moves beyond the lab and into the wider culture can fall on deaf ears – or be twisted to fit an existing narrative or world view, especially on particularly topical topics (e.g. non-citizen voting is rampant and everywhere and must be stopped at all costs!).


Second, this article touches on immigration – and therefore some politicians have used it as an argument for restricting immigration. Yet science is a global human endeavor. The scientific method is the same everywhere on Earth, and scientists from everywhere contribute to science. Science works best without borders, engaging diverse collaborations and contributions, and the results enrich more of our lives the wider ideas and inventions can spread.

Collectively, then, the misinterpretation of a study like this, on a particularly critical but polarizing topic, can thrust results into the popular media in ways not supported by the facts and the data itself – to the detriment of science itself. To the detriment of scientists.


What are other dangers that misinterpretation of scientific results can bring – and when they speak to particularly pertinent topics, how do they then impact the scientific community? What other examples can you think of? What can be done to prevent this from happening?

Join our next #DiversityJC discussion this Friday, May 19th, 2pm EST.

Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, @Diversity_JC.

#DiversityJC recap: Achieving gender equality in Leadership

men women bossMarch was #WomanHistoryMonth, so we chose an article from the Guardian to discuss Why universities can’t see women as leaders? You can see the announcement here and catch up with all tweets from our discussion in our storify.

The article states that the percentage of women appointed to lead universities has been increasing (between 2013 and 2016, 29% of new VC recruits were female). Also, last Elsevier’s Gender in the Global Research Landscape report showed an increase in the % of women doing research. However, women account for more than 50% of the U.S. population. In academia, women are ~50% or more of PhDs & postdocs in many fields, with that percentages decreasing at the faculty stage. Still, there’s a big discrepancy – where this comes from?

Yes. As the article points out, there is a lot of bias regarding what is considered as “merit” to be a leader. The majority of the population (96%) agree than men and women are equally qualified to be a leader – but still, anything associated with female gender or femininity is devalued. In academia, women are usually pushed early in their career towards roles that require them to do mostly teaching & administration. “Because it is easier for managers to apply pressure on women, who will comply, than on male individuals, who will refuse”. Even if women are leaders, they face challenges to doing their work that men usually don’t have to face. They have to be seen as competent AND likable. Not being liked = not a good leader.

Women fight a daily battle for recognition. This implicit bias has to be fought earlier in life! Women are expected to always say “yes”. To be nice, and make others happy – what are not qualities usually attributed to a leader. Woman have to learn how to say “no“. Earlier, more often, and more effectively. But also, we need to teach people to accept no for an answer. To ask for things in ways that allow people to decline.

Are men and women different? Definitely. Are they different kind leaders? Probably. According to this article, men tend to be more task-oriented while women take on a more interpersonal style of leadership. Therefore, a “masculine” style tends toward assertive and task-based behaviors, while a “feminine” style is more relationship oriented and “democratic.” Additionally, Cummings noted, men tend to take greater intellectual risks and have higher self esteem, whereas “women are coping” and tend to be more efficient when it comes to solving problems. But acting differently doesn’t mean being a better or worse leader. Just different.

Thanks for everybody that joined and hope to see you next month!

Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Links shared: Designing a Bias-Free Organization

Achieving gender equality in Leadership #DiversityJC #IWD2017

We can do it

March 8th was International Women’s Day, and March is Women’s History Month.

For this month’s #DiversityJC we are going to discuss why gender equality is important and how can we  achieve it in academia, specifically regarding positions of leadership.

*Save the date – our discussion will be held next Friday, March 17th, 2pm ET*


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women account for more than 50% of the U.S. population in 2014. Still, women are less represented in the labor force (47.4%) and have lower salaries (The median annual earnings of women was $39,621 compared to $50,383 for men in 2014).

Women have to fight a daily battle of general sexism and bias. In case you missed it, this thread shared on Twitter this month gives a good idea of how tough is for women to get professional recognition:


Earlier this month, Elsevier released the results of their annual Gender in the Global Research Landscape report. Although there has been some progress over the past 20 years, this progress is different across fields and regions. There is an overall increase in  the percentage of women doing research, but this proportion is much higher in health and life sciences, while physical sciences is still masculine dominated territory. The percentage of female researchers increased 11% in Brazil, but only 5% in Japan.

According to a report from the Rockefeller foundation, although Americans agree that men and women are equally qualified to lead businesses (96%), 1 in 4 said there are no women in leadership positions in their current job. This extends to academia, where women struggle to gain recognition and to climb their way to the top positions. For this month’s #DiversityJC, we are going to discuss an article from The Guardian that explores Why universities can’t see women as leaders. Although this number has also been slowly increasing, women hold just one fifth of senior leadership roles in higher education!

Why this happens? Why gender equality on leadership is important?, What can we do to improve it? Join us to discuss this and other questions this next Friday, March 17th, 2pm Eastern time!

Hope to see you there,
Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, @Diversity_JC.