Categories
Initiative News

Photo competition

In order to bring something positive to these lockdown times, we are announcing a photo competition titled “Home office”!

Please send us a photo of life in your home office and a caption you wouldlike to give to steering@postdocnet.mpg.de by Thursday, January 27.

All the photos will be posted on our Instagram page. The three photos which collect the most likes until the end of January will be awarded book gifts. All the other participants will receive PostdocNet promotional materials.

Categories
Funding Initiative

Call for Organisation of Workshops

Do you wonder about your future career and want to develop appropriate skill sets that you cannot find a suitable workshop for at your institute or within Planck Academy? The Seminar group of the Max Planck PostdocNet opens up a call for you to organize workshops that meet your needs, right where it is needed. 


Target group: Postdocs of the MPG (including group leaders)

Workshop duration: 1-2 days

Topic and trainer are free to choose. Workshops can be held remotely or in a non-digital way according to the current regulations regarding the containment of the Corona virus. 

We in particular, but not exclusively, encourage you to propose workshops that aim to improve your skills that are directly related to your scientific work, such as programming courses, statistics and other forms of digital training.


Please send your concise workshop-proposals to the Seminar group at Seminar@postdocnet.mpg.de. Therein, don’t forget to specify the need you see for the training, the expected group size, the expected expenses and, if already known, the trainer you would like to hire. Please make sure beforehand that the workshop in question is not already offered by the Planck Academy. The next deadline for application is 30 September.

Your Seminar group of the Max Planck PostdocNet

Bernadette Lessel, Martin Blaser, Pablo Ruiz de Olano, Yulia Borozdina, Yu-Xuan Lu


Illustration: rassco


Categories
Initiative

My Max Planck Postdoctoral Journey: Irina Velsko

Excellence Through Diversity: My Max Planck Postdoctoral Journey

Postdoctoral researchers are the pillars of research activities at the Max Planck Institutes all over the world. To better serve and promote our fellows, the PostdocNet (PDN) has invited some of them to share their thoughts and experiences of PDN. In this series of interviews, we explore what can be improved and achieved.


Irina Velsko , from the US, is presently a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany . Trained as an oral microbiologist, she is attracted to the research at the Max Planck Institute, and enjoys the freedom to pursue the projects most interesting to her. 

Here she shares her thoughts with the PostdocNet:

Why PostdocNet?

I heard about PosodocNet in an email from Yu-Xuan Lu (the co-founder and current spokesperson of PostdocNet) announcing it was starting up and asking for working group volunteers, and I have been involved with the Secretary Group since then. Several other universities I’ve worked at had postdoc societies, which offered both personal and professional development opportunities, support, networking, and other opportunities, and these are goals that the PostdocNet aims to achieve.

What is your favorite initiative in the PDN and why more postdocs need to participate

I am not directly involved in any of the initiatives, rather organization business with the Secretary Group. Our major goals have been to contact postdocs at every institute to spread awareness of the PDN, and to help the institutes set up elections for postdoc representatives. The PDN is a great way to build community for a career that can be quite isolated compared to grad school, where there’s more sense of community (the students come in as a cohort and take classes, and in the MPG there’s the PhDNet). The PDN can help develop community both locally, at the institutes, and nationally, across the institutes. 

What can we improve to better support the postdocs at MPG and to attract more fellows to join us?

The PDN is quite young, so now the best thing to do is keep spreading the word about it and to bring in volunteers to the working groups. And sharing progress updates from all PDN working and leading groups, so that all postdocs can see that we’re active and what we’re working on. People probably don’t participate because they don’t know exactly what the PDN is, meaning what we aim to achieve and how we’re working to achieve those goals. If keep working on how we can communicate those 2 points, we’ll have a better chance of convincing people to join.

What is your future plan and how the MPG and PDN experience get you prepared for it, if any?

I would like to stay in research, although whether that means in or out of academia is getting less clear as I go along. The MPG is a great place to do postdoc, because you can focus on your project without concerns about funding. Working with the PDN has been great for experience with bureaucracy and administration, which is otherwise outside of research training and experience.

What are your advices to the fresh and/or junior postdocs?

There is no structure like at a university, which can take some getting used to. My institute is only a few years old, which means there are lots of opportunities to start seminars, workshops, journal clubs, lectures, etc, but you have to put in the effort yourself. So if you want to start something, just start it and other people will join once they see something happening. There are a lot of resources in the MPG, they are just not always easy to find. Expect to do some aimless wandering as you develop your project, make sure you communicate expectations with your PI.

Edited by Yang Zhang


You are very welcome to share your story as a postdoc in MPG. Please just send your request to the Web/Social media working group (web@postdocnet.mpg.de) and we will get back to you

Categories
Initiative Network

PostdocNet ZOOM Conference

SAVE THE DATE!!! – 9th JUNE (15:00)

In light of the continued postponement of the PostdocNet annual general meeting (tba) and as an update to our previous conference call, the PostdocNet Steering Group welcomes you to attend a conference zoom call with us.

We can summarise this in the following discussion topics:

1) Update on the coronavirus situation
2) Update on current actions of PostdocNet Steering Group and Working Groups 
3) Update on PostdocNet Annual General meeting 
4) Questions/AOB

We would like to also use this chance to inform you that the current PostdocNet Steering Group will finish its terms as soon as we can organise a general meeting and elections. We need new Steering Group members!If you are keen to be part of the future Steering group, don’t hesitate to grab the occasion to ask us what being steering group member entails. Otherwise, feel free to contact us ay any time. 

You can contact us via steering@postdocnet.mpg.de for more information.

Best wishes, and hope to speak to you soon!

PostdocNet Steering Group

Categories
Initiative Network

MPG Collective TeaTime

To all MPG-affiliates,

The Mental Health Collective of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft invites you to join their Collective TeaTime this Friday at 15:00!

Students, Postdocs, Staff, Faculty, … – any form of MPG affiliation – everyone is welcome!
Social isolation that comes along with the anti-pandemic measures in Germany can be really challenging for the mental and emotional stability, especially for folks stuck in a foreign country. But you are not alone, none of us is. The ollective decided to initiate a Collective TeaTime (inspired by GC4AMH) to share some good vibes, slow down busy minds and simply connect.
Join them for a drop-in virtual tea (or any other hot or cold beverage) this Friday at 15:00! Follow the link and join the meeting to share your ideas, thoughts and worries and discuss it with the others.
https://meet.gwdg.de/b/eve-my2-ayw

Follow them on Twitter:
@MPG_MHC
Inspired by #DragonflyCafe by @GC4AMH

Categories
Initiative

PostdocNet Letter to the President

(The original letter was sent to the President Martin Stratmann on 10 December 2019.)

Dear Prof. Dr. Stratmann,

The PostdocNet, founded last April, brings together postdoctoral researchers of the Max Planck Gesellschaft (MPG) and represents the interests of the postdoctoral community across all Max Planck Institutes (MPIs). Our goal is to improve their working conditions, scientific development and enhance the career perspectives of postdoctoral researchers. We believe that in doing so we contribute to improving the MPG as a place that fosters excellence and help maintain its position as an international hub for ground-breaking research. 

We have outlined two proposals for 2020, further detailed in two attached documents, that we believe will strengthen the postdoctoral community within the MPG. Both proposals support the mission of excellence of the MPG through fostering creative potential between MPIs and by improving the social and employment conditions of postdoctoral researchers. 

Firstly, we propose the creation of a new grant scheme that will enable a new means for postdoctoral researchers to establish novel interdisciplinary research within the MPG. Our proposal includes two distinct grant modalities with different ambitions and different time scales: a short exchange grant and a long collaborative grant. Aligned to the aims of the MPG, these grants build cross-disciplinary bridges and further promote the career of excellent postdoctoral researchers.

Secondly, we have conducted a survey that gathers feedback about the working conditions of 745 postdoctoral researchers at 76 different MPIs. Our survey has uncovered major issues that affect the postdoctoral body of the MPG. These include different forms of unequal treatment as well as limited access to basic social rights, such as health insurance. In our view, urgent measures need to be taken to put an end to this situation, which undermines our Society’s commitment to providing excellent working conditions to the best researchers. In the attached document, we provide specific recommendations as to how to address these serious problems.

The global postdoctoral community faces significant challenges, both social and scientific. We believe that the MPG is perfectly placed as an organization to set an example to the world for the treatment of its postdoctoral community by enacting changes that benefit postdocs across its network rather than on a per-institute basis. 

For the above reasons we kindly request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss our initiatives and concerns.

Sincerely,

Categories
Initiative

Making science sustainable

Author: Franco P. Bonafé
Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter

Public knowledge shows that the world is experiencing a climate emergency, which will cause major suffering to the population unless critical transformations are achieved. Among these transformations, the recent statement signed by more than 11,000 scientists mentions ceasing consumption of fossil fuels, cutting down meat from our diets, and halting deforestation as well as population growth. Human activities that prevent these indicators from improving are closely related to excessive consumption. Tackling the global problem demands better education, consensus and political decisions to tax fossil fuels, encourage the consumption of less meat, decrease food waste and increase energy efficiency. This is what the global climate strikes, the school strikes and many lawsuits are demanding and slowly achieving. But locally and within every organization there is also work to be done in education, measurement, policy and regulation, to drive its activities towards a sustainable future.

Since 2015, the goal of working towards sustainability in many institutes of the Max Planck Society (MPS) has been spreading. This year in May, at the 1st Workshop on Sustainability in the Max Planck Society, the Sustainability Network was finally established. “It was created to bring together people in the MPS around sustainability issues and drive both local and Max-Planck-wide initiatives to reduce our work environmental impact”, says Dr. Tanguy Fardet, postdoctoral researcher in the MPI for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen and member of the interim steering committee.

The initiative is powered by a joint effort of many people from all areas within the MPS. “The groups comprise members of different levels: laboratory assistants, PhD students, postdocs, team leaders and administrative staff members. They dedicate private time and effort in their honorary activity outside working hours”, declares senior officer of the MPS, Dr. Christine Gieraths, also a member of the interim steering committee. “The MPI sustainability groups wish to contribute to a more sustainable management of the basic science research process, wherever improvement is conceivable: e.g. in labs, buildings, travelling, supplies, energy, etc.”, explains Dr. Gieraths.

The problems

Through identifying the environmental impact of our work-related activities, we can begin to prioritize our actions. “Depending on the source, between 50-70% of our impact comes from business trips flights to conferences and meetings [1]”, says Evelyn Medawar, member of the steering group and PhD candidate at the MPI for Human Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Leipzig. “Next would be energy expenditure due to heavy lab equipment, which could be economised at certain points [2]. In the case of neuroimaging, for example, my own study emits about 115 t CO2 only for the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans [3] – compensating these emissions would require 115 years of following a vegan diet – or 115 individuals switching to a vegan diet for one year. Other universities such as University College London state that 50% of emissions come from lab space [4]. We should try to estimate those numbers for MPS and try to reduce them step by step.”

When asked about the most high-impact contributions, Fardet answers that it depends on the both the type of lab and the indicator. “If we focus solely on the carbon footprint, the investigations done voluntarily in some labs and institutes have shown that it is often overwhelmingly associated to general transportation (commuting and business trips), accounting for up to 80% of the emissions. However, the detailed contributions can vary significantly (though transport is always significant) and carbon footprint is only one facet of our impact. Other measures have been proposed to assess the resource consumption [5] which would be extremely useful to evaluate the impact of experimental labs and include the end of life of the equipment.” The use of paper in academia is not a major concern nowadays, as opposed the general idea. “Paper usage, though it is often brought forward, is probably very insignificant and going towards ‘paperless offices’ is probably a terrible idea if it involves increasing the number of screens and servers”, points out Fardet.

Among the most important goals of the Network, the interviewed participants emphasize: providing a catalogue of desirable measures for the whole MPS to have a guide that would help to improve our ecological footprint (covering energy, mobility, waste, material and resources, communication, food, supplies, biodiversity); initiate working groups on a broad list of topics based on a survey, to provide detailed assessments of the current situation in the institutes and propose actions; start discussing with MPS headquarters on the general policies that may hinder local actions on these topics; vote on a permanent steering committee, elaborate statutes and to work on a catalogue of measures to be handed over to the president of the MPG.

Are you wondering what YOU can do to make a change? We collected some input from the interim steering committee for individual measures which can help in this process to become more energy and climate aware.

Here are the top 7 recommendations to start with:

1. Spread the word amongst your networks and co-workers and current and past affiliations

2. Get involved in their local group or in the MPS network and focus on collective actions

3. Consider sustainability when planning future studies and experiments (open science focus: open material, open data, publish negative results)

4. Reduce travel, consumption and dietary footprint (check out and sign the #Unter1000 movement on Twitter)

5. Using a bike (if possible, non-electric) to get to work

6. Be conscious of the number of electronic devices used

7. Contribute to and possibly actively organize waste-aware behavior (also contact companies about ‘green’ practices for shipping and recycling lab products)

Connect and discuss

The participants of the Sustainability Network encourage us all to go out and talk to the public, participate in events, newspapers, podcasts, blogs… all media channels are important if they allow is to discuss more about research, sustainability, open science and other topics. Backing our science with solid knowledge and references, and creating an open dialogue between involved parties, is key when debating with others about these topics. “In the end, a spirit of cooperation will be more effective than a confrontational attitude”, as Dr. Gieraths points out.

Furthermore, there are plenty of options to go beyond discussions. “In such cases, one can also start getting involved in local initiatives in one’s neighborhood to get in touch with a broader community, support local projects and farmers, send money to an ethical bank, stop using the GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) and tell people about their environmental and societal impacts, support free open source software initiatives, and so on”, mentions Fardet.

Joining social movements, scientific initiatives and public demonstrations is also important to make the crisis visible. Medawar mentions that some initiatives that we can support as scientists are Scientists4Future and Extinction Rebellion, but always keeping track of talking to friends, reading papers on climate and environmental science [6], organize public demonstrations and events on the topic of sustainability. For foreign scientists it is also a good idea to get in touch and support the initiatives of their home country. But as scientists, we should keep in mind that our engagement must be strongly dialogue-oriented and remain benevolent, to convince others that reaching a sustainable future is a common goal of all people, scientists and non-scientists alike.

References and other resources

1.  Wynes, S., & Donner, S. D. (2018). Addressing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Business-Related Air Travel at Public Institutions: A Case Study of the University of British Columbia. Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions

2.  https://www.phdnet.mpg.de/113798/20190821_SustainabilityMPS?c=22833

3.  https://www.sussex.ac.uk/psychology/abc-lab/climate-change

4.  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/greenucl/resources/labs

5.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Material_input_per_service_unit

6. Such as the IPCC reports, for instance the SR15 https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/


Illustration: annca from Pixabay