2021 MotherNet Early Stage Researchers Forum reflections

In 2021, Anna Williams and Jenny Björklund arranged four workshops for Early Stage Researchers (ESR) within the MotherNet project. With a point of departure in proposals and suggestions from the eight ESR participants, the content of the workshops was oriented towards broader issues such as the research field Motherhood studies, and more specific questions that concern the professional life of the PhD student. The workshops were held at Zoom.

Workshop 1. National perspectives on motherhood and mothering (March 26)

The approach to questions of motherhood/mothering differs in the three countries represented in MotherNet – Lithuania, Ireland and Sweden. There are notable divergencies in issues such as national motherhood ideals, feminism, abortion, child care systems, balancing professional work and child care, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. In this seminar, the ESR participants were asked to give a short presentation (15 minutes) of topics of interest to the seminar. The participants were informed of conditions in the respective countries and the discussed possible common grounds for future collaboration.

Workshops 2 and 4. Academic writing (May 21 and December 3)

The workshops aimed at enhancing academic writing skills by discussing works-in-progress (3–6 pages) by ESR members. The first seminars discussed te4xts submitted by Rūta Morkūnienė and Orlagh Woods; Lisa Grahn submitted a text at the second seminar. The discussions were informal and productive and dealt with questions about choosing your subject, academic style, potential readers. At the second half of the seminar on December 3, meeting plans for the year 2022 were discussed. From January Jenny Björklund will take over as a work package leader, but Anna Williams will continue to participate in the Forum meetings. So far, workshops on academic writing were proven successful and were considered very useful by ESRs, so this trend will continue in 2022. Having more experienced researchers share their tips and tricks for building one’s academic career (job interviews, academic resume, etc.), teaching (preparing the lectures, seminars, academic practice) and conference participation would be useful (preparing a good abstract, finding conferences, etc.).  

Workshop 3. The post-doc situation (October 22)

The seminar discussed the situation for PhD students after getting their degree. What opportunities are there? How can one prepare oneself for post-doc life? What is important to think about as preparation? What is the advice from the respective universities about e.g. career planning, research funding, teaching, publishing strategies, collaboration? We invited three senior MotherNet scholars: Assistant Professor Sigrid Schottenius Cullhed (Uppsala), Professor Valerie Heffernan (Maynooth) and Assistant Professor Eglė Kačkutė (Vilnius) who shared with us their post-doctoral experiences. In the discussion that followed the ESR:s were able to ask questions, and the impression was that they found the meeting highly useful with its focus on both failure and success, uncertainty and accomplishment – all part of academic life.