Mitigating dilemmas in postgraduate researcher mental health and well-being project implementation: critical reflections from three former implementers

Sophie Valeix*, Rachel Moss, Charlotte Ann Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to present the critical reflections of three women implementers formerly working in projects that seek to support the mental health and well-being (MHW) of postgraduate researchers (PGRs), which has become a recent focus for UK researchers and policymakers. The paper offers an experience-based perspective on tensions in PGR-MHW project implementation by providing personal accounts of several social dilemmas the authors encountered. From reflecting on experiences, the authors derived recommendations for mitigating such dilemmas when designing and delivering future projects.

Design/methodology/approach: First, the experiences of dilemmas as female project implementers of PGR-MHW projects were recalled, listed and discussed and identified broad overarching themes. Second, one dilemma for each of the three themes was fleshed out according to the ones that carried meaning for how the role was personally experienced. Third, what the accounts of dilemmas meant for project implementation and outcomes was analyzed. Then the findings to existing literature where similar tensions were identified were linked, including how these could be mitigated.

Findings: The dilemmas experienced as implementers in PGR-MHW projects fit among three interconnected themes: identity, values, and motivations and relationships. It was showed that, although they may be hard to see, the dilemmas presented in this paper impede project’s success, outcomes for PGRs and implementers’ well-being. Mitigating such dilemmas when designing, funding, implementing and evaluating future projects is not straightforward, and the findings in this article open avenues to tackle this problem.

Originality/value: Focusing on reflections of female implementers, the paper provides an original perspective on PGR-MHW project evaluation. Using reflective writing as a research tool allowed us to identify overlooked dilemmas in project implementation. Honest and critical accounts of implementers’ experiences revealed important lessons such as different framings of project success, the intersection between the personal and the professional and individual responsibilities in project networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-72
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • implementation
  • mental health
  • project
  • dilemmas
  • implementers
  • postgraduate researcher

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