OCPD's Response During the Pandemic: Researcher Edition

Taking the pulse of UCSF research trainees
To best serve UCSF's PhD students and postdocs during the COVID-19 pandemic, we at OCPD implemented a new evidence-based strategy for understanding and responding to students' and postdocs' needs.

Over the past weeks, OCPD has sent a "pulse", a 3-question survey on a theme, to all PhD students and postdocs. Responses were collected over the following week and then analyzed. The results from these pulse surveys directly informed the creation and dissemination of OCPD resources during the lab shut-down. Use this website to learn about what UCSF PhD students and postdocs told us, understand how OCPD uses data, and quickly access all of the new resources we developed during the lab shut-down.


The Week of March 16, 2020: UCSF labs shut down

What PhD Students and Postdocs Said

Survey question: When it comes to your career and professional development, what concerns you the most right now? Group A, 46%, said preparing for the next step in your career. Group B, 27%, said working and connectiong with faculty online. Group C, 13%, said working remotely (managing time, working online). Group D, 17%, said designing a new training plan. Group E, 8%, said identifying skills to focus on while online.

How OCPD Responded

Note: B (Working and connecting with faculty online) was further broken down and addressed in the following Pulse Survey and response

Summary

  • Students and postdocs are most concerned about preparing for the next step in their career and connecting with faculty online in order to do so.
  • OCPD created a landing webpage for new and existing resources that address these concerns. This page walks the visitor through how they can support their career during the pandemic depending on which career stage they are in. Our first new resources on this page address using time away from lab wisely and preparing for academic careers.

 


The Week of March 30, 2020: Third week of shut-down, students and postdocs working remotely

What PhD Students and Postdocs Said

Survey question 1: What are the difficult conversations you're having with your PI right now? Group A, 36%, say career goals. Group B, 36%, say need to readjust expectations. Group C, 14%, say establishing independence. Group D, 14%, say grants and collaborations. Survey question 2: What is challenging about those conversations? Group E, 43%, say having virtual conversations. Group F, 29%, say mental health issues. Group G, 21%, say lake of PI availability. Group H, 7%, say work-life balance.

How OCPD Responded

Summary

  • Students and postdocs are talking about career goals and readjusting expectations with their PIs, and having these conversations virtually is what’s most challenging.
  • OCPD created new videos and webpages on interviewing online and managing academic careers during the pandemic. We also began sending a weekly email outreach which included links to existing resources on having conversations with research advisors and other articles to help normalize the experiences of students and postdocs.

 


The Week of April 6, 2020: Fourth week of shut-down, shelter-in-place order extended

What PhD Students and Postdocs Said

Survey question 1: Tell us how useful you'd find each of the following formats for OCPD resources? Videos 30-60 minutes, 100% yes. Videos 3-10 minutes, 93% yes, 7% neutral. Live workshops 1-2 hours, 93% yes, 7% neutral. Slide decks, 79% yes, 14% neutral, 7% no. Workshops with time to practice, 77% yes, 8% neutral, 15% no. Work groups, 65% yes, 7% neutral, 28% no. Workshops where you prepare in advance, 53% yes, 16% neutral, 31% no. Live workshops 2-4 hours, 31% yes, 23% neutral, 46% no. Survey question 2: Do you feel you are expected to be more productive than you can be right now? 70% said yes, 15% were neutral, and 15% said no.

How OCPD Responded

Summary

  • Students and postdocs find videos, slide decks, and short live workshops the most helpful formats fore OCPD's resources. Additionally, 70% of students and postdocs feel they are expected to be more productive than they can be right now.
  • OCPD created a new video series called "Career Conversations" as a forum for discussions between staff experts in a format that students and postdocs asked for. We filmed a conversation about managing productivity expectations and one about choosing thesis labs for students unable to do in-person rotations.

 


The Week of April 13, 2020: Fifth week of shut-down

What PhD Students and Postdocs Said

Survey question 1: What support from OCPD would be helpful for writing your grant? Item A, sample grants, 93% helpful, 3% not helpful, 4% maybe helpful. Item B, information on grantsmanship, 79% helpful, 3% not helpful, 18% maybe helpful. Item C, information on specific grants, 72% helpful, 14% not helpful, 14% maybe helpful. Writing groups (expert-led), 68% helpful, 7% not helpful, 25% maybe helpful. Workshops on specific grants, 67% helpful, 15% not helpful, 19% maybe helpful. Workshops on grantsmanship, 61% helpful, 11% not helpful, 28% maybe helpful. Writing groups (peer-led), 29% helpful, 25% not helpful, 46% maybe helpful. Survey question 2: Outside of OCPD, the support students and postdocs most wish they had: Group D, feedback from PIs who are not their research mentor.

How OCPD Responded

Summary

  • Students and postdocs want sample grants and information on grantsmanship to support their grant-writing. They also benefit from getting feedback from PIs besides their research mentor, but aren't sure how to get it.
  • OCPD is redesigning our grants support by expanding our collection of sample grants and developing new resources on grantsmanship. We also sent out existing resources on reaching out to faculty and developing mentoring relationships to help students and postdocs get support from PI's other than their research mentors.

 


The Week of April 27, 2020: Seventh week of shut-down


What PhD Students and Postdocs Said

Survey question: Have you found our services useful since the shelter-in-place began? Weekly email, 88% I accessed this service and it was helpful, 8% I have not accessed this service I don’t need it, 4% I accessed this service and it was not helpful, 0% I have not accessed this service there was a barrier. OCPD website, 75% I accessed this service and it was helpful, 21% I have not accessed this service I don’t need it, 4% I accessed this service and it was not helpful, 0% I have not accessed this service there was a barrier. Video of program recording, 50% I accessed this service and it was helpful, 46% I have not accessed this service I don’t need it, 0% I accessed this service and it was not helpful, 4% I have not accessed this service there was a barrier. One on one counseling, 39% I accessed this service and it was helpful, 57% I have not accessed this service I don’t need it, 0% I accessed this service and it was not helpful, 4% I have not accessed this service there was a barrier. Live program on Zoom, 26% I accessed this service and it was helpful, 61% I have not accessed this service I don’t need it, 0% I accessed this service and it was not helpful, 13% I have not accessed this service there was a barrier.

How OCPD Responded

OCPD continued offering the services that students and postocs find most helpful: our weekly email, our website, and new videos. We also addressed the large percentage of students and postdocs who feel they don't need counseling appointments by clarifying the types of questions we can help with and by lowering the barriers to booking an appointment.

Sample reponse to "Please tell us about your experience with OCPD's services since the shelter-in-place began":

"I'm so thankful for OCPD's programming and continued communications.  Even when there isn't any new material relevant for my current situation, the OCPD communications always make me feel like someone is on my side, looking out for my interests, working to help me, and I am so grateful for that."

Summary

  • Students and postdocs find OCPD’s weekly email and website most helpful. Few students and postdocs experience barriers to accessing OCPD's resources.

 


The Week of May 11, 2020: Students and postdocs begin returning to campus


What PhD Students and Postdocs Said

Graphic pie chart summary of survey question results. Survey question: Are you concerned the restart of research will impact your career and professional development? 86% concerned, 14% not concerned. 39% don’t want to return to campus, 37% do want to return to campus, 24% other.

How OCPD Responded

Summary

  • 86% of students and postdocs are concerned about the impact the restart of research will have on their career and professional development. Respondents expressed concerns related to returning to campus, not returning to campus and other concerns.
  • OCPD developed a new webpage articulating the issues and concerns of the students and postdocs in each of these categories as well as strategies for having conversations with their PI's about what matters to them, and is offering a program on how to create a new career plan.

 

Upcoming Events

Tue
22

Virtual PAC-UP: Applying for Faculty Positions - Step 5

Date: September 22, 2020
Time: 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Fri
25

Every Month Series: Nonprofits Job Simulation

Date: September 25, 2020
Time: 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Thu
08

Virtual PAC-UP: Interviewing for Faculty Positions - Mock interviews

Date: October 8, 2020
Time: 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Wed
18

Manage Up: Using the Interview to Avoid a Bad Fit

Date: November 18, 2020
Time: 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.