Research culture

Hypercompetition. Overwork. Career instability. Lack of diversity. Discrimination. Misconduct. These are just some of the characteristic problems of current academic research culture. Despite the strain these issues place on researchers, improvement have been slow to emerge due to the complex network of interactions between all the parties involved in academic research – including funders, universities, publishers and the researchers themselves.

In this collection we look more closely at these issues from the viewpoints of the people affected by them, and highlight some of the solutions being proposed to make academic research environments healthier and happier places to do science.

The importance of good leadership

We need to dismantle quite a lot of the hierarchy
Mark Midownik, materials scientist at University College London, UK

Researchers lack career and mental health support

I suddenly found myself with no old job, no new job, no income and no idea what was to come
Natércia Rodrigues Lopes, Marie Curie Fellow working at Lipotec, Spain

An image showing a falling cards castle

Act now to support early-career researchers


The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted long-existing issues that leaders need to take a stance on

An illustration showing a woman looking out

Mental wellbeing in academia


Not enough has been done to support students during the pandemic

People queuing to board a military plane

Science and research ‘are dead’ in Afghanistan


Afghan researchers and scholars flee or go into hiding as the Taliban’s return to power sees the science academy and universities closed

An illustration showing a writing hand

UKRI response to Black female academics on funding decisions called inadequate


Pledge to improve understanding and monitoring of inequality comes a year after open letter was first published

The impacts of Covid-19

There exists an overwhelming pressure to disregard the pandemic and make haste on pre-Covid deadlines and commitments, as if nothing ever happened
Dean Thomas, postgraduate student at the University of Manchester, UK

An illustration showing three scientists

Let it go


We have to accept that we can’t catch up on time lost in lockdown

The need to embrace diverse cultures

We can’t perpetuate this idea of human beings working only as tools
Tebello Nyokong, professor of chemistry at Rhodes University, South Africa

An illustrated portrait of Tebello Nyokong

In situ with Tebello Nyokong


The influential chemist on nurturing confidence in students and taking inspiration from the humanities

An illustration showing teamwork

The science of team science


Researchers and funders are exploring ways to make large collaborative projects more successful