Early-career researchers generally are ardent supporters of greater diversity, equity and inclusion, work–life balance and mental well-being in academia. Yet the precariousness of our careers seems to demand a default to an academic system that perpetuates injustices and poor quality of life (K. N. Laland Nature 584, 653–654 (2020); E. N. Satinsky et al. Sci. Rep. 11, 14370; 2021). We must apply the changes we wish to see in academia to our own lives if the system is to work better for everyone.
We need to recognize that many junior researchers cannot safeguard their careers by buying into current academic norms because of their life circumstances (having also to act as carers, for example), or because their identities are marginalized (people of colour, for example). When those who can choose to uphold problematic standards do so, those who cannot are further disadvantaged. Moreover, this complicity punts issues to the next generation. We should leave a better legacy for our pupils and children.
To create a more equitable, collaborative, healthy academia, we must lead by example. Let’s start by discussing what academic values we support and how we can practise them now.
Nature 597, 31 (2021)
The author declares no competing interests.