A gloved hand holding an orange sparks, on a pale yellow background
Edited by
Elsa Loissel et al.

Sparks of Change

Tell us how the culture of research is changing.
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Sparks of Change offers a space for stories about how research culture is or should be evolving. Each article centres around a moment that ignited change for an individual or a community. Interested in sharing your experience? Please get in touch.

Collection

  1. Sparks of Change: Share your story in eLife

    eLife’s Magazine is looking for stories that capture people's experiences of the changing culture of research.
  2. Image ALT text: Line drawing of a human figure sitting on a stylised brain, in front of white sparks on a yellow background. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Neurodiversity in Academia: Time to rethink Tourette’s syndrome

    One is a Touretter who advocated for patients in research projects, the other, an academic studying the condition. Two sisters discuss how perspectives and research approaches on Tourette’s need to change.
  3. Line drawing of a human figure sitting on a stylised brain, in front of white sparks on a lavender purple background. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: How we stepped up to support others

    Christina Elliott, Patrick Brundell
    From diagnosis and disclosure to leading change, two neurodivergent researchers recount their experiences setting up peer support networks at their universities.
  4. Line drawing of a human figure sitting on a stylised brain, in front of white sparks on a purple magenta background. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: Autistic and abroad

    Andrew K Schulz
    An AuDHD researcher recounts the highs and lows of relocating to Germany for his postdoc.
  5. Line drawing of a human figure sitting on a stylised brain, in front of white sparks on a light blue background. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: The meaning of a word

    Kirsty Lauder
    A fraught exchange on social media leads a PhD student to reconsider how she conducts research on neuroinclusivity while being neurodivergent herself.
  6. Line drawing of a human figure sitting on a stylised brain, in front of white sparks on a lilac background. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: Outgrowing self-denial

    Jay K Goldberg
    After hitting rock bottom a few months into a prestigious fellowship, a postdoc recounts how they found their way to ADHD medication, therapy, and better mental health.
  7. A cartoonish human figure sitting on the outline of a brain on a warm purple background with a bright white spark. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: Working with my brain and not against it

    Tigist Tamir
    When attempts to capitalize on her undiagnosed ADHD traits led to repeated cycles of overwork and burnout, a postdoc re-evaluated how she faces the daily challenges of being a neurodivergent scientist.
  8. A cartoonish human figure sitting on the outline of a brain on a light brown background with a bright white spark. Vicky Bowskill (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: How to navigate fieldwork

    Hella Péter
    A PhD student recounts what she has learned from managing her ADHD between the office and the rainforest.
  9. A stick figure sitting on a brain on a grey-green background with white sparks

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: The meaning of self-acceptance

    Uyen Vo
    A research technician describes how receiving an ADHD diagnosis allowed her to re-examine how she sees herself and her work.
  10. A stick figure sitting on a brain on a light green background with white sparks

    Being Neurodivergent in Academia: Nothing wrong with me

    Simone Brixius-Anderko
    An assistant professor and group leader explains how being diagnosed with autism in her early 40s changed her approach to being a scientist.
  11. A black and white line-drawing of a gloved hand holds a spark over a mid-blue background. Adapted from work by Marzia Munafò.

    Career: Don’t face writer’s block alone

    Bruna Martins Garcia
    Creating a writing club allowed a Brazilian PhD student to confront her fears, improve her English and, ultimately, change the way she sees research.
  12. A black and white line-drawing of a gloved hand holds a spark over a yellowy-orange background

    Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Why I cannot return home yet

    Mariano A Molina
    Studying abroad helped a Panamanian student to accept who he is, but it meant him letting go of his dream.
  13. A black and white line-drawing of a gloved hand holds a bright yellow spark

    Being a Scientist: In the name of perseverance

    Tanya Espino-Sanchez
    Between honoring her immigrant family and making her children proud, a first-generation PhD student fights for her place in academia.
  14. A hand gloved in dark blue holds a bright white spark with a soft red glow

    Being a Scientist: Fleeing Iraq with nothing but a dream

    Arby Abood
    Facing the harsh realities of life as a refugee in Jordan and the United States, an ambitious young man holds to a conviction: that he will, one day, get a PhD.
  15. Side-profile of a figure with a cochlear implant, against a yellow background featuring stylized virus particles and sound waves.

    Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: When communication all changed

    John J Dennehy
    Between early challenges and lasting opportunities, a deaf virologist reflects on how the pandemic transformed his access to academic spaces.
  16. For gloved hands in grayscale, each holding a bright spark, on a purple background

    Careers: Tales of the unexpected

    Nicole Aponte Santiago, Stephanie Konecki ... Harvinder Virk
    A single event can completely change the direction of a career in science; four researchers share their stories.
  17. A large Aedes aegypti mosquito on a green and yellow background; on its left is a group of five smaller mosquitoes and on its right is a bright yellow light bulb

    Community Engagement: Listen to the shopkeeper

    Rafael Maciel-de-Freitas
    His mosquito control project heading for failure, a field entomologist recalls how a chance encounter led to a Eureka moment.
  18. A line-drawn gloved hand holding a scarlet spark against a white background

    Science and Politics: Mexican researchers fear for the future

    After four years of funding cuts and the erosion of academic freedom in Mexico, one scientist shares his community’s concerns about a new law that would give the central government more control over scientific research.
  19. Being a Scientist: When cancer strikes (twice)

    Nicole Swann
    A young group leader reflects on academic culture and working while going through cancer treatments.
  20. A hand gloved in blue holding a magenta spark on a grey background

    Health: Reading our future in the bones of children past

    As the United Kingdom braces for a sharp fall in living standards, a bioarchaeologist and a paediatrician discuss what the past can reveal about the social forces that shape modern health crises.
  21. A pastel blue hand holds a balanced pair of scales across a fractured background; both plates hold the grey silhouette of a scientist, who is either giving a speech (left plate) or looking down a microscope (right plate).

    Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: The hidden toll of community outreach

    Raul A Ramos
    Caught in a system eager for success stories, a PhD student from an underrepresented background learns how to balance his challenges in the lab with his desire to serve his community.
  22. Science and Politics: The fight for evolution

    N Ezgi Altınışık
    As the Turkish government intensified its attacks on the theory of evolution, the academic community rallied to push back. A researcher recounts how she decided to join them.
  23. A hand gloved in green holding a blue spark

    Career: How I learned to redefine academic success as a senior postdoc

    John J Tukker
    After many professional twists and turns, a researcher reconsiders what it means to ‘make it’ in academia.
  24. A gloved hand holding a white spark against an orange glow

    Career: Why I shrank my lab by half

    Anne E Carpenter
    A medical diagnosis sets a principal investigator on a new path.
  25. A raised fist holding a green spark on a pink and purple background

    Reproductive Rights: Having an abortion during your PhD

    Amanda Smythers
    A graduate student reflects on her choice to end a pregnancy, and on what the overturning of Roe v. Wade means for trainees in the United States.
  26. Gloved hand holding a magenta spark

    Lab Life: When your PhD (almost) falls apart

    Dominik Refardt
    As a chance observation threatens to unravel several years of work, a PhD student must choose what to do next.
  27. A gloved hand holding a yellow spark on a grey background

    Ukraine: Holding lectures while the bombs fall

    With the Russian army marching on his home city, a Ukrainian scholar must decide how to respond.
  28. Silhouette of a scientist walking to the right

    Career Change: When dreams don’t come true

    Adna Dumitrescu
    As she closes the door on her time in academia, a neuroscientist faces unexpected grief.
  29. A gloved hand holding a white spark on a purple background

    Peer Review: Feeling like a ‘real’ scientist

    Aalok Varma
    Peer reviewing helped a graduate student to finally gain a sense of belonging within the research community.
  30. Illustration by Vivid Biology

    COVID-19 and the Research Community: It is time for open access in clinical care

    Edy Kim
    A healthcare center widely sharing its internal guidelines on how to treat COVID-19 patients “just wasn’t done.” As the pandemic raged at a Boston hospital, the next generation of clinical leaders pushed for change.
  31. Being a Scientist: A monster of a disease

    Sahana Sitaraman
    When compulsions and obsessive thoughts took over her world, a graduate student found strength in her identity as a scientist.
  32. Open Chemistry: What if we just give everything away?

    Luke D Lavis
    A group leader decided that his lab would share the fluorescent dyes they create, for free and without authorship requirements. Nearly 12,000 aliquots later, he reveals what has happened since.
  33. Illustration by Carys Boughton

    Culture Shift: A catalyst for change

    Chrissy Stachl
    Disillusioned with conducting chemistry experiments in a basement, a new graduate student decides instead to dedicate her PhD to improving the culture of her research environment.

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Contributors

  1. Elsa Loissel
    Associate Features Editor
  2. Stuart King
    Research Culture Manager