Posted on: 08/04/2024

Developing a wellbeing toolkit for researchers conducting ethically and emotionally challenging research


Jenevieve Mannell is a Professor of Social Science and Global Health at University College London (UCL). She specialises in the prevention of violence in the world’s high-prevalence settings. She is a round 2 Future Leaders Fellow and leads the EVE Project, which is developing new evidence for preventing violence against women in high-prevalence settings…

The idea for a practical toolkit for researchers, Principal Investigators, Institutions, and funders to support researcher wellbeing emerged in the second year of Jenevieve’s Fellowship. Recognition of the emotional burden the research was having not only personally, but on the wider research team and the limited institutional support for researchers conducting ethically and emotionally challenging research prompted the idea. The Development Network connected Jenevieve and post-doctoral researcher Silke Zschomler with Future Leaders Fellows Katie McQuaid, University of Leeds, and Emily Bridger, University of Exeter, to develop the idea further and in April 2022, the idea was awarded funding.

The content of the toolkit was informed by several iterative project phases. The project team first undertook a scoping review to map the existing support available to researchers and practitioners whose work is emotionally and ethically challenging. Jenevieve describes this as a growing body of research literature drawing on practice-based evidence from clinical psychology and policing.

The project team then led a series of practical workshops in collaboration with Body and Soul, an NGO that specialises in mental health and trauma related support services. The workshops were aimed at Future Leaders Fellows and were designed to support Fellows to think about how they, their institutions, and funders might support their own ongoing mental health and wellbeing and that of their teams.

The project then conducted a survey with Future Leaders Fellows in the first instance, and later with research organisations based in the UK, to understand the personal impact of emotionally challenging experiences on individuals and their teams.

The observations and information gathered from these three activities informed the final content and design of the toolkit, which was launched in December 2023.

Leading the project with Emily and Katie and creating the toolkit has been a positive experience for Jenevieve. Jenevieve says, “the process made me more aware of the higher echelons of my own institutions and helped me to map what UCL are doing to support researchers at a School and Faculty level. It has also helped me connect with other Future Leaders Fellows that I might otherwise not have met. I’m often introduced by email to a Fellow that wants to talk to me about the toolkit, which I find really rewarding. Developing the toolkit was a new experience for me and I wasn’t fully aware of how much the toolkit was needed. It feels nice to have contributed and given something back to the research community.”

To view the toolkit, please click on the following link:



Image credit: Illustration from the researcher wellbeing toolkit, Andi Setiawan.

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