Collection highlights neurodivergent experiences

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eLife has launched launched a collection of articles that shares perspectives from neurodivergent people working in research. The collection, called ‘Being Neurodivergent in Academia’, features a series of stories published as part of the eLife Magazine’s ‘Sparks of Change’ column alongside related content, and was published to mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week.

The publisher says it is committed to reforming research communication in part by improving research culture. Since 2021, Sparks of Change articles have given scientists a space to share personal stories about how research culture is or should be evolving. After a number of neurodivergent researchers expressed interest in contributing their experiences, eLife assembled a cross-team collaboration to research the topic further and kick off the new series in early 2023.

“We knew that there are a lot of societal pressures on neurodivergent individuals, including how they “can” and “should” express themselves,” says Stuart King, eLife Research Culture Manager. “As an organisation working to promote a research culture centred on equity, diversity and inclusion, we thought a series on 'Being Neurodivergent in Academia' could give neurodivergent researchers a compelling way to convey what being neurodivergent may actually entail while retaining control over their own narratives.”

Jointly led by King and Elsa Loissel, eLife Associate Features Editor, the project has been guided from the outset by an advisory group comprising neurodivergent researchers and self-advocates. The responses to eLife’s call for pitches provided “snapshots” of different elements of a neurodivergent journey in academia, from people recounting having received their diagnosis and discussing the intersection of mental health and neurodivergence, to explaining how they navigate certain features of academia, such as mobility or starting conversations about support and mentorship.

“This was a topic for which we felt stories were a particularly strong format,” says Loissel, “even though we are acutely aware that stories can only do so much when what is sorely needed for neuroinclusivity are systemic changes in education, academia and healthcare.”

In particular, she notes that academic spaces have traditionally prioritised giving a platform to the researchers studying neurodivergence, rather than to those with lived experience. Additionally, with an increasing – although still limited – awareness of neurodivergence in academia, the series aims to help neurodivergent researchers find a sense of belonging and community, and to help those who work with them to provide greater support and accommodations in their labs and their classrooms, for example.