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Considering situations where an individual academic track record is to be evaluated - whether by grant panel, job interview panel, promotion panel etc.

If the individual were to make a statement along the lines of

Prior to [date] I was suffering from an undiagnosed long term health condition which did not result in absence from work, but limited my output. This was both diagnosed and treated from [date] after which my productivity increased substantially, as can be demonstrated by XYZ.

Is this likely to be viewed favorably in evaluating the applicant's potential to deliver on the future grant/job/etc? Or is there a risk it could be viewed with suspicion given the applicant was still employed between those dates and the employer unaware of the situation?

Suppose it were a mental health disorder, would it be better to say so, or keep with the more generic description above?

Would the answer differ depending on which of the situations (job application, grant application) we're talking about?

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    FWIW the NIH has an explicit policy that your problems are your problems and study sections should ignore them
    – user133933
    Feb 18 at 3:14
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I would suggest that you don't raise the issue, for a couple of reasons.

First is that you don't know how it will be read. Some people might see it as an invalid excuse, rather than a valid one. Others might wonder whether it will affect your work in future. It is impossible to say. Saying such things won't, in particular, give you an advantage.

Second, it is natural for a person's productivity to increase over time and natural for an application reader to weigh the more recent work more heavily then the older work. That effect can occur even for someone with no health issues. I doubt that the change after the date of diagnosis would be noted by a typical reader unless you point it out.

This is really opinion, of course. If you are healthy now, focus on how you will continue productivity going into the future.

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In Australia, you would be specifically prompted to provide this information in pretty much every type of application under "career disruptions" or in a section about "relative to opportunity". It would be considered normal to make a statement similar to your example.

There would be no need to identify the type of disorder. Whatever it is, your reader isn't likely to know much about it. The exception might be if your research area is a disorder you've personally experienced.

How you handle this depends a lot on your local culture. I'm not aware of other places that confront this head-on the way the Australian system does.

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  • The country is UK (hence the tag); we also have fairly standard sections for career disruption on grant applications. Having called a few funders they seem to say much the same thing as you - it is appropriate to put a statement there without specifics. Of course the question remains as to how it will be viewed. For job applications, while it would be normal to explain a career break on a CV, there isn't a standard place to discuss how a health condition may have limited output. Feb 18 at 16:48
  • It's not meaningfully different from a career break. Those can be for health reasons too. Feb 18 at 18:06
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I don't know what country this is but, in general, I strongly advise against this. Academia might seem like a collaborative space of kindred spirits (and it can be!) but the situations you're describing aren't necessarily good situations. For how great academia can be, it is also a cut-throat hierarchy with a hazing structure similar to a fraternity or a sports team. There are times where you can disclose personal information like this and it could be well received. The evaluative settings you describe are not those times. Try not to give them hazing material.

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  • Country is UK. Out of interest which country/countries have caused you to form this view? Feb 18 at 16:53
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    Btw I interpret the downvotes on your answer as meaning others disagree with you, but whatever we eventually decide, I certainly appreciate you making the case against. I do agree academia can be a bit cut-throat at times though on the other hand there is a movement here for it to become more accepting of non-standard career paths, so it's a delicate balance to strike which may depend on situation. In the case above I am hoping that the fact the health issues have been treated would limit the ammunition available to the bullies. Feb 18 at 16:56
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    I think there's a lot of pressure in academia to see what we do as reasonable and fair, so calling it "hazing" is probably offensive to people who don't see themselves that way. Fair enough. I was speaking from the US and, like the UK, we do have movements towards more accepting structures and work environments. If you are certain that the people evaluating you are in that movement, great! I am only advising against risking it if you are not sure.
    – Nica
    Feb 19 at 18:08

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