August 15th’s chat was hosted by Claire Evans (@bookworm_29) who is an early career researcher who completed her PhD at Cardiff University in March 2013. The #ECRchat was about developing an independent research profile and gave chatters the opportunity to discuss issues and ideas for taking the next step in an early academic career. As always, we had participants from across the world who brought their different experiences of early career researching to the discussion.
The following questions were posed:
- Q1: What does ‘being an independent researcher’ mean to you?
- Q2: What tools, techniques & tips do people have for becoming an independent researcher? – questions, advice or resources welcome please
- Q3: Is there a difference between science and humanities researchers developing an independent profile?
- Q4: What are the biggest challenges/ issues of developing an independent research profile?
- Q5: What will you personally do for the next step of your development?
Below is a summary of the conversations that occurred. If you would like to read the tweets then you can find them in this Storify (apologies if a tweet you submitted does not appear/is out of order – I tried to group the conversations that took place as best I could for ease of reference).
Q1: What does ‘being an independent researcher’ mean to you?
The view that people had of being an independent researcher appeared to depend on where people were in their academic career. For those in the early stages, it is about gaining experience in a number of areas such as, conferences, writing publications, and obtaining small grants. Those further along the career spectrum advised others that these activities would help them in the future, where researchers aim to lead research projects and accept the responsibility for the funding and impact of research. Participants agreed that the latter could not happen without the former; that is experience and a successful track record of research.
The ECR chatters also noted that a key aspect of being an independent researcher involves collaboration and team work.
Q2: What tools, techniques & tips do people have for becoming an independent researcher? – questions, advice or resources welcome please
A range of advice was shared between participants including careful and incremental planning of your development trajectory. This could include honorary positions, attending conferences, publishing, post-doc schemes, fellowships, acquiring smaller grants for things like travel, establishing a (social media) research profile and finding mentors to work with.
Q3: Is there a difference between science and hums researchers developing an independent profile?
This question was asked due to a comment made during the chat about grants for science funding. The responses involved discussing whether there were different amounts of funding available in different subject areas/locations; whether to publish a book or an article; and whether humanities students have more opportunity to pursue their own research interests at PhD level (which implicitly raises the question of whether self-funded, independence at a lower level has a detrimental or positive affect later on in an early research career?)
Q4: What are the biggest challenges/ issues of developing an independent research profile?
As noted in the chat, researchers at all levels can quickly spot the barriers people face when they embark on a research career. Challenges/issues noted were (lack of) funding opportunities, jobs, post-docs, grants and time, as too were supervisors who take credit for your work/don’t allow you intellectual freedom. One participant felt that sexism also remains prevalent. Dealing with rejection, emotional pressure, family stability and maintaining collaboration after moving institutions were also mentioned by some chatters. One participant suggested that working with the right people was important, which seems to imply that working with the wrong ones can have the opposite affect?
Q5: What will you personally do for the next step of your development?
As you can imagine the response to this question was highly personal and dependent on where the person was in their career, but generally chatters would continue to fill the gaps on their CVs and continually reflect on the progress they were making.