Posted in Professional development and Identity, Recap, The job search

Recap: #ECRchat on Postdoc Funding

Last week’s live chat topic was Different routes to postdoc funding’, hosted by Nicola Wardrop. Nicola is a Medical Research Council funded Post doctorate Research Fellow working in the Geography and the Environment Academic Unit of the University of Southampton, UK. You can find her on Twitter as @DiseaseMapper. Here is her recap of the chat.

With the on-going increase in PhD student numbers alongside decreases in the number of post-doc and academic positions available, it is becoming more and more difficult for early career researchers to get their foot on the academic career ladder. It wasn’t surprising then, that the ECR chat on different routes to post-doc funding was so active!

Since I completed my PhD a couple of years ago I have been on a continual learning curve trying to get to grips with the academic career path, available opportunities and grant applications. I am often asked by PhD students, post-docs and ECR lecturers questions such as “what the difference is between an ECR fellowship and working on someone else’s grant?” or “why are many post-docs never advertised?”. To me it seems that this kind of information is vital to helping ECRs progress in their career, but in my experience (and the experience of those around me), the information is not really provided and ECRs are left to work their own way through the minefield in their search for a post-doc position.

The discussion touched on a variety of different routes to a post-doc, but the three main routes were, each with their pros and cons:

  •  Advertised postdocs (where a PI has already been awarded funding and then advertises a postdoc position)
  • Your own funding (e.g. an early career fellowship, where you would apply for funding with a research proposal and if successful, the funding would support your salary and project costs)
  • Named on a grant (an in-between area where you work with a PI in development of a proposal, and are named as a post-doc on the application. If successful, you would then be the post-doc on that project)

The most useful part of the chat discussed advice for making us all more competitive as ECRs, to help give us the edge for the next step in our careers (whether that be applying for a fellowship, writing a grant with someone else or applying for a post-doc or lecturing position). Here is a summary of some of the advice:

  • Plan ahead (about a year) to know what funding is coming up, when
  • Get as much help/support/mentoring as you can
  • Try to get small grants at an early stage to improve your CV and gain experience
  • Link up with others outside of academia (e.g. business, public sector, practitioners)
  • Network as much as possible to build up a list of contacts
  • Read other peoples grants (successful and unsuccessful) to get an idea of what is needed
  • Publish/present as much as you can to boost CV (including with students if possible)
  • Make sure project is bigger than a PhD project (even if the time scale is the same)
  • Make use of any help available, even if it isn’t offered, just ASK!

It seems like everyone has something slightly different planned for their next step: applying for fellowships, writing grants with others or applying for advertised positions. A common theme was to not put all your eggs in one basket! Apply for more than one source of funding (as you would apply for more than one job) and consider improving your networks to provide more future opportunities for joint grant writing/collaboration.

Good luck to everyone for their next steps, whatever route they decide to take! You can see the chat summary on this Storify or download the full chat here #ECRchat_tweets_2012_11_08.pdf.


The next live #ECRchat for Europe and Australia (and places in between) will be on 22nd November, hosted by Liz GloynUK chat time 10:00-11:00 (GMT), Europe chat time 11:00-12:00 (CET), Australia chat time 21:00-22:00 (EDST).

#ECRchat West returns on 15th November, hosted by Networked Researcher. The chat will run fortnightly on Thursdays at 19:00-20:00 GMT.


Postdoc in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, researching visual word recognition. Likes MEG, TMS, fMRI, reading, waffles, and motorbiking.

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