Posted in Professional development and Identity, Recap

Recap: #ECRchat 12 Dec 2013 “The Experts Ask Us” – Issues of reward and recognition for early career researchers

This #ECRchat was a special “The Experts Ask Us” chat, guest hosted by the Academy of Medical Sciences, in the style of an online focus group. If your organisation is interested in hosting a similar chat, please email us.

What challenges do researchers experience in ‘team science’ projects? Are there barriers that discourage early career researchers even getting involved? If so, what are they and are they the same across different disciplines and countries? This #ECRchat, hosted by Nigel Eady @naje99 and Holly Rogers @acmedsci of the Academy of Medical Sciences on 12 December 2013, discussed these issues and more.

So what did we learn? Here are the headlines:

  1. Putting together an effective team is a key skill.
  2. Every skill in a team needs to be valued.
  3. Roles, responsibility and reward need to be agreed up front.
  4. Authorship of publications is a battleground!

This #ECRchat formed part of the scoping phase for an Academy working group study on ‘team science’ which will launch in April 2014. The final report, with recommendations, will be published around spring 2015. Further details will appear online. It is a follow up to a previous discussion paper:

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the #ECRchat. Do you recognise these issues?

  1. Putting together an effective team is a key skill.

A number of researchers said that finding good collaborators was a big challenge. You need to learn the skills of building collaborations and facilitating them effectively as early in your career as possible. Some principal investigators are very resistant to their research teams spending time exploring partnerships which don’t appear to be directly relevant to their core research. So how can you develop the skills you need?

  1. Every skill in a team needs to be valued.

Clearly team projects require a range of skills. A number of researchers reported that certain skills are perceived to be less important or are viewed as ‘number crunching’, and therefore deemed to require less skill and deserve less recognition. The individuals who deliver these supposed ‘service delivery’ roles end up feeling extremely marginalised but are continually expected to work faster and better! “Surely what you do is easy!” The skills mentioned in this regard included medical statistics, qualitative research and computational biology.

  1. Roles, responsibility and reward need to be agreed up front.

It’s vital not to give lots of your time before you’ve agreed what recognition you’ll get for it! Discuss some ‘ground rules’ at the start of the project, especially if you’re doing all the hard work behind the scenes, for example, the grant administration and ethics approval.

  1. Authorship of publications is a battleground!

Unsurprisingly the lack of value attributed to some skills also plays out when it comes to authorship of papers. Shared first authorship was felt not to work! But what factors should determine the order of authorship? Who did the work, who was awarded the funds, who wrote the paper…? Author contribution statements were felt to be a move in the right direction, especially as amongst diverse disciplines authorship conventions vary significantly (e.g. if you compare maths, bioscience and social science). Physics was perceived to be a more collaborative discipline with open access data and alphabetical authorship of papers.

Here is a storify with all the tweets. One participant highlighted an interesting systematic review on the promotors, barriers, and ways to enhance multidisciplinary teamwork.

The Academy is very grateful for this chance to host an #ECRchat and will post updates on our ‘team science’ policy project as it develops. In the meantime, any more comments, questions and ideas can be emailed to


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

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