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

Posted in Collegiality, Professional development and Identity, Recap, Support and healthy working, Uncategorized

Recap: #ECRchat on “Issues for ECRs in a minority group”

This week’s chat was on Issues for ECRs in a minority group and was hosted by Dr Beth Hellen.

We had an interesting chat about issues for people in minority groups, mostly focusing on women, people with disabilities and LGBT people due to the expertise of the tweeters who were present.  Topic included departmental diversity, barriers to careers and conference access and schemes to help combat these.  Although we only really scratched the surface, most people came away with a few new thoughts about the issues, so it was fairly successful.

See the storify for a more in depth round up.

The last question asked was whether we at @ECRchat can do anything to make the chats more inclusive.  If you have any ideas regarding this, please get in touch.


Posted in Professional development and Identity, Recap, Support and healthy working

Recap: Work-Life Balance – a joint ECR Network and #ECRchat event, 5 December 2013

For this event we teamed up with ECR Network by RiAus (@Ri_Aus) an Adelaide-based series of ECR-specific events, covering professional development and career topics specifically for early career researchers, to discuss one of the most often requested topics for ECR Network – how to manage a work-life balance in research.

We heard from two high profile researchers who have navigated the work-life balance, Tanya Monro and Corey Bradshaw.

You can watch their discussion here:

And view the storified tweets here.

Posted in Professional development and Identity, Recap

Recap: #ECRchat on Building a personal academic narrative, 24 October 2013

The October 24th chat was hosted by @KiraVClarke.  Kira is a Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. She conducts research and teaches in the areas of education policy, youth transitions and vocational education and training. She is in the final stages of a PhD looking at vocational education for young people and she chairs the Early Career Academic Committee in her Graduate School.

You can read the storify of the chat here. Recap to come.

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

Recap: “Ask the expert” on Making choices for the next step, 3 October 2013

This chat was hosted by Chiat Cheong from the Postdoc Career Development Initiative (PCDI), in the Netherlands. Chiat brought her expertise as a project manager at PCDI and her previous experiences as a researcher to help answer our questions on “making choices for the next step”.

Tweeting from the PCDI Twitter account, Chiat started the discussion by asking what questions are important to us in making choices for the next step as early career researchers. From this, she distilled our concerns into two main themes, first, how to decide what career would suit us best, and second, when is the best moment to decide. In order to answer the first concern, we discussed what methods we are already using to explore different careers and what might suit us. Many options were discussed, such as using a SWOT analysis to explore personal preferences before trying to think about what job possibilities we might fit into.

One strong theme that led from this initial discussion was the shock, fear, and anxiety that can surround the realisation that academia might not be the best path for us. Many of us seemed to think that we had approached this realisation relatively late, and that it might have been easier if we had had the opportunity or encouragement to prepare for it sooner. Another important point was about the framing of this exploration of other careers, not as a back-up plan, but as an exploration of whether academia is still a positive choice that we actively feel like making. Much of the discussion focused on ways to take control of our career path, and be active in its direction, rather than just drifting to the next short-term post in the hope that a permanent academic position will come along.

The discussion did acknowledge some of the difficulties faced by ECRs in taking control of their own career destiny. For example, sometimes the end point of the path is not the most important aspect, because finding something that fits “right now” seems the best option. Also, with a limited supply of permanent jobs, sometimes the active decision to stay in academia does not work out.

Some final thoughts from the chat:

  1. Start with your personal motivation and needs, not what you are good at; ECRs can be good at anything when motivated – Chiat Cheong
  2. Get a realistic view on non-academic jobs, start get in touch with those who made the step to find out whether it would suit you – Chiat Cheong
  3. I think the phrase we’re all looking for is keeping an open mind – academic or not, do what is best – Kate Maxwell

You can view the chat tweets, including many more links and tips, in this Storify.