Tagged / Early Career Researcher

September Early Career Forum – How to get that first grant or paper…..

In September we held the second of our open forum meetings for Early Career Researchers (ECRs).  These meetings provide  an opportunity to ask for advice and guidance from a team of experienced academics and research managers in an informal setting. Questions can be about anything related to research – from publications to projects to funding to research strategy! The Forums also provide an opportunity for ECRs to network with colleagues from across the University.

The September meeting was well attended by ECRs from Schools across the University, and they met with Prof Bogdan Gabrys, Assoc Prof Richard Berger,  plus Jennifer Roddis and myself from the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office.

The discussions related getting started – how to get that first grant, or first paper when you don’t have a track-record (apart from your Phd research). One of the key messages here was to work on your profile, and there are various ways you can approach profile-raising.  Here are some of the key messages that emerged from this theme:

Publishing: Remember, your Phd is a valid piece of research!  You might want to talk to your supervisor about targeting likely publications and jointly publishing on your Phd topic or theme.  Regularly publish if you can.  Get your name out. 

Don’t be afraid to take a tangent:  A useful message from this meeting was don’t be precious about your research area.  You may miss opportunities if you are not prepared to follow a research path on a tangent.  After completing your Phd it can be challenging to find topics to research or publish on.  Take a look at your literature review and early drafts of your Phd.  Examine the abandoned strands of argument and research questions you decided not to pursue.  These could present themselves as great opportunities for research and publication, as they are related to your Phd topic, but not restricted by it.   This is one way that you might expand your research out of your Phd subject.

For example, Richard Berger won a BBC grant that was not strictly in his subject area.  He felt out of his comfort zone for the 8 weeks of the project.  However, he learned enormous amounts about new methodolgieis, delivering research, and presenting his work, which has stood him in good stead for his further research work.

Networking: Getting involved in networks is an effective part of raising your profile.  Attending conferences is a good start. You might start by choosing conferences with the best repuation, or by going to small conferences, where you may find other academics like you!  Over time, you will naturally get to know the other conference attendees (peopl you sit next to etc).    If you find someone you like, you might want to start presenting together. 

This was the experience of one of the senior academics – they started presenting together, then started to write together, then started their own journal on the subjects that they are interested in.   Starting your own journal is not as hard as it sounds.  You could publish online, and academics from around the world like being invited to be on editorial boards.  Its worth a thought. You can try submitting papers to conferences – but bear in mind that there is a lot of competition, with probably a 20% chance of your paper being accepted, but if you don’t try, you won’t know!

Networking funds?  Ask in your School if there are funds available for attending conferences.  Each School has a different way of doing things, so it is worth asking around. Investigate the research councils and other funders, which offer networking grants.   You could organise your own conference – this would be a great opportunity to generate some funds, plus a fantastic way to create your own network.  Host it at the EBC, write about it on the reserach blog, write about it on other blogs, advertise it through online networks.    

Cold calling:  When you are cold-calling, make sure you have something to offer – be honest and be upfront.  The worst that can happen is that you receive a polite no, or are ignored!   Maybe don’t always email potential collaborators. If they are within BU knock on their door and be pursuasive!  Research groups at other institutions may well be looking for speakers on certain topics.  Do some research, find out, offer yourself as a speaker.

Online communities: there are networks of excellence that operate online.  Join in and find like-minded people.   A good opportunity to make connections and raise your profile.

Research Grants:  Take advantage of schemes such as the Grants Academy and Research Proposal Review Service.   Subscribe to the research blog for news on internal funding opportunities.  Bid for Phd studentships. Talk to colleagues – maybe you could collaborate?  Use Research Professional and look for open calls.  Don’t focus only on the big research council grants – these are highly competitive, and generally are looking for a research grant track record.  Look for smaller funding opportunities – charities, foundations and even regional funding agencies are often good places to start.  A good piece of advice:  stay away from scary deadlines until you are ready!   

Prepare to fail! You will get rejections – because everyone gets rejections for papers submitted to journals, and for research grant applications.   When you suffer a rejection your first reaction will be emotional.  Take time to reflect.  Then go back to your proposal and take a constructive look.  The work won’t be wasted, as you will be able to re-work it for another journal or another funder.

BRIAN: make sure your profile is up to date.

Make the most of internal support available:

One of the ECRs who attended has helpfully set up a Facebook page called ECR BU – here is the link:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/265825716854423/

What next?

If you’re interested in coming to one of the next ECR Forums you will need to book to confirm your attendance (this is so we can order enough food and refreshments in advance). The next Forums are scheduled as follows (rooms to be confirmed):

19 November 12:30 – 15:00 on the Lansdowne Campus

11 December 12:30 – 15:00 on the Talbot Campus

Planes, trains and automobiles: Some reflections for PhD students and early career researchers

I have recently come to the end of a spate of travelling. I imagine this is true for most colleagues as the conference season tends to occur over the holidays, though I’ve made use of a suitcase much more this summer than in previous years. I share some notes below in case they are of use to PhD students and fellow early career researchers, first in relation to conferences and second in relation to research visits.

Conferences

This summer I have presented on three occasions:

1)      Chaired and presented a paper within a symposium at the British Society of Gerontology, held in Keele.

2)      Chaired and presented a paper within an invited symposium at the World Congress on Active Ageing, held in Glasgow.

3)      Delivered an invited plenary address at the International Conference on Falls and Postural Stability, held in Leeds.

The benefits of attending and presenting at academic conferences are no doubt widely shared. Though, I’ve been presenting at conferences every year since 2006 and note some reflections:

  • Symposia: For the last couple of years I have organised and chaired symposiums rather than presented individual papers. There are several benefits for doing this over individual papers: it encourages you to network and explore overlapping research interests with colleagues long before the conference; can provide an excuse to get some colleagues together over lunch before / after the symposium to discuss potential collaborations; and at the conference a symposium can draw attention to your particular field of research more conspicuously and so can more easily bring others interested in your area into one room at one time.
  • International conferences: I would encourage colleagues to attend international conferences where possible (and I appreciate it’s easier when they’re held in the UK / Europe). It is only at these events that you find that the particular theory or method you’ve been using in your research is peculiar to the UK, and that other countries use their peculiar theory / method, etc. Meeting colleagues from other countries leads you to discover other theories and methods that may help with your work, or that the approach you’ve been taking may help with others’ work.
  • Unexpected benefits: There will always be some conferences that are more useful than others, but I am always pleasantly reminded of the fact that conferences bring unanticipated benefits. It is the chance encounters – when you sit next to someone waiting for the next session, sit next to someone at lunch, etc., – whereby you discover you are sat next to an international expert you’ve yet to meet or someone with very similar research interests who is a potential collaborator. When I flew home from Glasgow I happened to sit next to an academic who researches safety at work from a human factors approach, and we discovered a great deal of overlap between his research and mine on the prevention of falls in older people.

So, I would encourage attending and presenting at conferences, especially among early career researchers. Where possible, I would also encourage chairing symposia, attending international conferences, and being sociable and meeting and talking with all kinds of people as much as possible as you never know who you’ll meet and how they can help with your work.

Research visits

This summer I have made three visits to research departments:

1)      Delivered an invited presentation to the Health Psychology Research Group of Newcastle University.

2)      Visited colleagues at the OPENspace Research Centre, University of Edinburgh.

3)      Delivered an invited presentation to the Applied Psychology: Life-Management Research Group of the University of Zurich.

The benefits of presenting at research departments are similar to presenting at conferences. Though, as this is a newer experience for me I note some reflections:

  • Face-to-face meetings: While it is true that travelling does take you away from your desk and those tasks that you need to get done by certain deadlines, it is worth the effort. Meeting someone in person creates an opportunity to discuss a whole range of topics and find out information on things that just would not be discussed by email or when you’re on the phone and cannot read the others’ non-verbal communication. It also gives you the opportunity to really assess whether or not you can work with someone: it is not only a colleague’s CV that determines whether you can work together well or not, but whether they like to work in a similar style to you. It is sometimes the latter that takes greater importance when choosing between potential collaborators on grant proposals.
  • A different presentation: Rather than delivering a paper at a conference, at a research department you can give a different kind of presentation. You can discuss some work you are about / intend to do, or throw out problems to discuss with the audience, etc. These kinds of presentations may be more useful in establishing projects for collaboration than simply discussing work you have already completed / published.
  • Dedicated time to discuss an idea: My visit to Edinburgh was useful from this point of view as although I did not give a presentation, I spent about five hours with two professors discussing an idea for a future research project. The time was very useful in moving our discussion on a wider general research problem down to a narrow research question for a project. Likewise, via BUDI (www.bournemouth.ac.uk/dementia-institute), Prof Anthea Innes and I hosted colleagues from around Europe recently to spend an intensive couple of days to work up a grant proposal. These face-to-face meetings are very useful for rapidly moving ideas into concrete plans.

So, I would encourage visiting other university departments and to accept invitations to present to research groups. Such opportunities can provide valuable time and space to develop research ideas and progress collaborations. They can also be quite fun: for my last evening in Zurich I managed to invite myself to a Turkish restaurant with a Turkish group to watch the Turkish football team play Manchester United at old Trafford. It proved to be a different venue for discussing research (which we managed to do) than an office and it was an entertaining football match too!

Samuel Nyman

Psychology Research Centre

Design, Engineering & Computing

At an early stage in your research career? Then come to one of our ECR Forums!

Over the next six months we are running a series of forums for academic colleagues who are at an early stage in their research career.  The first forum, held in July was a success and you can find out more about this session here.

The forums will be open, informal sessions where you can meet with a group of experienced academics and Julie Northam and Julia Taylor from the R&KEO to discuss anything you like to do with research. From publications to projects to funding to research strategy we will be on hand to help and advise. Lunch / refreshments will be provided.

 The forums will be held at the following times and you will need to book to confirm your attendance (this is so we can order enough food and refreshments in advance)

17 September 12:30 – 15:00 The Octagon, Talbot Campus

19 November 12:30 – 15:00 EB702, The Executive Business Centre, Lansdowne

11 December 12:30 – 15:00 Casterbridge, Talbot Campus

At an early stage in your research career? Then come to one of our ECR Forums!

Over the next six months we are running a series of forums for academic colleagues who are at an early stage in their research career. The forums will be open, informal sessions where you can meet with a group of experienced academics and Julie Northam and Julia Taylor from the R&KEO to discuss anything you like to do with research. From publications to projects to funding to research strategy we will be on hand to help and advise. Lunch / refreshments will be provided.

The forums will be held at the following times and you will need to book to confirm your attendance (this is so we can order enough food and refreshments in advance)

25 July 13:30 – 15:00 on the Talbot Campus (Room to be confirmed)

17 September 12:30 – 15:00 on the Talbot Campus (Room to be confirmed)

19 November 12:30 – 15:00 on the Lansdowne Campus (Room to be confirmed)

11 December 12:30 – 15:00 on the Talbot Campus (Room to be confirmed)