The Early Career Researcher Event was held on a warm sunny day on St Luke’s Campus. A sense of anticipation was in the air, as the attendees caught sight of the burgeoning tables, overflowing with offerings for the cake competition later that day.
A few of the entrees to the competition
All Early Career Researchers on bands E and F were invited to attend, along with people who had recently been promoted to G grade. We were especially eager to make the event open to research facing professional service staff and people based in Cornwall and Plymouth University.
Jane Slaven, an Advisor from the HR department started off the day by talking to us about the structures that are in place within the University to support us during our career progression. She highlighted the importance of working alongside our line managers to ensure we could identify and meet the targets required for progression. She also signposted us to the University webpages where we might find a range of useful resources to help us manage our physical and psycho-social wellbeing: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/wellbeing/
Our second speaker was Professor Michelle Ryan, Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology/ Dean of Postgraduate Research and Director of the University of Exeter Doctoral College. She discussed the role and structure of the Doctoral College and emphasised the importance of Early Career Researchers in providing feedback to her regarding particular issues which affect us. This will help the developing Doctoral College listen to the voices of Early Career Researchers and ensure that the support they provide is representative of our needs.
The Vice-Dean of Research, Professor Angela Shore then talked about how our roles as ECRs are funded; primarily through individual research grants and teaching opportunities. The importance of gaining lecturing experience was discussed in an interactive session, with audience members contributing various other ideas, such as contributing towards funding bids, which could aid in our career progression. Attendees found this session highly useful and it highlighted the need for the peer-network to also consider how individuals without a PhD could also progress with their careers.
Professor Nicky Britten (Professor of Applied Health Care Research) built on the theme of being proactive. Talks focused on the need for ECRs to flag any concerns about the way we are managed with our Heads of Research. This led to a discussion later on that afternoon about the need for a suitable feedback system so that ECRs knew what actions had been taken after they had raised concerns. Nicky also outlined how ECRs contribute towards the IHR.
The afternoon discussion provided the opportunity for ECRs to discuss what they would like the future of the peer-network to look like. Whilst we agreed that it was useful to have a space to come and share concerns, it was suggested that it would be constructive to also have a positive focus during meetings. Various ideas which were put forward included:
- Having the opportunity to talk about the work that we are all involved in.
- Inviting external speakers to occasionally attend part of a session and deliver talks on agreed topics for the development of ECR peer network members.
- Structuring sessions around particular topics e.g. C.V. construction.
Inspired by the talk from Michelle, there was a high degree of interest in using a peer-network meeting to identify key issues of importance for ECRs at Exeter University to feedback to the Doctoral College. A preliminary date for this has been set for 5th July, during the next face-to-face Early Career Researcher Meeting in South Cloisters.
Our attendees from Plymouth indicated that they would like to be involved with the Exeter Peer Network via video-conferencing. This is a very exciting expansion of our peer-network and we look forward to getting to know each other more in the future.
When asked about what they had found most useful from the event, attendees said:
- “All speakers provided very useful information”
- “Loved the cake competition!”
- “Finding out that whatever level, people have similar concerns”
- “Understanding overall what the perspective of the university is around ECR’s”
- “Talking to other ECRs!”
Winning entry to the cake competition: Jo Varley-Campbell (Research Fellow: University of Exeter Medical School PenTAG Systematic Reviewer) with her beautiful white chocolate and raspberry creation.
Overall, the event was a welcome opportunity to meet colleagues at a similar stage in their careers and share experiences over cake. We look forward to doing the same again next year.
Written by : Dr Liz Shaw -Research Associate: University of Exeter Medical School HS&DR Systematic Reviewer
The Researcher Led Initiative awards are intended to enable postgraduate research students and early career research staff to be creative, proactive, and empowered, through the process of initiating, designing, managing, and delivering new professional development activities for their peers that will develop the skills and experience needed to progress their careers. The awards support short-term, well-defined initiatives that develop and deliver transferable skills training experiences and/or resources to the applicants’ peers across the University.