It bears repeating that it is a very hard time to be an Early Career Researcher in the UK. Available, permanent jobs are almost non-existent, and one- or two-year temporary teaching contracts are the norm if one is lucky to get one. On the research side, post-doctoral funding schemes such as British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship or the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships are immensely competitive, to the point where one might wonder whether playing the lottery would not yield better chances of making ends meet, let alone pursue an academic career. Coming fresh out of doctoral research, the lack of prospects as well as the plethora of little-structured information of what comes next, or what kinds of jobs are suitable to stay in academia, can be overwhelming.
The new role of Early Career Representative, as I would like to begin it, aims to provide three things:
- This means information to a variety of topics, from help in keeping an institutional affiliation, publishing and funding opportunities, to Early Career events, workshops, work in existing research projects, etc.
- Collaboration/contacts. This can take the form of writing a joint article, pitching for and editing a journal issue, or organising Early Career meetings, pooling resources for organising (not only Early Career-) conferences, introductions of people who work on similar or related fields and who might be open for collaborations.
- Representing Early Career issues at general professional venues, e.g. the AGS conference. This last point is the trickiest and most ambitious, since, let’s be frank, this role is not designed to be a union-style role, and therefore cannot claim to speak for all Early Career Researchers, nor demand automatic access to members’ or committee meetings. However, since I have found most established academics in general very sympathetic to the EC plight, though not sure of what to do in practice, I aim to present short reports or suggestions about what established researchers and head of departments could do to help their local ECR base (e.g. along the lines of this list: Hortensii – How the employed can help).
Especially the ‘Representative’ part of the new role obviously requires more than just my own thoughts and input. ECRs have to find a multitude of ways to make career plans work with their individual life situation, and I can bring only one perspective of this to the role. Therefore I encourage all current ECRs, as well as those colleagues who have recently come out of the EC stage, to contact me with suggestions, questions, tips&tricks, topics, links, articles, event announcements, ideas for EC meetings, and all the other things you find important and needing to be addressed.
I aim to collect and research topics and information which were very useful for me when well-meaning colleagues mentioned them to me, and collate them into regular blog posts. These will not claim to be exhaustive, so please feel free to add to them in the comments (or drop me a line using the contact form below, if you prefer).