Author: Dr Adrienne McCann, Research Fellow, Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom
Date of Publication: July 2021
Keywords: Early career researcher, Peer support, Capacity building, Mentorship, Knowledge transfer and exchange
An educational intervention called the Family Carer Decision Support (FCDS) intervention has been developed to assist nursing home staff in supporting family carers when they need to make difficult decisions about end-of-life care for their relative with advanced dementia. The main aim of mySupport study is to adapt, implement and evaluate the educational intervention in six countries: United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, Czech Republic and Italy.
Also, a core activity of mySupport study is to build the capacity of the early career researchers working as part of this project. To achieve this goal an international Early Career Research Committee (ECRF) was establishedThis Committee was created to ensure that the projects’ early career researchers were provided with the opportunity to collaborate with peers and share learning experiences across the six sites participating within this study.
Impact of covid-19 pandemic on networking opportunities
For researchers and academics alike, the concept of networking and collaborating with peers in our fields has been affected significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Conferences and exhibitions are online, as are many of our day-to-day meetings. For early career researchers particularly, meeting new people or collaborating with peers can be daunting particularly when one is not established in their field. However, for members of mySupport Early Career Research Committee, the idea of online networking is not new to them.
The benefits of active participation within an Early Career Research Committee
Dr Adrienne McCann sat down with the Early Career Research Committee chair, Danielle Just, McMaster University, Canada to discuss the value of this unique international Committee and how they have progressed during the pandemic. We chatted about the uniqueness of the group and Danielle gave an insight into one of the many opportunities that membership brings.
“In September I presented with a colleague of mine from the University of Toronto, Canada on a research paper we wrote. mySupport study Early Career Research Committee was such an amazing platform for us to present to international peers, which was actually a significant portion of the grant that we received to write that paper without the Committee, we just wouldn’t have had that avenue, it really opened up our opportunities for dissemination.”
Some of the current activities of mySupport study Early Career Research Committee includes monthly presentations and more recently, the development of a publication strategy. Having such quality researchers drawn together from so many backgrounds made it a natural step to develop collaboration opportunities. Danielle gave us an update on the publication strategy and what’s involved.
“The literature reviews are an Early Career Research Committee project for us to contribute to the literature around the topic areas of mySupport study such as family carers and long term care, transitioning to long term care, all topics that align with the larger study. This develops our members as independent researchers and as future researchers, or project leads building from that. We have guest presentations that come in to help supplement those papers or presentations and help build our skill set so it’s great to have that support.”
The benefits of diversity
We talked about the diversity of the group and what makes this group so effective.
“It is like kind of a mini consortium there, you have such a variety of people, say like early career researchers, at one end of the scale, then people who are maybe starting into their careers. On the other end of the scale we have some very established researchers with lots of experience. But it’s an environment where we can discuss these things at our own level so it’s nice to learn from everyone.”
The importance of peer support
Getting down to what makes this group so effective, Danielle outlines the supportive nature of the group and how members understand that they are each at a different stage of their career and all levels are catered for.
“Someone who has hundreds of publications and awards and grants, they’re in the middle of their career so it’s hard to relate to. But it’s all perspective, you know someone who’s just starting their bachelors degree thinks you’re so far ahead, but I think our group provide that perspective. They’re not too far ahead that we can’t obtain it, but they can still pass on their skills and experience.”
Capacity building opportunities
Discussing the benefits of being part of such a group, Danielle outlines how the research process can come full circle. To reading the literature and comparing it to your own work, to being able to actively collaborate with those people to compliment your work provides a great foundation to early career researchers.
“We are in the North American perspective and when I write up about long term care research, I always compare to Europe. Their long-term care homes are most similar to us here in Canada, but I’ve never actually worked with the European research team before, so it’s so insightful to actually be in the group working with researchers who we so often compare to in the literature. So it’s been so great to build those relationships and really build those skills and also just learn about how research is done differently across Europe”.
Developing a professional research profile
mySupport study Early Career Research Committee are hoping to create more of a virtual presence. The role of social media has become ever more prevalent to researchers and often can be the quickest way of finding new work before being published.
“Becoming a researcher in the 21st century, the social media aspect of it is huge with Twitter and LinkedIn and online platforms, especially as covid continues. Even recently Sophie Morris presented at our monthly meeting, she tweeted about it and I saw it was picked up by so many avenues retweeting her work. So the blogs are just going to be that next step to hopefully help facilitate our online presence as a committee and as researchers.”
In looking towards the future, mySupport study Early Career Research Committee has many more upcoming activities in the pipeline.
“So our first ambition would be building off the last core committee and really hoping to establish an online presence. I’m sure I have been told 100 times as a researcher that I need to be more active on Twitter, but having this committee where we can be active together I think is a great first step. So we’re hoping to increase our blog posts as well as share more about the presentations so even if it’s just practicing, sharing your own work I think that’s a skill in itself.”
mySupport study Early Career Research Committee promotes outreach and engagement within the research team, across each of the six participating sites within the study. The international Committee has a unique design that encourages and nurtures collaborative learning. Watch this short video which details how the international Committee is supporting its members: LINK
To learn more about mySupport study watch this 3-minute video. Click on the language of your choice: English | Italian | Czech | Dutch | French Canadian
Follow mySupport study progress on Twitter @mysupport.eu or visit www.mysupportstudy.eu for further information.
Meet the author: Dr Adrienne McCann, Research Fellow, Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom and mySupport study Research Team member
Dr Adrienne McCann is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI), Queen’s University Belfast. Adrienne is an Occupational Therapist and gained her PhD from Ulster University in 2019. She previously worked clinically in the area of Rheumatology and her PhD research explored the biomechanics of upper extremity pain associated with manual wheelchair use. More recently, she has worked clinically in acute elderly care and Dementia services.