By Dr Fay Couceiro, Biogeochemist, School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, University of Portsmouth
Someone recently asked me, ‘what has being part of the Researcher’s Network done for you?’ So I sat down to think about that for a while. I have been going to these networking/information/catch up lunches for about 4 years now, ever since it began its life as the Research staff Forum. I still go regularly and as a researcher I often try to make sure my lab experiments don’t clash with the dates of the next meeting, sometimes they do and I can’t make it but mostly I can use a little forward planning to make sure I’m available. So why do I do that? What am I getting from these meetings that makes me go back time after time? What I get now from the Network is different from 4 years ago so I’ll try to take you through it.
Initially what I gained from attending these lunches is an identity as a researcher. Like most researchers I was working as a PostDoc on a project and that project was all I could see. How to get the work done for that project is all I focused on, that and keeping an eye out for the next project. I didn’t think of myself as a researcher but as a biogeochemist with a specific skill set. I was defining myself too narrowly. After attending a few of the lunches I began to see myself as part of a larger community, not just as part of my project. I began to look and think about career development, not the abstract ‘in 5 years I want to be …’ but really looking, ‘what skills do I have now? What skills do I need to get for that next step?’ As a PostDoc you are thinking ‘I must write papers’ because that is what you need to do for the PI but other PostDocs are doing that too. To stand out from the crowd there are other types of career development and academic citizenship that I could have been doing but hadn’t really thought about before.
Once I got into the habit of going to these lunches I then began to understand the university’s structure and how to navigate its byzantine policies and procedures. From these meetings I got to know who to speak to about funding issues, opportunities on committees (to increase my academic citizenship), the most relevant courses on the researcher development programme, mentoring opportunities and that not only should I be doing a PDR but how to get the most out of one. I gained role models such as Prof Anastasia Callaghan. When I met Anastasia she was running the Research Staff Forum as a researcher and she is now a professor and Co-Director in the Institute of Biomedical & Biomolecular Science, a career progression I would love to emulate.
So, what has being part of the Researcher’s Network done for me? It has given me more direction in my career path. It has encouraged my career development and helped that development by signposting various courses or facilities available to me as a researcher. It has given me the opportunity to network across different schools and faculties providing the opportunity for collaboration. It has provided me with role models and a greater knowledge of how the university operates. It has made me more confident in speaking up about things and lastly, but by no means least, it has been fun!
To find out more about the Researchers’ Network email firstname.lastname@example.org or read our previous blog post https://researchandinnovationportsmouth.com/2016/12/15/researchers-network-update/ . The next networking lunch will be held on Wednesday 29 March, 12:00-13:30. Sign up at https://network03-1617.eventbrite.co.uk