So, firstly we should maybe point out that this blog post was inspired by the Fuse conference on the 25-27th February 2013 at Linden Hall. This sandpit event aimed to inspire post-docs and post-grads (like our good selves) to write an inspiring, appropriate and sure-to-be funded research bid. Whilst this conference was held a few weeks ago, what we really found useful – and which inspired this post – was the opportunity to network. Being researchers in different North East Universities (Emma is based in the Institute for Health & Society at Newcastle University, and Annette works full time for the NHS Health Improvement while studying part time at Sunderland University) we don’t often get the opportunity to meet for a prolonged period of time with researchers from other universities.
|Cookies by Paolo Marco - an important ingredient of effective networking|
On arriving at the Fuse event, both myself and Annette were placed in the same group, in which we were to spend many waking hours together working on a hypothetical (but a potentially very real) research bid. Together with an additional four researchers, Annette and I set to thinking about how we would write a research bid that would shed some light on how reticent Hep C carriers would come forward for testing. Whilst admittedly Annette and I were ‘forced’ to network in the first instance, in that we were allocated to the same working group, we soon realised over coffee (and dare we say it biscuits and other sweet goodies) that we got on rather well and that we were both interested in very similar research fields. Annette is currently starting her 3rd year of her part-time PhD (and aiming to finish in 12 months!) looking into the views and patterns of alcohol use in older adults living in sheltered housing, whilst I completed a PhD (in 2010) into the food, alcohol and physical activity behaviours of young adults, together with a first post-doc which looked at the dietary behaviours of older people. Sharing similar research interests and skills (such as a firm interest in the value of qualitative research) was an interesting finding from meeting each other.
Since meeting up for coffee recently (minus the cake unfortunately!), we decided that we should thank Fuse for giving us the opportunity to network. The Fuse conference allowed us to meet with researchers from all of the five North East Universities (Newcastle University, Sunderland University, Teeside University, Durham University and Northumbria University). It gave us the opportunity to identify potential collaborations with other researchers and universities, to establish new friendships with people who share similar personal and professional interests, but crucially, by listening to other people’s research interests and skills, it helped us to fully appreciate what we have to offer as junior/early career research and the skills that we could bring to any budding cross-university collaborations.
Whilst usually the dreaded ‘N’ word brings a tear to the eye, and a lump to the throat akin to that of ice breakers; the networking opportunity provided by Fuse was (fairly) enjoyable. The informal atmosphere, the always-ready-to-help mentors, and the open-attitude of all those involved, meant that we learned quite a bit about ourselves, but also about others who attended the event. In future, should we ever have to network again, we can tell ourselves that not always do we need to break into a cold sweat when made to network, that it can be fun (okay maybe a stretch too far), useful, and also result in a new friendship/collaboration being made. In this instance the networking between Annette and I paid off…shame it couldn’t have helped us write the winning bid though!