In September 2008 a pre-conference workshop was held in Oslo, Norway with the aim of stimulating communication between investigators to exchange ideas, discuss research and career training activities, and create a network. Prior to the inaugural workshop in Oslo 2008, EACH defined early career researchers as researchers who had not yet completed their PhD or who were within 2 years of completion of their doctoral thesis. Thus the EACH Early Career Researchers Network (ECRN) was formed consisting of eight researchers from around the world, each building expertise in healthcare communication research. Senior researchers from the EACH Research Committee (R-EACH) served as facilitators and supervisors during the workshop. The common link among group members was that we were all early career researchers engaged in healthcare communication research. We established the following aims of our network: to (1) promote international collaboration among young investigators and (2) provide a support network to produce future innovative communication research projects.
Collaboration in the scientific environment is growing rapidly, when defined and measured through multi-author and multi-address publications.1
Collaboration is a mutually beneficial professional relationship; the persons involved ultimately determine the specific nature, tasks, or activities through which collaboration occurs.2–4
The literature indicates a correlation between high productivity in terms of published papers and high levels of collaboration.1
There are several reasons for positive outcomes due to collaboration. First, collaboration between researchers can enhance a transfer of knowledge and expertise. Second, it can increase efficiency as co-authors contribute individual but different expertise to the research problem or findings reducing time required to complete papers, projects, or proposals. Third, it can function as a cross-fertilization of ideas, provide intellectual companionship, and extend one’s individual network. Fourth, in collaborations one can also learn how to manage social and management skills in a team.1
Finally, collaboration allows investigators to meet and share both setbacks and successes creating a positive energy that is important and useful in all research.
A recent study exploring collaboration among academic medical faculty in the US found that early career faculty faced numerous barriers to collaboration, such as institutional hierarchy and lack of infrastructural support.5
Another study showed that female medical school faculty (both physician and non-physician) neither advance as rapidly nor are compensated as well as their male counterparts.6
Collaborative teamwork, therefore, may lead to greater recognition and rewards, both for scientific discoveries and professional development.
The EACH ECRN has several ingredients to enhance an individual’s success. It can potentially help transfer knowledge and expertise since it represents a variety of professional backgrounds in psychology, social sciences, nursing, conventional, and integrative medicine. The network also globally extends an individual’s own local network since members are from Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, the United States, and Iran. Additionally, the network creates opportunities for cross-fertilization, because Network members currently work on a diverse range of health communication research: the effects of tailored information; low literacy populations; gender dyads; empathy in education and patient care; communication about evidence in healthcare consultations; communication in accident and emergency departments; and communication about physical activity and other health behaviors. Network members can exchange expertise in methodologies, since they use a variety of study designs, and methods. Taken together, the ECRN has the potential to enhance an individual member’s success with data analysis, project design, proposal preparation and publication of results.
In this paper we describe the results of the interest group discussion at the ICCH 2009 conference. We report the facilitators and challenges that early career investigators experience in career development and discuss the potential of the ECRN to overcome some of these challenges.