Mid Career Researchers – The Forgotten Majority?

Forgotten majority- strapSSM has an amazing Early-Career Researcher (ECR) group. But what about researchers who aren’t so ‘early’ career anymore? What is a Middle Career Researcher (MCR)?  And how might you know that you were moving beyond ECR status?  In June 2015, Emily Murray hosted an #SSMTalk twitter chat to explore some of these questions and how the Society might help.   Whilst no agreement was reached on a definition of an MCR there was a sense that it was defined more by duties and responsibilities than by academic rank and the following ‘self-definition’ was adopted – someone with more than 5 years research experience who is not yet at the level of Reader of full Professor.

MCRs face a number of unique issues and challenges that deserve attention and are distinctly different to those commonly described by ECRs i.e. getting published, going to your first conference or giving presentations.  Some of the challenges which have been identified include i) the steady increase in additional responsibilities that an MCR might be expected to take on e.g. managing people and teaching often with limited access to training, ii) managing the trade-off between short term contracts, progression and time out for parental leave, iii) the need to show independence but often with limited opportunity when working on funded projects, iv) the pressure to obtain fellowship funding, v) the lack of opportunities at mid-career level, vi) the need to establish a ‘brand’ which can be especially difficult on short term contracts working for people with their own agendas, vii) identifying and benefiting from individuals who can provide mentoring support, viii) time management – tough decisions are necessary to achieve a healthy work life balance whilst conducting research, writing papers, applying for funding, supervising staff, raising a young family and establishing your name as an ‘International expert’ in your particular niche area!

The main SSM Committee agreed that there was a need for a dedicated MCR Section, the aim of which would be to focus on the unique challenges faced and to continue to develop and support researchers throughout their careers.  An MCR Subcommittee (Sheena Ramsay (Chair), Amy Downing (Chair-elect), Emily Murray, Jo Thompson Coon, Noriko Cable, Ruth Dundas, Frank de Vocht and Mark Kelson) was formed at the end of 2015 and terms of reference for the section have been agreed.

A networking session is planned for the ASM in York in September 2016 (more details to follow in due course).  If some of the challenges described above seem all too familiar, we would love to meet you and hear your thoughts on what the MCR Section could do for you! Email secretary.ssm@gmail.com

Jo Thompson-Coon



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