ENMC Early-Career Programme: six years of experience

The Early-Career Programme was set-up more than six years ago to increase the participation of young professionals at ENMC workshops led by experts in the field, with the aim of facilitating their entry into the NMD network. To evaluate the programme and identify new challenges and opportunities, ENMC performed a descriptive analysis and launched a survey among the 39 candidates selected for the Early-Career Programme in the years 2014-2019. The evaluation was then completed by some personal interviews with reseachers in the field.

Descriptive analysis

The gender and educational balance was excellent (see Table 1). The geographical distribution (not shown here), strongly reflected the locations of workshop organisers, who often propose candidates from their own lab or clinic. The ENMC will create more awareness about the programme to attract also candidates from countries less often represented at workshops. Half of the Early-Career Researchers were PhD students and more than 30% were post-docs, associate professors, and medical doctors working in industry, showing that the programme attracts persons in the beginning and at a later stage in their scientific career. Surprisingly, only 77% of the Early-Career Researchers presented their research at the workshop. ENMC aims at increasing this quote to 100% in the near future.

Survey

The respondents of the survey (n=20/39) unanimously stated that ENMC, by the scientific interactive discussions and by its socialising opportunities, facilitates communication and networking between junior and senior researchers. Ninety-five percent of the responders confirmed that the ENMC workshop did contribute to their career. These data show that the programme in its current form is effective in reaching its mission and that, according to the respondents, it does not require modifications. Although the former title “Young Scientist Programme” was felt to be adequate by the respondents, the ENMC decided to change this name into Early-Career Programme, to take away the misconception that one should be young to apply and to be aligned with the new Mid-Career Mentoring Programme. Many of the Early-Career Researchers who attended ENMC workshops were on average below 35 years and are therefore in a career phase that particularly needs entrance in an established network.

The ENMC Research Director Dr Ana Ferreiro concluded from the survey:

“At ENMC workshops an environment is built which fosters visibility of the Early-Career Researchers resulting in trust and subsequent collaborations with workshop organisers and participants. These are all key elements to help Early-Career Researchers build a strong career in the neuromuscular field.”

Click here to read the full summary of the survey outcomes.

The survey also delivered valuable suggestions to further improve the Early-Career Programme. In the future, at least two candidates of the Early-Career Programme will be allowed in each workshop and will work as a duo together to help the organisers in the preparation of the meeting and to co-author the mandatory reports. We expect that this strategy will better empower Early-Career Researchers as new entrees into the established consortium and help them networking with senior researchers in the field. Additionally, an online platform for all ENMC Early Career Researchers was suggested. To this scope, ENMC created a LinkedIn group to stimulate an exchange of experiences, research projects and career plans, and to establish solid networks among ENMC Early-Career Researchers. We will expand this group with the future Mid-Career Researchers, who will be selected for the ENMC Mentoring Programme.

Interviews

Interestingly, interviews indicated that a more concrete support from the senior scientists in the NMD field would be much appreciated and needed by those who are potentially the next generation of leaders in the field.

One of the interviewed Early-Career Researchers answered when he was asked if he would pursue his career on neuromuscular disorders (NMD):

“I am really interested in NMD. But whether I keep on working on these disorders or change my field of research will ultimately depend on opportunities.”

ENMC is interested in encouraging careers of future leaders as a means to promote progress and innovation in research and care, thus achieving the concept and general mission of the ENMC. The idea of a Mentoring Programme targeted at the Mid-Career Researchers arose from these interviews and was being developed by the ENMC Research and Executive Committee members. For more information on this new Programme, click here.

 
 
 

INTERVIEW WITH THE FIRST WINNER OF AN ENMC EARLY-CAREER RESEARCHER AWARD

Workshop 207: Respiratory insufficiency in Myotonic Dystrophy.

Who is Benjamin Gallais?
Benjamin is a clinical psychologist (PhD) working at the University de Sherbrooke and at the Clinique des maladies neuromusculaires in Quebec, Canada

 
 
 

INTERVIEW SNAPSHOTS

Q: What did the ENMC workshop bring you as an Early-Career Researcher? 

A: I really appreciate that ENMC gives the opportunity to young people in the research field to learn from the key experts in the NMD field, to get the privilege to be with all these participants and share my research although they didn’t know me! Also the ENMC publications in Neuromuscular Disorders help young scientists to get a clear and good overview, for example the ENMC workshop on pain and fatigue, was very valuable for my research.

Q: What could you contribute to the workshop? 

A: I was the only psychologist in the group, so I could provide a more subjective point of view on all medical topics being discussed, besides the input from the patients that were participating. I presented a literature review on the subjective impact of respiratory impairment in NMDs and shared my PhD research on different segmentation of fatigue and sleepiness symptoms.

Q: What is the greatest asset for an Early-Career Researcher entering the ENMC network? 

A: The relevance for my future research and creating new valuable collaborations, introduce myself and my research to the established network of researchers. I thank ENMC and the Company Forum for giving me this opportunity!