Early Career Researchers and Research Infrastructures: Barriers and Pathways to Engagement

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Eliza Papaki

    Trinity College Dublin

  2. 2. Vicky Garnett

    Trinity College Dublin

Work text
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The European Commission notes that, in order to solve Europe’s economic and societal challenges, innovation in science and technology, pursued through Research Infrastructures (RIs), is vital (European Commission).  Efficient RIs enable the greatest discoveries in science and technology, attract researchers from around the world and build bridges between research communities. They allow the training of researchers and facilitate innovation and knowledge-sharing.  One such research infrastructure in particular, DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities), was established as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) in August 2014. Currently, DARIAH has 17 Member states and many cooperating partners across 11 non-member countries. As a pan-European network, DARIAH aims to enhance and support digitally-enabled research and teaching across the arts and humanities.  And yet, despite this wide interdisciplinary and international reach, RIs such as DARIAH remain a distant concept to many of the researchers who could directly benefit from them.
The Community Engagement Working Group within DARIAH has, since Nov 2017, been investigating the often complex reasons for a lack of engagement with RIs among researchers as part of our wider research into Research Communities.  Over the course of our exploration around these themes, we have conducted a webinar, an online survey, interviews with researchers at different stages of careers, and a roundtable session at a discipline-specific regional conference.  Many of our respondents to these various methods of data gathering have reported that they are aware of RIs, such as DARIAH, but for various reasons they did not choose to engage with them. We analysed their responses by both career level, and by some of the disciplinary groups to see if further patterns emerged.
Researchers experience different pressures and issues at all stages in their career. However, we have chosen to look at Early Career Researchers (ECRs) here as the pressures on ECRs are well known, often taking on a sort of ‘apprenticeship’ role where not only the direction of the research is somewhat predetermined, but also membership of organisations and indeed RIs is decided by the more senior members in a team.  An ECR does have
some autonomy in terms of how they network, how they communicate with others in their field, and of course which teams or researchers they choose to work with in the first place.  

To find out how RIs could communicate more directly with ECRs, we focus here on the results of our research from that group in particular.  We found differences in how ECRs communicate with others in their field compared with mid-career and senior researchers, specifically that ECRs favoured more face-to-face approaches in networking and communication (through conferences and workshops) over social media such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, as was widely used by the mid-career and senior researchers.
When we looked at specific reasons for not engaging with RIs, the responses from the ECRs either indicated a lack of awareness about them, or focussed much more on time constraints due to competing priorities such as getting publications accepted and completed, or finishing their PhD.  Insecurity in their current employment also created anxiety that meant they were unable to form a ‘long-term view’ beyond trying to find the next contract, and thus unable to spend the perceived time and effort it would take to learn how to work with an RI. Responses from more senior researchers tended to err on the side of exceptionalism, with many taking the view that, while they were aware of RIs, their own area of research was specialised, and therefore not likely to benefit from an interdisciplinary RI.
Steps that RIs have taken to try to reach potential members at all levels in their career have so far included creating national contact points to act as advocates, and by establishing some manner of training; either as occasional Summer or Winter Schools, or through online training resources (RITrain

http://ritrain.eu/ (retrieved 27th Nov 2018)

, the PARTHENOS cluster-project

http://training.parthenos-project.eu/, part of the PARTHENOS project. (retrieved 27th Nov 2018)

, and CESSDA

https://www.cessda.eu/Temp-archive/Training (retrieved 27th Nov 2018)

are three such examples).  However information from and about these initiatives is often disseminated via social media, so despite these interventions there are still gaps between provision to enable engagement, and the modes of communicating these provisions.  

This poster will present these results in more detail, and offer recommendations for how RIs might integrate the needs of this specific research community into their wider communications practices.


European Commission European Research Infrastructures Text
European Commission - European Commission https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/strategy/european-research-infrastructures_en (accessed 27th Nov 2018).

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