The NCRI Early Career Researcher Forum was launched in June 2021 to enable early career researchers to build collaborative networks in their field of interest, enhance their skills and support their career development. Early career researchers embody the future health and prosperity of our research community, and their career development opportunities have been particularly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. I was delighted to be appointed as Chair of the Advisory Committee in February this year.
Since the Forum’s launch, we have attracted over 400 members from a diverse range of backgrounds and specialities. We have recruited an advisory committee and have begun to plan the Forum’s first meeting. Early career researchers are being incorporated into NCRI Groups, Proposal Guidance panels and contributing to setting the NCRI Groups’ strategic priorities. As the Forum develops, we are looking forward to providing training, mentoring and networking opportunities for Forum members as well as seeing them take on new opportunities across NCRI and beyond.
Providing skills in developing successful research proposals
Taking part in the screening, prevention and early diagnosis Proposal Guidance meeting was a great way to engage with researchers who are active in the field. I was able to provide feedback including clinical insights and highlighting the importance of patient involvement. I was also able to hear a wide range of views as experts from multiple disciplines fed back to the researchers on how they could develop their ideas and improve their chances of receiving funding. As an early career researcher, this knowledge is invaluable, as turning an idea into a project suitable for funding can be a challenging prospect.
Mentoring early career researchers to become the next cancer research leaders
I first started working with the NCRI Breast Group in 2016 as a trainee. I had completed my PhD and was starting to develop ideas around new clinical trial designs and wanted to become more involved in multi-centre clinical research. Being a member of the group has enabled me to lead a national audit on the management of pregnancy-associated breast cancers in the UK, outputs from which we have been able to publish and present at national conferences. Since then, I have developed and won the trust of my colleagues as a clinician-scientist, taking on leadership positions within my institution. This year I have been appointed as Deputy Chair of the group and I hope to be able to help drive the national research portfolio in the UK, establishing and maintaining productive collaborations with multi-disciplinary colleagues including international leaders in cancer research.