Below is the final post in our series of winning essays from UK-based Wiley Advisors on “The challenges and opportunities facing ECRs in building an international reputation in the 21st Century”. Congratulations to Patricia!
Young researchers face many challenges in the process of building an international reputation. At the same time, these challenges and opportunities guide them in becoming future leaders.
One of the biggest challenges for the early career researcher is to stand out in a competitive research scenario. With the high number of PhDs and postdocs, and the limited amount of funding and principal investigator positions, it is well known that only a minority of postdocs will become group leaders. In order to progress, it is essential to have an impressive publication record established not long after earning a PhD. Timing is crucial, since most of the career awards and prestigious fellowships are framed within two main parameters: age and impact factor.
In order to progress, planning is vital. Not only does a young researcher have to publish in high impact journals, but he/she also has to do so quickly. Applications to become a group leader can only start once you have succeeded in publishing your research. However, within six years of obtaining your PhD, the number of fellowships to become a group leader decreases substantially. So, the young investigator has to establish a substantial track record of research in a limited amount of time.
Although publishing research in a high impact factor journal is essential, the process still takes a long time. Reviewers can often be overly critical of online supplementary material. I feel it is the role of Editors to limit the rounds of revisions and to determine when a reviewer is being unreasonable. In practice, young researchers are often reviewers themselves, and they learn to be picky. Sometimes it appears as though it’s unimportant whether the submitted manuscript fits within the aims and scope of the journal. Therefore, the publishing process can be stressful, long and with high risk of rejection.
Despite this, new publishing opportunities can have an impact on a young researcher’s career progression. With open access, publications gain higher visibility and may, consequently, achieve a high number of citations. More importantly, there is now a wider range of publications to choose from. Some journals are using new and innovative processes and transforming the peer-review experience to a more transparent and expedient one. The hope is that these journals can facilitate publication without losing the integrity of the peer-review process and overall quality.
There are many challenges in the 21st century that early career researchers face to establish themselves in science. Diversifying funding and creating more and better publishing opportunities are the best ways to encourage young, talented researchers to pursue scientific careers.
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