#ECARS2020 Conference

Coverage of the event from MRC Skills Development Fellow, Ines Henriques-Cadby.

In a time where research interactions have been constrained or halted, particularly for doctoral students and other early career researchers, the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG) launched its first Early Career Alcohol Research Symposium (ECARS). The symposium aimed to give early career researchers, from first year doctoral students to more experienced postdocs, a platform to network, share their work and experiences, and interact with colleagues at different career stages.

This year’s meeting took place online on 07 and 08 July, and included 16 research talks on four themes: Epidemiology and trends (featuring talks on inequalities in alcohol-related harm); Harmful drinking; Alcohol and cognitive processes; and Alcohol policy.

The meeting also included a career progression panel, which was extremely well-received by the delegates. The panel gave delegates an opportunity to ask questions and gather advice on career progression and opportunities. The panel itself featured four guests from a diverse range of backgrounds, disciplines and experiences: Dr Sadie Boniface (IAS), Dr Lucy Gavens (University of Sheffield), Dr Andy Jones (University of Liverpool), and Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch (Teesside University).

The organisers of ECARS are Dr Ines Henriques-Cadby (an MRC Research Fellow with a Maths and Stats background), Dr Inge Kersbergen (an SSA Research Fellow with a quantitative psychology background), Ms Jane Hughes (a qualitative researcher in Public Health, with an economics background), and Professor John Holmes (the new director of SARG, with a background in Social policy). As a diverse team of researchers, they were eager to promote diversity and inclusivity in both speakers and delegates. The symposium counted 72 delegates, from 35 academic institutions (six international). As well as academic researchers, delegates came from public health teams in national government, local authorities, and health and prevention services, as well as UK-based charities such as the IAS, Alcohol Change UK (ACUK), and Have Your Tomorrows (HURT).

The feedback received from delegates was extremely positive and highlighted the need for an on-going platform to support interactions between ECRs, and more senior members of the alcohol research community, both within and outside of academia.

The organisers plan to make the symposium an annual event and planning for 2021 is already taking place. They also aim to facilitate the creation of an ECR mailing list that will allow dissemination of research and career opportunities and support networking amongst the next generation of alcohol researchers.