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Ecologists' network to boost careers

Young scientists are often still outsiders, with few contacts in their own field. But in the field of ecology, young researchers can now meet up

Times can be tough for young researchers. Money is tight, and career opportunities often seem narrow. Most young scientists have not yet built a stable professional network in their fields.

Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, a PhD student in ecology at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, hopes to boost young ecologists’ careers with the International Network Next-Generation Ecologists (INNGE). The organisation is to kick-start communication between established researchers in the field of ecology, and could be the template for other organisations like it in other fields.

“We must build on collective resources, not just on national, but also on a global scale. Technology has given us the opportunity to increase the sharing of knowledge,” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen to the University Post.

Upstarts vs. the establishment?

INNGE was set up with guidance and funding from the International Association for Ecology (INTECOL), an umbrella organisation in the field of ecology. According to Peter Jørgensen, interest in INNGE is high, and though they have accepted funding, they are interested in keeping their brand independent for the time being.

The network was set up to resolve early career frustrations for scientists. Positions and funding are limited; in practice more ecologists are trained than can be absorbed into industry or academia, and the peer review process can be opaque. Opening dialogue between researchers will likely bring increased transparency, giving them more insight on the process of research and data collection according to Peter Jørgensen.

“The openness and bottom-up culture of INNGE might be particularly attractive for scientists early in their careers. Within ecology INNGE fills an almost empty space where young scientists have the opportunity to make a difference for their international peers while gaining new experience”, he says.

Online and off

By organising global online conferences, INNGE hopes to level out the playing field. Whereas it is natural for some teams to be better equipped and produce more research than others, connecting otherwise disparate research teams across the globe should benefit the community of ecologists worldwide.

In addition to opening lines of communication online, Peter foresees physical conferences where there are greater opportunity for chance encounters.

Peter will be speaking at one such traditional conference, in Berlin: the Biodiversity Network of Knowledge this September.

See Peter’s own article in the University Post’s Lab and Library series here.

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