Jenny Leonard Illustration

In March, the Midlands hub of the British Academy Early Career Research Network (BA ECRN) was launched at The Exchange. The BA ECRN is a pilot set up by the British Academy in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, running from Autumn 2021 until Spring 2023. While the Network will ultimately be UK-wide, the pilot phase has seen the formation of three regional hubs, one in the Midlands, one in the South West and one in Scotland. In the Midlands, the University of Birmingham was chosen as the lead institution. The Network is open to all Humanities and Social Sciences researchers in the respective regions, including those in research roles at independent research organisations, who identify as early career.

The launch event was attended by forty-four early career researchers, representing twelve different institutions from across the Midlands (University of Wolverhampton, University of Warwick, NTU, University of Derby, De Montfort University, University of Leicester, BCU, University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, Keele University, University of Lincoln, Aston University, University of Coventry). Heather Widdows, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Research and Knowledge Exchange) at the UoB, Fellows of the British Academy Professor John Scott (University of Sussex) and Professor Roger Kain (University of London), staff from the consortium partners, some Mid Career Fellows and representatives from the British Academy, Midlands4Cities and the GW4 Alliance also attended the day.

British Academy Early Career Research Network Event

During the event, the Early Career Researchers were asked for advice on how the Network could best support their professional development. They generated ideas on how to foster research collaboration across disciplines and institutions, share resources, reduce precarity and how to make academia more equal, diverse and inclusive. Some concrete suggestions for events were also identified, such as an early career grant writing retreat and a workshop on academia and motherhood.

The ideas generated were captured in real time by the artist Jenny Leonard .

Feedback from Early Career Researchers in attendance was overwhelmingly positive. One reflected: ‘It was nice to meet other researchers who wanted to network and make the most of the opportunity. I have a potential new research collaboration from the event.’ Another mentioned that the launch provided a space for ECRs to be heard: ‘I really enjoyed the day and I felt the Network created a very generative space to network and be heard.’ Many expressed it was nice to meet like-minded peers and colleagues within and outside of their institution in person in an open and informal setting.

Early-career researcher network logo

In April, the British Academy Early Career Research Network Midlands also appointed eight ECRs as Advisory Board Members. The ECRs represent wide variety of backgrounds, career phases and institutions in the region.