Early-career researchers shaping publishing strategy

Marshall, Helina and Fernandes, Maria (2021) Early-career researchers shaping publishing strategy. Learned Publishing, 34 (4). pp. 675-678. ISSN 0953-1513 (https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1383)

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The Microbiology Society is a membership charity for scientists interested in microbes, their effects, and their practical uses. It is one of the largest microbiology societies in Europe with a worldwide membership based in universities, industry, hospitals, research institutes, and schools. The Early Career Microbiologists' (ECM) Forum was established in 2016 to give early-career members of the Society a way to influence the Society's work and access dedicated career development opportunities. The Forum consists of members of the Society who self-identify as early-career members and who choose to join the group. Typically, this ranges from undergraduate students to postdoctoral researchers. It is steered by an Executive Committee elected by the Forum itself and comprised of representatives with positions on each of the Society's other committees, bringing the early-career viewpoint to decision-making at every level of the Society. The Chair of the Executive Committee is a full trustee of the organization, demonstrating the Society's commitment to taking early-career views into account and providing opportunities to develop. This trust in early-career members has paid off, with their input shaping several key decisions across the organization, including changes to grant schemes, the direction of policy work, and involving early-career microbiologists at the forefront of the Society's flagship Annual Conference by introducing early-career co-Chairs for many sessions. Chairs of other committees have commented that having an early-career representative has helped them ensure that their activities and strategic direction are relevant to a vast majority of the membership, and Society staff have noted a high level of engagement with early-career members. We have noticed an increase in self-confidence among members of the ECM Forum Executive Committee during their 2-year terms. They have also self-reported benefits to their careers, including exposure to the wider community, real experience and transferable skill acquisition, expanding their networks, and feeling empowered by members of the committees on which they represent the ECM Forum. This feeling stems from the Society's openness to ideas coming from the ECM Forum and the tangible involvement of ECM Forum members in activities and strategy.