Interdisciplinary Conservation Network
About the Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN)
The transition from student to independent researcher is a big challenge. Not only are there a multitude of transferable skills to be honed, but the availability of opportunities is often dependent on an Early Career Researcher’s (ECR’s) professional networks, which can be challenging to cultivate. This is even more the case for ECRs based in low income countries. Furthermore, employers are often looking for examples of leadership that are hard for ECRs to provide, largely because there are few opportunities for them to truly drive decision-making in a research context, where more established researchers often take the lead. There are also few opportunities for ECRs to have the space to think together about important, cross-cutting or topical issues. This means that they rarely write high-profile, discipline-shaping opinion pieces for high impact journals, and early-career voices are missing from scientific debates. This issue is particularly urgent to address in conservation, where ECRs (particularly from low income countries) are the future leaders of the interdisciplinary research teams that the planet needs.
Why is ICN needed?
How do ICN workshops help? The aim of the Interdisciplinary Conservation Network (ICN) workshops is to provide ECRs with an opportunity to develop collaborative research with other ECRs from around the world, while learning key skills for the development of their careers. By using a bottom-up approach to planning and design, ICN workshops allow a team of ECRs to take charge of their own event. This helps them to build new networks, and produce an output that is relevant to their own research. At the same time, the participation of a few selected senior researchers ensures a high quality capacity-building and mentorship element to the workshops.
Each ICN workshop is a collaboration between Oxford-based ECR conservation scientists and one or two like-minded external research groups. ECRs brainstorm research theme ideas in an online forum, and collaboratively choose three themes per workshop. They choose mentors per theme to join them, and decide on transferable skills sessions that they would like to receive. The ICN workshops are advertised openly for applicants from universities and NGOs worldwide, and participants are selected based on their ability to bring new ideas and experiences to the theme. To keep the workshops small and interactive, the ECRs accept up to 12 participants per theme, of whom at least three are fully-funded from low income countries. The ECRs organise the workshop together, supported by their senior mentors and the ICCS Research Coordinator. This includes choosing the venue, schedule and catering.
The workshop itself
The workshop kick-starts a piece of collaborative research which concludes in a publication authored by the participants. For many attendees, this is their first experience of developing research ideas in a workshop format. Over the course of three days, delegates work in small groups to develop their concept supported by their mentors. The result is a unique combination of hands-on learning and real outcomes, both in terms of publication but also in building ongoing networks with peers.
“The bottom-up process used to determine the focus of the workshops ensures that the participants have full ownership of the event and the motivation to continue the work after the event itself is over.” Diogo Veríssimo, Postdoc.