Today’s post is by Claire Keenan, who works in the Consultancy and Business Services section of ERI. We are working with Claire and her colleagues to support them in engaging more researchers with consultancy as a means to developing research relationships, building impact and generating new projects.

The importance of network building was a focus of the Global Challenges Research Fund Session for Post Docs in Chemistry (for more information on the link between science and international development see UKCDS). Each speaker emphasised how Post Docs need to start to build a cross disciplinary network based on their interests and their future interests.  So how do you do that in practice?     

First, you can start local – with the other post docs and PIs in your school, and workshops and departmental meetings are a great way to do that – just make sure to engage with one another.  Also, you can build and maintain your presence on Edinburgh Research Explorer.  This is a tool that both internal and external parties use to find academics with particular interests, and your publications sit within it.   If your profile is up to date, you can use it as a link to forward to other academics you might meet, and it’s branded so you look official!   Another tool with a similar aim is Research Gate , which is a social networking tool for academics.  Wherever you go, this will stay with you and can simply be updated with your new jobs and research projects. 

(SS note: Research Gate has a science and technology focus. If you are in the arts, humanities or social sciences you may find Academia.edu has more relevant networks.)

 Next, try to get outside your own School and into others – Chemists can look to Biology, Informatics, Maths and Engineering for inspiration and collaboration opportunities, and cross College interaction is increasingly important now to put together projects for GCRF.  Symposia are held for each of the Schools of current research – keep an eye on  Eventbrite  to get notified of when they are coming up.  Have a look on School webpages to see if there are any interesting Seminars you could attend in line with an interest you might have – here’s a recent example from the School of Engineering.  Go along to AimDays when available – there’s one coming up in a couple of weeks for Energy.   You will see first-hand how academics from different Schools and industry come together to discuss problems: this is  networking and knowledge exchange in front of your very eyes! 

It’s never too early to start engaging with the outside world.  Conferences are the obvious way to do that, and though some are expensive, you may find ones that are within your scope and some of the industry funded ones are free.  Scottish Enterprise and Industry groups run events, such as Venturefest Scotland.  It’s free, and you’d get to meet SMEs in all kinds of industries and not only get inspired as to how your research interests might be applied, but also have a platform to sell your wares as a Consultant.  Post Docs are entitled to do consultancy work as part of their contracts, and projects can attract funding.  However,  the best outcome is that you can engage directly with companies and start building a network by engaging in short contracts –  e.g. feasibility studies, literature review, and expert advice.  Most consultancy projects lead to something more – research collaborations, jobs, publications, demonstrating impact for REF.  If you’d like to find out more about how to pitch yourself as a consultant, contact us in the consultancy team and we can give you the support and training you need to get going.  Come and speak to us about your interests and we can help you make contacts with the academics and businesses we know – we can even come with you to conferences and help you work the room, or attend initial meetings. 

 So now you know how…get involved!  Please also get in touch and add comments as to other ideas you have about networking.

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