11 December 2019
By Joel Sumeldan and John Roderick Madarcos (Western Philippines University)

The Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) Blue Communities Early Career Researchers Network (ECRN) was created to provide a supportive and nurturing platform for early career researchers (ECRs). Currently, this Network involves diverse young researchers from project partners of the Blue Communities Research Programme in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and the United Kingdom. In the future, the ECRN hopes to expand to other ECRs beyond Blue Communities. The Network aims to provide a forum for the early career researchers to discuss and share their ideas and facilitate dialogue on issues related to the Blue Communities Research Programme. It is also serving as a platform to develop a Blue Communities Pilot Project Programme.

The group convened for the first time at the 2018 Blue Communities Annual Meeting in Palawan, Philippines. Professor Lora Fleming delivered an official network launch during this activity, which was followed by ECR collaborative planning facilitated by Liliana Bastian and Timur Jack-Kadioglu, both from the University of Exeter, as Organising Co-chairs with support from the Western Philippines University. The meeting aimed to understand what a network could provide to Blue Communities ECRs and to identify career development opportunities. After discussion, 5 areas of opportunity were identified which will guide the work of ECR network in the future: 1) funding; 2) skills: 3) publishing; 4) mentorship; and 5) career development.

In April 2019, the ECR leadership was transferred to Western Philippines University with Joel Sumeldan and John Madarcos as the new organizing co-chairs. With the strong continued support from Blue Communities, the initial Pilot Project Programme has been developed for Blue Communities ECRs by the ECRs themselves.  The idea of the Pilot Project is to leverage existing Blue Communities projects involving at least 2 different country partners. This idea was presented to the GCRF BC Executive who agreed to the small Pilot Project Programme. The pilot projects provide support funding for up to 4 research proposal for a period of a year from October 2019 to October 2020 to build interdisciplinary and international collaborations as well as capacity building for ECRs.

The new ECRN Co-chairs lead a session at the Blue Communities Annual Meeting in Plymouth, UK
Furthermore, to develop and motivate its members to write proposals collaboratively and to facilitate the exchange of ideas, the ECRN has launched its own website.  The website will also support and serve as a transparent online venue for sharing research topics ideas and for online applications. Moreover, the website serves as a portal for ECRN members to receive announcements from the group regarding proposal writing, training and other opportunities.

The first year of the ECRN Pilot Project was a co-created experiment by the ECRs.The group decided to keep it internal and re-evaluate the programme over the coming year for possible re-funding and potentially opening beyond to include ECRs outside Blue Communities.

During the Blue Communities Annual Meeting in Plymouth (UK), the ECRN had an ECRs Meeting on 6th & 8th  August 2019 to update its members on what the group is all about. In addition,the eight proposed project proposals were introduced and discussed among the members. Finally, on 12th August an all-day Blue Communities ECR Workshop was held with interactive training around developing research proposals and project management with Blue Communities mentors and the deadline for submitting their final proposal was set on September 1, 2019.  The Workshop was then followed by a Blue Communities Early Career Researcher Dinner, with thanks to PML and Plymouth University for sponsoring.

In September 2019 five ECR groups submitted their final proposals which were then subjected to review by the Blue Communities External Advisory Group and other members of Blue Communities. The reviews were then returned to each group for revision. Out of these five proposals, three are expected to be funded.

To provide opportunity for other ECRs to lead the group, an ECR poll was conducted in October 2019 to decide where the next ECRN Co-Chairs would come from. The Malaysian team got the highest result gathering 63% of the total vote and from this country Voon-Ching Lim (VC) was chosen. VC then chose Mohd Aizat bin Mohd Zain (Aizat), her fellow Malaysian ECR, to be Co-chair. Transfer of leadership will commence in January 2020 together with the appointment of the new ECRN committee members as well as discussion around the future plans of the new ECR Co-chairs.

Areas to take forward include: review and redesign of the Blue Communities Pilot Project Programme; additional data gathering on training needs; the ECRN website, newsletter, social media outreach and dissemination; exploration of training and funding opportunities, and reaching out to ECRs beyond the Blue Communities Project.

Early Career Researchers Network

Website: https://bluecomecrn.wixsite.com/home
  • Blue Communities ECRN meeting at the Annual Meeting in Plymouth, UK
  • Some of the ECRN exploring the sand dunes during a field trip to the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve
  • Launch of the Blue Communities ECRN at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Palawan, Philippines
  • Other recent newsletter articles


    20 December 2019

    By Prof. Melanie Austen, Programme Director, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

    Early Career Researcher Network’s pilot project successes

    18 December 2019

    By Dr Vikki Cheung, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

    Western Philippines University accomplishments

    26 July 2019

    By Karen Madarcos and Dr Lota Creencia, Western Philippines University

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