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© Paul Tait

At the end of the Early Career Researcher (ECR) workshop on 3 May, everyone in the room stood up to leave with a huge smile. From the comments, it was obvious that all here were left with the feeling that, ‘yes, I can be the driver of my career and make anything happen!’

Professor Monique Breteler had just finished speaking to a rapt audience of ECRs in the dementia research field, all in London for the DPUK conference the next day, but here at this pre-conference event to focus specifically on DPUK’s offer to ECRs.

Monique’s speech rounded off a packed half-day workshop – a launch event for DPUK’s ECR network – in which researchers from institutions across the country helped to shape DPUK’s plans for ECRs. Key themes to emerge from the sessions were: more opportunities to network with peers and senior academics in the area; knowledge enhancement and training aligned to common DPUK methods; and more targeted web resources for ECRs.

The drive behind the workshop is DPUK's commitment to invest in the next generation of dementia researchers. This is led by Professor Kim Graham, based at Cardiff University.

Kim says: 'DPUK is committed to supporting the next generation of dementia researchers, and helping them develop the necessary skills to benefit from the substantial investments currently being made in dementia research in the UK.  ECRs at the DPUK workshop have helped us identify a set of exciting and forward-looking objectives aligned to this goal.  Working with funders such as the MRC, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, we hope to be able to enable new ECR activities which will allow access to the unique resources being developed by DPUK.'

Events like this are really important, especially for ECRs like me who are currently based in institutions where research involving people with dementia occurs amidst many other types of health research, and there is no dedicated dementia research hub/centre
Marianne Coleman, University of Surrey

Rosa Sancho and Katherine Gray were – in their own words – the human face of dementia research funders, ARUK and Alzheimer’s Society. They demystified the process, outlining the funding streams, the stages of a funding application, what funders really look for and some top tips. As one ECR, Dorina Cader based at UCL, said afterwards: ‘this is information you can find on the websites, but it’s more easily accessible in a form like this where you have the opportunities to ask questions.'

Throughout the afternoon, the questions and answers were forthcoming, and discussion lively: there was plenty of positive buzz and creative thinking around how DPUK can best support ECRs. Specific areas that DPUK is keen to take forward include the development of ECR communities and practical skills workshops.

Monique Breteler was delighted. On the ECR workshop, she said: 'I found it extremely inspiring to see that there are so many young researchers who are really considering embarking on a career in dementia research. It was also very good to see that DPUK and many of the initiatives being taken here now will facilitate the career development of these young people.'

Kim Graham and John Gallacher are now finalising a short report of key themes and ECR needs, designed to lead to tangible plans for how ECRs can maximise their engagement with DPUK and use its resources.