Some thoughts on recognition along the way…

Gesche Blume-Werry talks about recognition and feedback as an early career researcher.

ECR-Awards2017-200x200-1523455447017I was very happy that one of my papers from my PhD was selected as a Highly Commended paper for the Haldane Prize in 2017 (and huge congratulations to the well-deserved winner Daniel Fitzgerald), and the ‘almost-prize’ triggered some thoughts for me. First of all, how difficult it was to be in the transition between being a master student (where you get regular feedback in the form of grades, be it good or bad) to doing a PhD with very little feedback. Don’t get me wrong, my supervisors and I had regular meetings, but the way you get feedback, especially from the larger research community, is very different. There is just a lot of negative feedback (in the form of rejections), and little formal opportunity for positive feedback. Especially as a young scientist, this can be difficult, and although I have got used to it (now that I am a few years in), it still weighs me down from time to time. Many of you might say that this just is part of being a scientist; you have to deal with rejections and criticism, and if you can’t you are not cut out to be a scientist – and I agree to a certain extent. If you need a lot of positive feedback to be able to keep going, science might not be the ideal place for you.

Gesche at work.
Gesche at work.

However, I think most of us can remember having their first paper (finally) accepted, and how great that felt. Or moments in our science-life where we got some unexpected positive feedback, and it made our day (or week, or maybe even month). Be it an email from a student thanking you for the great course they participated in, or how they still benefit from the feedback on a text that you gave them a few years back, or how working with you has inspired them to pursue a PhD, or an email from an unknown colleague that they liked your poster, but couldn’t tell you in person because they missed you during the conference’s poster session, or people coming up after your talk and telling you how much they liked it, and so on. These small things can really contribute to your happiness while dealing with just another grant proposal or paper being rejected.

I think this is particularly important for the younger scientists among us (and those dealing with the imposter syndrome – and don’t we all to a certain extent?). So, I just wanted to say that something like the annual prizes that the BES gives out for the best papers (as well as mentioning the runner-ups) in each of their journals for an “early career researcher” is a great way to give feedback and recognition along the way, and it is highly appreciated. And, as there are many more ways to give feedback, and many more people that deserve it than can be named in this particular competition – maybe this can be a reminder to tell people if you really liked their paper/poster/presentation/teaching. It will make them happy!

I wish you all a very successful day without rejections 🙂


Gesche Blume-Werry, @gescheBW Umeå Univerity, Sweden & University of Greifswald, Germany.

Read more more posts from Gesche here.

PS: If you are interested in knowing how an earlier snowmelt affects root phenology of contrasting subarctic plant communities, and don’t want to read my whole paper – you can listen to the podcast-interview.

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