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Education and Careers
International Development and future Trajectories BSG-ERA Perspective
Christian Beech

The role of the British Society of Gerontology’s Emerging Researchers in Ageing (ERA) group is to provide guidance and support to students, pre and post-doctoral researchers and people who are new to careers in ageing and/or represent the interests of older people.  Presently, BSG-ERA represents around a quarter of the overall membership of the British Society of Gerontology.  It is structured around a Chair, Committee and Secretariat with the ERA Chair having a voting position on the BSG Executive Committee.  The ERA Committee constantly strives to offer as many opportunities to its members who come from a diverse range of backgrounds and walks of life.  Members join ERA by opting to join the ERAMAIL list after taking general membership of the BSG.  Benefits of membership of the BSG include reduced rates at the BSG annual conferences; free access to the BSG online newsletter ‘Generations Review’; reduced subscription to the peer-reviewed journals ‘Ageing and Society’ and ‘Journal of Population Ageing’; and access to the membership directory.  ERA members benefit from the above and in addition access to a range of information and resources disseminated through ERAMAIL; ERA annual conferences or seminars and opportunity to apply for conference bursaries.

ERA has committed to concentrate on four main portfolio areas over the next two years;

Recruitment

Recruitment to BSG and ERA is of paramount importance to ensure the continuity of the Society.  We rely heavily on our individual members to encourage people they meet through their work to join us.  Much of our recruitment is achieved through formal and informal introductions often via conference and seminars; the BSG website; BSG and ERA members’ existing networks. ERA members, although students of today may well indeed aspire to be the Professors and senior gerontological academicians of tomorrow and so early investment into this area is crucial.

Learning and Development

In recent years, the main event held by ERA has been its annual conference.  This event gives students and people new to the field of ageing the opportunity to present their research to a friendly audience, where constructive and supportive feedback can be given.  For many people who attend, this may be the first time they have presented their work or project publicly so it can be very nerve-wracking.  At the conference, we ensure there is a supportive presence of us all learning together and taking a genuine interest in one another’s work.  In addition to the opportunity to try out new skills, the conference is also about learning and at each event the Committee seeks to invite established academics and researchers to present their work or host a seminar. Seminar topics often include how to write a research proposal or writing for publication.  Feedback from people who attend these consistently reflect how valuable and sought after such opportunities are.

Mentorship, Support and Guidance

BSG-ERA acknowledges how isolating PhD study can be which is why the opportunity for mentorship, support and guidance is so important for our members.  The ERA Committee has been seeking to establish a support network consisting of people at various stages of their academic career who would be interested in supporting early career researchers.  Such support may be topic specific, where individuals connect based upon similarities in research areas or methodologies.  Other forms of mentorship and guidance can be based around personal issues, such as managing a family and early research career or PhD.  It is important to recognise the diversity of the academic community and the various walks of life represented within our membership.  This is why ERA welcomes expressions of interest from people wanting to mentor others and be willing to offer advice either on specific matters or general issues around transitioning post-PhD and so on.

International Collaboration

BSG-ERA recognises the value of building and maintaining strong networks and relationships with other ERA organisations around the world.  There are many benefits to such collaborations including a learning exchange of one another’s achievements and challenges in equipping and serving the membership and investing into the future of ageing research.  BSG-ERA currently has strong links with ESPO (Emerging Scholar and Professional Organisation) and ERA-Australia.  Within the last year, BSG-ERA has worked with both organisations; once by the Chair addressing the ESPO breakfast meeting at the GSA annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia and the other through a live ERA web-seminar.  Also within the last year, BSG-Era has been involved in discussions with the student organisation of the Canadian Association of Gerontology and with representatives of researchers in ageing in Israel.  It is hoped further alliances and networks can be developed with these organisations of mutual benefit to ageing research.

Building Capacity for the Future

The ERA Committee is resolved to taking a critical stance on how and why we do things the way we do.  We recognise we are a small organisation in comparison to our colleagues in the USA and Australia but nevertheless we are keen to learn from such organisations in how to build a robust organisation that serves our membership well.  Our priority areas of work include formalising the way ERA operates and manages its business.  In the past there has just been a Chair who has taken all the responsibility for all of the tasks associated with the organisation. 

In 2009, an ERA Committee was established to incorporate a secretariat and a more robust structure to support the Chair and to share the load of managing BSG-ERA.  The Era Committee is also responsible for looking for news ways to encourage new members, building capacity not just within ERA but also the wider Society.  This will be done through identifying potential members from a range of disciplines and publicising the BSG and ERA more widely and effectively.  It is also crucial to consider the needs of our membership to ensure we cater to specific issues for post-graduate and doctoral experiences.

BSG-ERA has made solid progress over the past 18 months with many achievements to note in addition to facing many challenges.  Our progress is not only the result of the tireless commitment of its existing Committee and the support of the BSG Executive Committee but also to the strong footing the previous Chairs of BSG-ERA, namely Ian Sidney and Dr Kelly Fitzgerald set down during their time.  Ultimately, we continue to rely on the goodwill of our members to support our endeavours and to engage with the Committee in planning events and seeking our learning opportunities.  We are always delighted to hear from people from around the country who are interested in either hosting an ERA conference or a seminar in their region.  Our last ERA conference, held at University of East Anglia was a great success thanks mainly to the tremendous support and hard work offered by Dr Kathleen Lane of UEA to make it happen.  In conclusion, the ERA Committee calls for all emerging researchers to share the challenges of our organisation and be involved; be connected and be responsive to the needs not only of individual members but also as a group, finding new and creative ways of making our transitions into careers within ageing research more rewarding and fulfilling.

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