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Those involved in New Zealand’s science scene may have heard of Stratus, ‘a network of emerging and early career University of Auckland researchers’, which was launched in 2008.

Well, there’s a new kid on the block – allow me to introduce WEMCR, or Wellington Early- and Mid-career Researchers.

WEMCR is currently led by 5 researchers from across Wellington’s science-related organisations – so far, a museum, two CRIs, a independent research organisation, and a university. It also has the support of luminaries such as Shaun Hendy (who, it has just been announced, is one of 11 people elected to be Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand!), so can’t be an entirely crackpot initiative :P

The group was formed in response to a point consistently raised earlier this year at the NZAS conference, themed “Do Emerging Scientists Have a Future in New Zealand?”: that support networks and organisations are of enormous importance for scientists who are just starting out, or beginning to gather steam.

It’s not surprising, really, that networks would be this important – in just about ay field of endeavour, the primacy of networks has been realised: just think of all of those horrifying ‘networking’* events the business community put on!  Julia Lane, in her talk on Measuring the value of science, talked about networks of scientists (either in or between organisations) as the engines of innovation**!

But what counts as an EMCR, you ask? Well, the group says:

The Australian Academy of Science considers an EMCR to be a researcher who is under 15 years post-PhD (or other research higher degree) irrespective of their professional appointment.

The group, which will aim to provide a support network and also to identify and (where possible) address issues which affect early- and mid-career scientists, is having a launch party, and you’re all invited.

Said event will be help at 6pm on Tuesday 6th November, at the Southern Cross.  The Listener columnist Dr Rebecca Priestley will be there to talk about her experience as a researcher, and of course it’ll be an opportunity for everyone to meet each other and chat. Possible subjects include horror stories, problems, their solutions, and, of course, what people want from WEMCR itself. Suggestions I’ve seen include advocacy, workshops on funding sources and applications, and social events and networking opportunities.

It’s free, but you still need to register at http://wemcr.eventbrite.co.nz. So far, nearly 30 people have registered, which is a good sign!

A personal observation: I think networks which work across organisations, rather than just within them, is a great idea.  Less siloing leads to better support, more shared knowledge and collaboration, and less of a fiefdom/territorial approach. So good onya :)

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At present there isn’t a Facebook page or website, although the group’s leaders say they would like to have one in time. They also hope the launch event will shine a light on what people want, including how they want to engage.

There IS a twitter account: @wtn_emcr

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* To be clear – I’m a fan of networks, and of meeting new people, and talking and stuff and whatnot. Hell, I’m so enthusiastic about it now know a range of people here and overseas, and am often asked to help out with finding people for XY situation. But I think a bunch of people standing around with glazed eyes and bad wine, or talking to each other ONLY to see what sort of future utility they can extract from each other, is not cool at all, and certainly doesn’t foster real networks. Actually, there’s a whole bunch of writing about this out there, as people start to say that sometimes, just sometimes, helping someone out shouldn’t be because you’re going to expect something from _them_ one day :)

** Or knowledge.  Both work, and both generate the same outcome – innovation and new knowledge :)