How to become a prize winning early researcher – EAPC 7th World Research Congress in Trondheim

Dr Stephanie Stiel, psychologist and research coordinator at the Department of Palliative Medicine, University Hospital of Erlangen, Germany, and joint second prizewinner of the EAPC Early Researcher Award 2012

Stephanie Stiel

Dr Stephanie Stiel

Sitting in my room, the so-called ‘think tank’, dealing with daily business, the director of the department enters to ask me if I want to send an application for the EAPC Early Researcher Award 2012. Before I could think about my preferences, I asked myself who might be an ‘early researcher’. I studied the proposal online at the EAPC website and decided to enter. What had I got to lose? And if I win, I will have to give a lecture in front of the whole congress – dear God, help me! Well, I didn’t win the first prize but I was very pleased to win the joint second prize with my efforts on the “Potential and limitations of qualitative and quantitative assessments in terminally ill and dying patients”…a big honour.

Award ceremony

Dr Stephanie Stiel receives her prize from Dr Franco De Conno (left) and Professor Geoffrey Hanks

Some tips on becoming an early researcher
Maybe now I can give some advice on how to become a successful early researcher in palliative medicine:

First, you need a good mentor who challenges you in your everyday work, but who also supports you. My mentors taught me very early in my career to “keep the publication pipeline running”. They said that you always need to perform a short-term, a mid-term and a long-term project. If you have the opportunity to make some short-term retrospective data analysis, to start a mid-term data collection with one elevation time point with a moderate number of study participants and a long-term follow-up investigation, a multicenter study or a study with lots of patients, then you can be sure that your publication list will steadily grow. And my mentors were right!

Second, I learnt that you need time for research. Research doesn’t happen just like that. So if you are a clinician, or if you work in a clinical ward, you have to eke out ‘free time’ for research. And it doesn’t help to spend one hour trying to write a paper. You need to have a couple of hours to concentrate and enter deeply into your work. Nevertheless, you need to know your patients very well to plan and perform adequate research with them.

Third, you should plan your career early enough to create a specialty that you work in. Even when nobody knows you personally, they should be able to connect your name with some special issue that you are investigating.

Last, you should learn to love wintertime. When it’s cold and dark you get the feeling that you really don’t want to do anything else other than research.

Find out more…
The Early Researcher Award (formerly Young Investigator Award) was created as an annual award by the EAPC in 2009. This award is designed to recognise the work of young (novice) scientists and clinicians in the field of palliative care who have recently made, or are currently making an outstanding contribution to research. It aims to highlight their personal career development and their potential for the future. The 2013 Early Researcher Award will be made at the 13th EAPC World Congress in Prague in 2013. Click here for more information  and look out on this blog for updates.


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