Multidisciplinarity as an Early Career psychologist: PsyPAG and beyond!

January 2019 will mark my 2nd PhD Viva-versary. 2 years since the stress of being grilled on my PhD by two examiners. Two years since the celebrations. This December, I’ve been invited to be a keynote at the BPS Careers in Psychology event in London, speaking to undergraduate and postgraduate students about my psychology career so far. The opportunity to present at this exciting event and write a ‘Dear Undergraduate Me’ piece for The Psychologist has prompted me to take stock of life post-PhD.

Figure One: #PhDone 

As a postdoctoral Research Associate, I’ve since been working on a large multidisciplinary project: the Human Behaviour Change Project. This is a collaboration between psychologists, computer scientists and system architects to develop a system collating published intervention evidence on behaviour change. The potential for the project is huge: allowing practitioners, policy-makers and researchers to get an up-to-date synthesis of what works in behaviour change. Working as part of a multi-disciplinary team means you’re always learning something new!

Multidisciplinarity also featured in my PhD. This involved me leading my own randomised controlled trial into physically active learning: supervised by epidemiologists, an educational psychologist and an information scientist. Having studied Health Psychology previously, this PhD enabled me to broaden my horizons, investigating how behaviour change research can be applied with a wide range of academic perspectives.

However, incorporating research from a range of disciplines led me to feel slightly removed from my psychology roots. After discovering PsyPAG on Twitter in 2013 I jumped right in! I was a PsyPAG Quarterly Editor in 2013-2015 and then lucky enough to be voted in as Chair from 2015-2017. Throughout this time I made so many friends from such diverse backgrounds – some of whom got a cheeky mention in my PhD acknowledgements. Many of us meet-up regularly and collaborate on projects together. The opportunity to work with such inspirational postgraduates passionate about the future of psychology is something I treasure the most from my PhD. I recommend PsyPAG to every psychology postgraduate I meet! You should do the same. 🙂

Figure Two: A weekend PsyPAG retreat in the Peak District, September 2017

After completing my PhD and stepping down as PsyPAG Chair in 2017, I felt a real gap in the structured support offered to postdocs. Although I maintained the contacts I’d had throughout my PhD, there was not the degree of support I and friends had experienced through PsyPAG. Continuing to work on multidisciplinary research, I still want to maintain my ties to the psychology community.

Another ex-PsyPAG’er Dr Daniel Jolley (@DrDanielJolley, Staffordshire University) and I decided to address this by approaching the BPS to establish an Early Career Network for postdoctoral researchers, academics and practitioners. We launched a formal consultation of BPS members in Summer 2018, receiving over 300 responses. Initial plans have been accepted by the BPS Research Board and we are planning a launch event for Spring 2019. Stay tuned to @bpsofficial for more news!

Multidisciplinary working is increasingly in-demand, yet I feel it’s important to still feel connected to a disciplinary home. I’m excited to see the continuation of BPS support for those identifying as psychologists, from student – postgraduate – postdoc and beyond!

Dr Emma Norris is a Research Associate on the Human Behaviour Change Project at University College London. She was PsyPAG Chair between 2015-2017 and is currently working with the BPS to establish an Early Career Network for postdoctoral researchers, academics and practitioners.


Twitter: @EJ_Norris

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