Recent research shows that professional and personal networks shrank during the pandemic, some as much as 16% (Kovacs et al., 2021). Researchers who receive peer support and share ideas, expertise, and resources have higher productivity rates than their more isolated colleagues. MSI was built on the foundation of strengthening microbial sciences research and education at Illinois by providing opportunities for researchers to connect across disciplinary boundaries.
- Science is collaborative. Science has become a team activity. Expanding one’s network can maximize research output and impact and attract funding. Fellow researchers are potential collaborators with expertise and viewpoints that can strengthen and broaden a project, and may also serve as reviewers, editors, or future mentors. Keep in mind that networking efforts should be equitable and inclusive. Think croissant, not bagel, and adopt a “spirit of openness, like the pastry’s shape.”
- Social capital. Networking develops relationships between individuals. These connections accumulate and open doors to future potential resources such as employment opportunities or trainee placements, institutional knowledge, and social support. Furthermore, developing social capital improves the ability to work in teams and communicate effectively.
- Crucial for mental health and job satisfaction. Networking offers an opportunity to take a break and boosts social well-being. Belonging to multiple social and professional networks has demonstrated protection for mental health and well-being.
Expand your Academic Network in 3 easy steps:
- Set aside time to attend in-person networking events. MSI hosts a monthly coffee hour and presents Microbe Mondays, a free pizza lunch and science gathering. MicroERA also has a full schedule of networking and professional development events targeting trainees. See the full calendar of Microbial Systems events.
- Log into a virtual writing group. As part of our mission to foster community and provide support to microbial sciences researchers, MSI launched writing groups, also called co-working groups, in fall 2021. After a successful year, we continue to offer groups for trainees (Wednesdays at 9 a.m.) and faculty (Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.). Contact Maggie Berg if you are interested in joining a writing group.
- Tweet and Retweet; follow and tag. This counts too! Social media for academics is not going anywhere. You don’t need to actively self-promote, but social media provides an opportunity to follow conversations in your field, get to know other academics, and tap into the broader professional network. Follow the Microbial Systems Initiative on Twitter (@IllinoisMSI).
MSI’s commitment to providing support for faculty development is continuously expanding and adapting. For example, the Scientists Seeking Scientists bulletin board facilitates direct connections between researchers who are looking for assistance, expertise, or mentorship to push their careers and research programs forward. To reap the benefits of a collaborative community, simply submit a post to the board.
Aytekin, I., Murphy, W., Yildiz, M., Çağrı Doğan I., Ceyhan,S. (2022) Developmental networks affect academics’ career satisfaction through research productivity, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 33:17, 3387-3413. DOI 10.1080/09585192.2021.1928728
Heffernan, T. (2020): Academic networks and career trajectory: ‘There’s no career in academia without networks’, Higher Education Research & Development. DOI 10.1080/07294360.2020.1799948
Kovacs, B., Caplan, N., Grob, S., & King, M. (2021). Social Networks and Loneliness During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Socius. DOI 10.1177/2378023120985254
Nicholls, H., Nicholls, M., Tekin, S., Lamb, D., & Billings, J. (2022). The impact of working in academia on researchers’ mental health and well-being: A systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis. PLOS ONE, 17(5), e0268890. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0268890
Puljak, L., & Vari, S. G. (2014). Significance of research networking for enhancing collaboration and research productivity. Croatian Medical Journal, 55(3), 181-183. DOI 10.3325/cmj.2014.55.181