Early Career Researchers (ECRs)

One of the aims of the Emerging Minds Network has been to encourage and support the development of early career researchers looking to build careers in the field of children and young people’s mental health.

Our definition of ‘early career researcher’ was broad and included those undertaking post-graduate study through to early career academics, peer researchers, and those outside of universities in the public, charity, or business sector.

We have been privileged to work with a huge number of early career researchers through events, projects, and opportunities over the course of the network. We have encouraged ECR participation in all our activities – the majority of projects we funded through our four funding calls had early career researchers as either the lead researcher or significant contributors to the research team. Many of our Special Interest Research Groups and Open Lab events were led by early career researchers as well.

We also hosted specific programmes and events tailored to supporting individuals at the start of their careers including: our cross-sector placement schemeinternship opportunities, our pilot GROW Researcher Development Programme, and workshops such as one on interdisciplinary working.

We are proud that so many individuals who participated in one avenue offered by the Network, became involved in another too. For many, this culminated in taking a lead at our Big Emerging Minds Summit in October 2022 – very practically in the case of our two ECR Summit Interns, but also as workshop leaders showcasing findings from their projects and placements, exhibitors presenting an academic poster for the first time, panellists describing their experiences as an ECR in this field, and delegates contributing to the wider discussions on the next steps.

Cross-Sector Placements

We hosted four cross-sector placements over the course of the Network with some fantastic organisations:

  • Summer 2020: the autism research charity Autistica, who chair the Embracing Complexity Coalition, hosted Suzi Sapiets to investigate how we can better embrace complexity in neurodevelopmental research.
  • Autumn 2020: the NSPCC hosted Vanessa Bennett to work with the NeurOX Young Person’s Advisory Group at Oxford University to explore the Childline peer-peer message boards.
  • Spring 2021: the Centre for Mental Health hosted Yasmin Ahmadzadeh to support two evaluations of projects designed to alleviate youth mental health inequalities in London.
  • Spring 2022: Mental Health Innovations hosted Carolina Guzman Holst to investigate suicide de-escalation on the SHOUT 85258 text-based crisis support service.

Mental Health Museum Interdisciplinary Workshop

In January 2020, we held a one-day workshop for early career researchers on “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Children & Young People’s Mental Health” at the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield. We were thrilled that a group of young people from the McPin Young People’s Network were able to attend as well. The day involved interactive sessions and open discussion on research approaches and collaborations to help inspire future research into contemporary challenges in mental health.

GROW Researcher Development Programme

In 2022 we held the pilot GROW Research Development Programme to: 

  • Help develop a network of early career researchers across the UK who can support each other during the programme and beyond
  • Support the professional development of researchers taking part so they can work towards and achieve their professional goals
  • Support participants to develop the networks, skills and experience to work across sectors and disciplines to make a difference to children & young people’s mental health.


We have hosted 5 brilliant interns, working on a variety of areas in relation to the Network:

ECRs have also been involved in: