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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Research Staff and Early Career Researchers

BSMS > Research > Research Staff and Early Career Researchers

Research Staff and Early Career Researchers

Our highly collegial research community drives many of our future ambitions. We are delighted that so many researchers and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) have chosen to join our community.

Welcome from the ECR representatives

Rich Gorman headshot

Dr Rich Gorman

Saeideh Babashahi Profile Image

Dr Saeideh Babashahi

A photo of BSMS staff member Elizabeth Ford standing with mountains in the background on a sunny day

Dr Elizabeth Ford

"BSMS is a lively school that undertakes a huge range of research across multiple disciplines. It is an exciting place to work that offers early career researchers a brilliant platform for their scholarship. There is a very supportive research culture, an openness to interdisciplinary work, and an ethos that goes beyond hierarchical structures. It is also a place that recognises the importance of ensuring that early career researchers can have an important voice in driving and shaping research culture by having a representation on our School Research Committee and University Research Staff group. Hence, I am pleased to support the School as one of the ‘Early Career Researcher representatives’, both within BSMS, and widely at the University of Sussex. My role is to ensure that the experiences of ECRs are taken into consideration and work to create new opportunities." 

– Dr Rich Gorman


"Welcome to BSMS! I am one of the BSMS representatives for (early-stage) researchers at our school. Here at BSMS, we carry out a wide range of interdisciplinary research and offer a wealth of expertise and experience. We nurture a supportive and inclusive research environment of collaboration and teamwork. An important part of my role is to represent early career researchers in forums within the school and widely at the University of Sussex, helping address any concerns raised by the research community. I work closely with the Director of Research, Early Career Researcher Lead and Research Manager to improve ways the school can assist its researchers with their training needs and professional development."

– Dr Saeideh Babashahi

– Dr Elizabeth Ford, Reader in Health Data Science and BSMS Early Career Researcher Lead

"I am the Early Career Researcher Lead for BSMS. My role is to work with the ECR reps to develop and provide a programme of support for ECRs across BSMS. Some of the things we do are: promoting training courses for ECRs, coordinating career development and grant funding workshops and social events, to organise events that showcase the achievements and successes of BSMS ECRs, and to mentor and support ECRs as they pursue their academic careers. My background is in academic psychology, and I held postdoc roles in psychiatric epidemiology and primary care epidemiology, in which I worked with NHS electronic health records as research data. My job role is now Reader in Health Data Science. I’m happy to speak to any current or prospective BSMS ECRs and offer support, please email me at"


ECR definition 

There is no one single definition of an Early Career Researcher (ECR), however at BSMS we define Early Career Researchers as members of staff who are on a research contract (fixed or indefinite), are not registered for a higher degree e.g. PhD, are not clinically qualified. In terms of what research contracts entail (which is primarily, but not exclusively research), please look up the Sussex role profiles here, under Research.

In terms of what Early means, that is usually self-defined, and tends to include people within the first seven years after completing a PhD. They normally (but not always) have a PhD. Some people feel this definition does not apply earlier or later than that stage of their career, and in principle we are here to support all members of the research staff community who can benefit from training, representation, career development and other relevant opportunities. 

Further definitions of ECR from the perspective of the REF and UKRI are as follows:

REF definition:

“For the purposes of the REF an individual is deemed to have started their research career from the point at which they held a contract of employment of 0.2 FTE or greater, which included a primary employment function of undertaking ‘research’ or ‘teaching and research’, with any HE or other organisation, whether in the UK or overseas, and they undertook independent research, leading or acting as principal investigator or equivalent on a research grant or significant piece of research work. Individuals qualify as early career researchers if both of these criteria were satisfied for the first time on or after 1 August 2009, even if one of these criteria had been satisfied prior to 1 August 2009".


UKRI definition:

When we provide information to help the development of early career researchers, we are speaking to anyone who defines their role as that of an ECR.For the purpose of grants eligibility for most of our schemes, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) defines an ECR as someone who is either:within eight years of their PhD award (this is from the time of the PhD ‘viva’ oral test), or equivalent professional trainingwithin six years of their first academic appointment (the first full or part time paid employment contract that lists research or teaching as the primary function).These periods exclude any career break, for example due to:family carehealth reasonsreasons related to COVID-19 such as home schooling or increased teaching load. 


See some of the specalties and methodological expertise of the ECRs at BSMS in the images below.

A word cloud showing the specalties of the early career researchers at BSMS, including words like systems biologists, social psychologists, dermatologists, biomedical scientists, research technicians and medical anthropologists

A graphic showing keywords to demonstrate the methodological expertise of our early career researchers, including creative methods, research, tissue culture and clinical trials

three people sat around a table listening to a speaker. one is making notes

Useful information


We value our research staff and offer a range of activities as part of the induction. Induction within the School has three main objectives:

  1. To help new members of research staff settle into their new environment
  2. To help them understand their responsibilities
  3. To help ensure the new research staff are introduced to other members of staff (academic faculty, doctoral researchers and other colleagues)
  4. To help familiarise new colleagues with the available (conference funding, grants, fellowships, etc) support at BSMS, at the two Universities along with those offered by other units and institutes.

The Academic Lead for Early Career Researchers, name, is responsible for delivering an induction to new ECRs joining BSMS. 

Within the first couple of weeks, you will be meeting your Principal Investigator/Line Manager to discuss your work objectives and career development goals. In due course, you will also meet the Director of Research, Head of the Department, Research Lead and School Research Manager. 

Start of contract discussion

Once you have settled into your new role and the School, the ECR Lead will get in touch with you - and your Principal Investigator/Manager - to remind you to have your ‘start of contract’ discussion. It is recommended that this discussion takes place fairly quickly - ideally within the first month of your research contract - for the agreement of initial research and career development objectives. To support you in planning your professional development you should refer to the Research Staff Professional Development Guidance.  

The process will help you to establish yourself quickly in your new role, and identify any training/developmental requirements needed to support you in your role and future career aspirations. You might want to look at the guidance and templates to support your start of contract objective-setting and career development discussion to help you prepare.

Work in progress meetings

The Work In Progress (WIP) meetings provide an opportunity to present your work and hear updates from research happening across BSMS. They are a great opportunity to present to a friendly and helpful audience, to get presentation practice, and get broad input into your research. The WIPs are primarily designed to support PhD students and ECRs, and talks can be used to describe research plans for new projects, present research updates and challenges for ongoing projects, or get input into more complete projects before conferences attendance/publication. Due to the supportive audience, we encourage you to use the WIP as a chance to generate ideas on how to overcome challenges. Show us your failed experiments! Pizza is provided to aid discussion following the presentations. There are other seminars organised by the Departments on a regular basis which are open to all, including ECRs. Details are available from the ECR reps.

BSMS ECR Microsoft Teams channel

As many of us are now using a flexible hybrid working approach, we have created an ECR Microsoft Teams Channel to engage with our research community and create a social space for ECRs. This is an interactive space to share ideas, make suggestions and have a quick conversation with your peers. There’s also the opportunity to use the Teams channel to organize social events and meet up with other ECRs. It also contains helpful documents, presentations, forms etc such as information on induction, mentoring, training events, fellowships, teaching opportunities etc.


All ECRs should have an appraisal once a year. This will be performed by your line manager (usually your principal investigator). Please contact the ECR Lead if this does not happen for any reason. For further details on the appraisal process, see the Organisational Development webpage here >

News and events

Samira Bouyagoub at ISMRM conference in front of a poster on a display board

ISMRM2023 Toronto report

Dr Samira Bouyagoub from CISC has recently attended the annual conference of ISMRM (International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine) in Toronto Canada that meet to promote education, communication, research, development, applications, and the availability of information on magnetic resonance in medicine and biology. ISMRM is always a great opportunity to present and discover the latest research in the field of MRI. This year was a particularly important edition of the conference with the launch of the ISMRM African chapter that aims to promote MRI in Africa, increase membership & presence of African MR researchers at ISMRM, support continuing MRI education in Africa, and encourage collaborative research among the diverse multi-lingual research population in Africa. Dr Bouyagoub has a pivotal role within the inaugural committee of the chapter and attended a number of meetings in Toronto to implement a strategy to nurture collaborations with researchers in Africa and African diaspora worldwide working on MRI, particularly on the emerging low Field MRI. Dr Bouyagoub said, “As a proud African, this is a very dear initiative for me as it strengthens the links between the subject I love and the continent I love. I am looking forward to an exciting future of research in MRI and I take my role within the chapter very seriously." One of the first tasks for the inaugural committee of the ISMRM Africa chapter is to finalise the details of the first ever Africa Chapter conference on 25-27 September 2023 in Accra, Ghana. For those interested to attend in person or virtually, please contact Samira on

New podcast: Dr Deborah Ikhile

BSMS researcher Dr Deborah Ikhile was recently interviewed by, an Audio Journal of Oncology. Her interview was part of the global cancer inequalities series and she spoke about her research on access to breast cancer detection in Black African women. Her research and interview highlight the significance of promoting culturally appropriate breast health education at individual, community and health system levels.

Listen to the podcast here >

BSMS hosts career development event

On Wednesday 19 April, Dr Deeptima Massey, BSMS Research Manager, and Dr Liz Ford, Early Career Researcher (ECR) Lead, hosted a career development event focused on applying for fellowships. Fellowships are especially important for early career researchers as they allow research staff without an open-ended contract to be both lead applicant on the grant and have their full salary paid. Usually, fellowships will also allow the applicant to start to build their research team or ‘lab’ and their research reputation. The event featured eight speakers including Prof Sarah Newbury, who talked about her experience of being on a fellowship funding panel; Nicky Perry from the Health Research Partnership; Prof Jorg Huber from the NIHR Research Design Service; and four current fellowship holders, including BSMS colleagues Drs Simon Mitchell and Jimena Berni. Each talk gave a different insight into how to approach writing a fellowship application for success, as well as how to prepare for interview stage. Deeptima and Liz are happy to spend time with any individual looking to write an application for a fellowship, and wider support is available throughout the school and the partner universities.

A woman talking to a room of people in front of a tv screen

A social itch: an evening of film and social science exploring a neglected infectious disease

On 8 November, researchers from BSMS ran a general public film screening and Q&A at the Towner Art Gallery Cinema in Eastbourne, called The Social Itch. The event, led by Gem Aellah from Global Health and Infection at BSMS, was funded by small grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science. It explored how film and social science can be used to better understand the multi-layered meanings of disease and disease outbreaks.

Read the full story here >



Early career development conference fund

A conference fund is available to BSMS Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to facilitate their attendance at conferences or training courses. Funding for each financial year is limited to a maximum of £500 per ECR. All applications must be approved by the ECR's line manager.

Note that this funding might not be enough to cover the full cost of the conference/course therefore the ECR will need to find funding from another source (e.g. from scholarships available directly from the conference, from learned societies (such as the Biochemical Society) or the University of Brighton Conference Support Fund) in addition to the BSMS funding. 

For further details on the conference fund and advice about applying please contact ECR lead Dr Elizabeth Ford here.

Applications will be assessed and funds awarded four times a year (1st March, 1st June, 1st September and 1st December). 

To make an application, please download the application form below and email it, with your supporting information, to Dr Elizabeth Ford via

Download the form here >

Two researchers Ben Hicks and Kat Wheatley wearing orange t shirts stood on a stall in a shopping centre promoting Alzheimers Research

Mentoring and counselling

BSMS offers a one-to-one mentoring scheme for academic and research staff including early career researchers which is open for applications from both mentees and mentors at the start of each academic year. Mentors and mentees are paired up dependent on grade, specialism and the needs of the mentee and it is ensured that matched staff work in different departments. Please email for further information.

All ECRs should have a mentor and/or have access to a mentoring programme. As well as the internal BSMS scheme, Early Career Researchers can also apply to be mentees or mentors at the University of Sussex. Further information can be found here >

Senior Research Fellows, who are more advanced in their research career, can also take part in the mentoring scheme and be a mentor themselves. 

A mentor would be available to meet with you periodically for advice and support as part of your five (pro rata) career development days allocation. Some of the benefits of a one-to-one mentoring relationship are:

  • Having a supportive relationship with someone outside of your line management, with whom you can explore and progress professional development goals
  • Having the opportunity to learn from a more experienced colleague(s)
  • Tailored support and guidance appropriate to your situation/career stage
  • Confidential and objective discussions 

Informal mentoring can be done by the BSMS Early Career Researcher Lead.


Mentoring is a professional relationship, and the role of mentor is not to be a counsellor or therapist. In case these become relevant here are links for more specialist services that can provide that support to staff:

  • the Sussex Employee Assistance Programme, Care First. Find out more here > 
  • the University of Sussex Occupational Health can be found here >

Other practical support

The Sussex Research Office has put together a very comprehensive list of practical support here and a policy and resources library here >


oncoloy cell bio

lab Sarah Newbury and researchers

Research staff office

The University of Sussex Research Staff Office (view more here) coordinates university-wide provision and support for research staff. They have produced Welcoming and Managing Researchers guidance here to provide information for PIs/Research Staff Managers during induction. The University has also signed the ‘Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers’ committing us to an appropriately managed and supportive environment for research staff, with opportunities for professional development.

See further details about training and development, one-to-one support and career planning here >


Researcher's journeys

Read more about our researchers on our dedicated researcher journeys page.

read more HERE >