Young principal investigators, let’s meet!

Charles University in cooperation with the Czexpats in Science Initiative is launching the Young Principal Investigator Forum #YPIF – a platform for meeting and exchanging information among young leaders of research groups from all institutions in the Czech Republic.

Finishing a thesis, dissertation, postdoc and starting your own research group – a childhood dream for many scientists. However, the imaginary peak of a scientific career, besides scientific independence, also brings with it  a number of completely new challenges – how to obtain grants and how to effectively fill out their evaluation reports, how to select students and collaborators, how to choose a publication strategy or how to find original research topics? And how to manage personal or family life on top of all this?

These and many other topics are the focus of the Young PI Forum – a joint project of Charles University and the Czexpats in Science initiative, which connects Czech scientists with foreign experience. “The idea of creating a platform for networking and sharing experiences came from ‘below’ – directly from junior group leaders who, after their foreign postdoctoral experience, returned to the Czech Republic, where they started their own research group and began to face similar questions,” says Matouš Glanc, director of the Czexpats in Science initiative and a graduate of the Faculty of Science of Charles University, who himself spent over seven years at foreign scientific institutions.

“At Charles University, we perceive that establishing one’s own research group is a completely new career experience that brings with it a number of challenges. There are all kinds of activities for Ph. D. students, but there is a lack of support for subsequent career stages. At the same time, creating a space for exchanging experiences can bring many benefits to young scientists and support the building of their independent scientific position,” explains Milena Králíčková, rector of Charles University.

I got a grant! And now what?

First #YPIF meeting with the subtitle “I got a grant – and now what?” will take place on February 28th in a hybrid format – online and physically at the Potrvá café in Dejvice. “The meeting will be held in English and is open to all junior research group leaders from all universities and institutions in the Czech Republic,” emphasizes Matouš Glanc, adding that it does not matter what research field.

Tips, tricks and recommendations for managing research grants will be shared at the first meeting by psycholinguist Kateřina Chládková from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University and the Institute of Psychology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, who spent many years abroad at universities in Amsterdam and Leipzig. Now, thanks to the internal grant support of UK Primus, she leads her own multidisciplinary team. The second speaker of the opening debate will be Petr Svoboda from the Faculty of Science of the Charles University and the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Czech Academy of Sciences. He has gained international experience mainly in the United States and has been successful in competing for prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grants.

“We intend to organise regular networking meetings, always with a specific theme, every two months on the last Tuesday of the month. We also plan to create an online platform that will allow further sharing and exchange of information in the community of young group leaders,” says Adéla Jiroudková, Head of the Department for Science and Research at Charles University. The next meetings are scheduled for 25 April and 27 June.

First speakers will be Kateřina Chládková and Petr Svoboda.

“We believe that the Young PI Forum will contribute to a more effective sharing of experience and good practice and the creation of a ‘support network’ of scientists in similar situations. In addition to improving management skills and creating new scientific collaborations, we also hope to reduce the risk of burnout at this very dynamic but often fragile stage of a scientific career. All this will ultimately contribute to the cultivation of the academic environment in the Czech Republic,” says Matouš Glanc. “Up to now, young scientists have been dependent only on personal contacts, but now we want to support such meetings, which work very well abroad, systematically and across disciplines.

Written for UK Forum by Pavla Hubálková. Photo Jan Havlík and CU archive.