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The BERA Career Development Fellowship is a flexible package of benefits intended to support early career researchers (ECRs) in the first three years following the completion of their doctoral thesis. The fellowship is aimed at ECRs who are precariously employed (that is, on zero hours or temporary contracts), and it provides opportunities to support their development as scholars during what can sometimes be the challenging transition from PhD student to academic researcher. In this blog, the three researchers awarded the fellowship in 2021 share their stories of how the fellowship has supported them.

Dr Anna Mariguddi – Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University, UK

I wrote my application for the BERA ECR Career Development Fellowship as if writing a ‘career wish list’. Post PhD, I was juggling the childcare of two young children while trying to find my footing as an ECR in academia. I experienced a simultaneous feeling of shock and gratitude upon receiving the award, but also a strong sense of responsibility to make the best possible use of this experience. The time had come to finally address the imposter aspect of my identity.

Seven months into the award, I have attended and delivered individual presentations at two international music education conferences (European Association for Music in Schools [EAS] and International Society for Music Education [ISME]), I have professional membership of education organisations, including BERA, EAS and ISME, and I have participated in a qualitative diary methods training course. Perhaps most importantly, I have been able to learn from and engage with other colleagues working at the forefront of the discipline area, including my incredibly supportive BERA research mentor. The juggling remains but with an increased sense of direction, wider support network, and achievement. I wish to thank BERA for the experiences and opportunities this award has facilitated which would have otherwise been inaccessible, and I look forward to continuing with this fellowship into the next academic year.

Dr Cherry Zin Oo – Lecturer, Department of Educational Psychology, Yangon University of Education, Myanmar

I received my PhD degree from the School of Education at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) in 2020. As an academic staff member from a university where there are limited scholarly resources, I felt extremely fortunate to get a BERA ECR Career Development Fellowship. I have spent the fellowship funds on training courses, symposia, writing retreats, and resources connected to my studies about assessment, teacher education and research methodology. The first benefit of this grant for my career development is that I could expand my knowledge related to research writing, and advanced methodology and analysis. As I have a mixed-methods research methodology background, I could learn advanced data analysis in both quantitative and qualitative research. For instance, with the help of this grant, I could learn and use Mplus for doing complex analysis. Regarding research writing courses, I have joined useful courses, especially for ECRs including ‘Advanced research funding and writing grant applications’. In addition, I have got community support for my writing by joining writing retreats. As part of this fellowship, I have an excellent mentor who has provided insightful advice and constructive feedback on my publications and career, and I have got a lot of value from this mentor–mentee relationship.

Dr Kathryn Spicksley – Research Fellow, Institute of Community Research and Development, University of Wolverhampton, UK

I was so excited when I got the email saying that I had been awarded the fellowship; as the first grant I had won, it felt like I was finally starting to work out how to ‘sell’ my future academic projects and ideas to others, and that gave me a lot of confidence. Since winning this grant, I’ve also won the BERA Doctoral Thesis Prize and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the process of applying for the BERA ECR Career Development Fellowship helped me immensely when writing these subsequent applications.

I’m primarily a qualitative researcher, but during my PhD – which focused on early career teacher identity – I became interested in corpus-assisted discourse analysis. As this research method involves an element of statistics, I felt I needed to improve my skills in this area, so I used the BERA fellowship to fund two statistics courses – one introductory course, and one specifically focused on statistics in corpus linguistics. The skills I have gained are already having an impact on the quality of my research and on my confidence in using this method. A further benefit of the fellowship has been the mentoring I have received; my mentor has provided excellent support and tailored advice, and I was pleased to meet them in person at the BERA Conference, which the fellowship also supported me to attend.