Reflections from ISPAH 2018 Early Career Network Pre-Conference Workshop

ISPAH 2018

Sunday started the 7th Congress for the International Society of Physical Activity and Health with the Early Career Network workshop. It was a fantastic day, put together beautifully and with a brilliant range of speakers. There was so much covered in one day and it really got my mind racing with great thoughts ideas! This post is to share some of my thoughts and the key messages I took away from the day.

ISPAH Early Career Network 

The workshop kicked off with a brilliant introduction from Tepi Mclaughlin (ECN Chair) and continued with an amazing variety of speakers talking about career pathways, professional development, publications and funding. Speakers were from institutions all over the world with different backgrounds and stories but commonly all passionate about physical activity and health. 

Key messages 

For me, some of the key themes and messages from the day were …. 

What is your goal? 

Paul Kelly really inspired me to think more about teaching as a career. Not only is teaching about sharing and passing on knowledge, but also learning from students. Lecturing has many benefits including, and possibly the biggest one, having an impact. This led Paul to ask the question, what the biggest impact we can have: Publishing 20 papers in top journals, or changing the lives of 20 students helping them think differently about physical activity and promoting physical activity in their practice? 


Tracy Kolbe-Alexander talked about her career in teaching and research getting the audience thinking about their ‘why’. Ross Brownson also touched upon knowing your why in his talk on research into policy and practice. 

When you really understand your why, the impact that you can have can be so much more. Both were fantastically engaging and Tracy reinforced this point with a video – I would highly recommend a watch and thank you so much for sharing it with us!

It’s about getting the message of your why across to others along with whatever you are trying to say to have the biggest impact. 

Perseverance and tenacity 

The theme of perseverance was really persistent throughout the conference. Specifically, Loretta DiPietro and Andrew Spiers focused on persistence to have impact. 

Loretta gave some interesting insights into writing academic papers and getting published in the Journal of Physical activity and Health (JPAH). However, in an answer to a question from the audience, she highlighted that qualitative research was a “lower priority” for JPAH. This really got me wondering why? There is so much potential to learn from people’s experiences especially around interventions. As my passion for research is very qualitative, I will persevere and keep researching and writing academic papers aiming to get them published. 

Sit less, move more!

Trevor Shilton and Fiona Bull were brilliant! Their presentation on the impact The World Health Organisation is having on increasing physical activity across the globe really hit home to me the importance in advocating physical activity. It’s up to us, as early career researchers (the future), to take the amazing work that has been done and promote it in any way we can. We need to mobilise the message sit less, move more! We have known for a long time that physical activity is good for us yet so many are inactive. Anything is better than nothing. So, here’s me telling you, sit less, move more! 

Funding your research and securing funding

The sessions on funding research and securing funding highlighted all together some very practical tips on progression for early career researchers, so I have compiled a list of things that I felt were useful for me. Perseverance was also key to getting funding.

Thank you to the speakers; Brigid Lynch, David Dunstan, Ruth Hunter, Vicki Lambert and Nanette Mutrie.

It’s about you!

This is your career, your goal, your vision. In everything you do, get that across too. This linked really nicely to finding your why earlier. Your voice really has that extra impact and emphasis when it includes your story.

Skills development 

Keep learning! We are always learning, everything changes so quickly so keep developing your skills. Importantly, learn from failures too, they are apart of you and from each one there is something to take from it and develop.


Make connections and keep in touch with them! My plan after the conference is to get in touch with those whom I met this week and also make contacts with people who’s talks that I couldn’t make. You never know, I may be useful to them and they may be really useful to me in the future.  

Taking the next steps

The final session shared reflections from mid-career researchers Nana Anokye, Deborah Salvo and Melody Ding. The speakers were all extremely honest about the challenges they faced as early career researchers which was refreshing to hear we are not alone. However, they also shared their experiences of getting through it. Some of the take home messages for me included;


I personally find this very difficult to do. Work often creeps in to weekends and rescheduling plans around work. Take a look at my previous blog post about Dealing with stress and feeling overwhelmed during a PhD.

But, how do you know you’ve got the balance or where the balance needs to change? Like Deborah Salvo, I don’t think I will truly find that work-life balance as work is my life, my PhD is my life (at the moment). I love it so much I actually want to do it all the time, I am always thinking about it – I even dream about it. 

Learn to say no 

Or at the very least ‘yes, but maybe later’. Again relating to that balance of finding when too much is too much. I love saying yes and I want to say yes to everyone. You never know what that will bring a new opportunity or be a pivotal point in your career. I suppose it goes again to that why and understanding why you want to say yes, which might help with the decision.

Progression and career building

A brilliant message from Melody Ding, for me, was about being strategic about what it is you are doing but also enjoying the journey you take.


Thank you!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the speakers and the organisers for putting together a thoroughly enjoyable day. The workshop really gave me a different perspective on the whole conference going forward thinking about what I want to get out of it. It was a really interesting insightful and motivational day.

I am really enjoying ISPAH 2018 excited for the rest of the week with today being Day 2 of ISPAH 2018. Watch this space for further reflections later this week!

Thank you so much for reading, if you have any thoughts or questions please get in touch. 

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