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Introducing the PLOS Early Career Researcher (ECR) Initiative and Year Two of the PLOS ECR Travel Awards Program

Between 2013 and 2014 graduate student enrollment in scientific fields increased by 5.5%, with an estimated 666,586 of these scientists and postdocs working in science, engineering, and health in the United States alone in 2014, according to the National Science Foundation. To better serve this growing global community, many of whom are open science advocates as well as current and future authors of PLOS-published research, PLOS is pleased to announce a new initiative to support early career researchers.

The PLOS ECR Initiative will have three main components:

1. A new PLOS ECR Community Blog on the PLOS Blogs Network to function as a venue for sharing and discussion of research and issues confronting young scientists, to be managed for and by early career researchers.
2. The renewal and expansion of the PLOS ECR Travel Award Program, a competitive opportunity to support ECRs’ attendance at conferences where they are presenting their research. Deadlines are scheduled throughout the year.
3. An ECR Resource Center, a ‘living online library’ to help ECRs better navigate their chosen education and career paths. This will be launched later in 2016.

Evolution of the PLOS Student Blog to PLOS ECR Community

The PLOS ECR Community is modeled after four existing PLOS research communities – PLOS Neuro, PLOS Synbio, PLOS Ecology, and PLOS Paleo. Each has built a robust online membership of practicing researchers who share blogging and social media activities centered on lively discussions of newly published research and other news in their fields.

The PLOS ECR Community differs from these existing PLOS communities in its multidisciplinary focus and targeting of a younger generation of researchers. It builds upon the success of the PLOS Student Blog, which has served science undergrads, graduate students and postdocs on the PLOS Blogs Network since 2010.

As PLOS pursues a broad multi-year agenda of innovation that will make published research more accessible and enable scientists to collaborate more effectively, the PLOS ECR Community can play a key role. It will serve as a venue for researcher input and early adoption of new practices in such areas as open peer review, reviewer credit, early posting and post-publication review. Look for upcoming announcements in this space with details on these innovations and pilot projects – currently in active development by PLOS technology, editorial and publishing teams. The first to roll out in Spring 2016 is Aperta, a new PLOS submission system – read more here.

PLOS ECR Travel Awards Are Back!

ECR-twitter-iconWe understand that early career researchers often need a little extra support when promoting their research at conferences. The PLOS Early Career Travel Award Program is back for a second year, and we will be awarding $500 to up to 40 ECRs that have published in PLOS and are presenting at scientific conferences. There will be multiple application periods throughout 2016, with the first round between May 1-May 31. Eligible conferences are between July 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. More information about eligibility criteria and program rules is available here.

Meet your new PLOS ECR Community Editors!

To lead the PLOS ECR Community, PLOS has tapped three outstanding current contributors to the PLOS Student Blog: Andreas Vilhelmsson, Mary Gearing and Meredith Wright, who will serve as the first PLOS ECR Community Editors.

Meet Andreas:

andreasheadshotHi! I’m Andreas Vilhelmsson, a public health researcher (PhD in medical science) at the Division of Social Medicine and Global Health at Lund University, Sweden. Here I’m pursuing my early research career by being involved in research focusing on pharmaceutical regulation, and especially the self-regulatory systems in Sweden and the UK compared to the US system. I am also doing research concerning migration and health and public health effects from climate change. In 2014 I completed my PhD at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University with my thesis ‘A Pill for the Ill? Depression, Medicalization and Public Health’ that analysed patient adverse drug reports on SSRIs. In 2013, a version of my thesis was published in PLOS ONE.

I also work as a public health specialist for the Regional Council (equivalent to a US state) at a Center of knowledge in women’s health and a Center of knowledge in migration and health, two prioritized areas within the Swedish regional health care system. In addition I am a lecturer in a course in global health within the Medical programme at the Medical Faculty of Lund University from 2012 and onwards and in the MPH programme since 2014. I am also an author of course books in public health and global public health. I’m happy to be included in this great opportunity and endeavor of scientific importance. I have always liked the PLOS concept and open access generally, and what first drew me to contribute to the Student Blog was the possibility to write about important global health issues and connect with others through the PLOS platform. Follow me on Twitter at @andvilhelm.

Meet Mary:

mgearingHi! I’m Mary Gearing, a fourth year PhD student in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard University. Using mouse models, I study how insulin resistance/diabetes increase cardiovascular disease risk. Outside of the lab, I blog about metabolism/nutrition for the student group Science in the News, and I’ve also given public talks on nutrition and diabetes for their seminar series. I blog for the nonprofit plasmid repository Addgene, writing about CRISPR and other technologies to help scientists better use them. After graduation, I’m hoping to transition into a career in science communication.

I’m a big fan of open science, and that’s what first drew me to the PLOS Student Blog. Coming from a very biomedical atmosphere here in Boston, I also appreciate that the Student Blog has a lot of topic diversity. Follow me on Twitter at @megearing.

Meet Meredith:

meredithheadshotHi! I’m Meredith Wright, a third year PhD student at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. I’m in the Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis program here, studying tuberculosis. I am part of a grant that studies genes of unknown function in tuberculosis — about half of the protein-coding genes in the M. tuberculosis genome still have no confirmed function. The hope is that learning more about this bacterium could provide new drug targets for further study, which will be crucial for combating antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and have written for my undergraduate newspaper The Daily Princetonian, for the Cornell Daily Sun, and for Rockefeller University’s ‘Incubator’ blog. The PLOS Student Blog has been a great way to both hone my skills as a science writer and also to learn from scientific literature outside of my own field. I’m excited to continue learning from my peers around the world as the blog transitions to the ECR Community. I’m still trying to figure out what I’d like to do after graduate school, and writing/editing scientific content is high on the list! Follow me on Twitter at @MerWright13.

Want to be involved?

We invite all our readers to support the careers of ECRs. There are many ways readers and ECRs themselves can join our community:

• Write for us! Email to inquire about contributing to our community blog.

Sign up to receive email updates from PLOS, including a monthly round-up email on PLOS ECR Community blog highlights and commentary.

• Follow the PLOS ECR Community on Twitter at @PLOSECR

• Apply for the ECR Travel Awards.


  1. Hi Siddharudha, we will be announcing the PLOS ECR Travel Award winners from our first round of applications this week, check back on our blog to see the final announcement.

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