Networks of trainees: examining the effects of attending an interdisciplinary research training camp on the careers of new obesity scholars
Jenny Godley,1 Nicole M Glenn,2 Arya M Sharma,3 John C Spence4
1Department of Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada; 2School of Public Health, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada; 3Department of Medicine, 4Sedentary Living Laboratory, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Abstract: Students training in obesity research, prevention, and management face the challenge of developing expertise in their chosen academic field while at the same time recognizing that obesity is a complex issue that requires a multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach. In appreciation of this challenge, the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) has run an interdisciplinary summer training camp for graduate students, new career researchers, and clinicians for the past 8 years. This paper evaluates the effects of attending this training camp on trainees' early careers. We use social network analysis to examine the professional connections developed among trainee Canadian obesity researchers who attended this camp over its first 5 years of operation (2006–2010). We examine four relationships (knowing, contacting, and meeting each other, and working together) among previous trainees. We assess the presence and diversity of these relationships among trainees across different years and disciplines and find that interdisciplinary contact and working relationships established at the training camp have been maintained over time. In addition, we evaluate the qualitative data on trainees' career trajectories and their assessments of the impact that the camp had on their careers. Many trainees report that camp attendance had a positive impact on their career development, particularly in terms of establishing contacts and professional relationships. Both the quantitative and the qualitative results demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary training and relationships for career development in the health sciences.
Keywords: social network analysis, training, research collaboration, interdisciplinary
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