Reflections on the Russian dolls of networking

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The International Symposium on ALS/MND is a showcase for the international MND research and clinical practice community to get together and present their latest findings. Questions after the talks often spill over to the coffee breaks, lunch, the bar at the end of the day and breakfast the next morning.

Sam (left) and Belinda at the ‘Mini Networker for Delegates’

Add to this there are many separate events going on, taking advantage of the fact that they know that this is one place that everyone is likely to be there. For example on Thursday afternoon there was an afternoon meeting of the European Network to Cure ALS (ENCALS), and different meeting later in the evening. Even today, the last day of the conference, at least three official breakfast meetings were going on at 7am.

In light of all of these opportunities to network, organising a mini-networker for delegates was almost creating a Russian doll of networking – you come to the Symposium to network, then, within that there’s another opportunity to network, then within that etc – I hope you get the idea. It was nothing grand, a glass of wine or a beer and a few sofas.

So why did the MND Association do it? For several reasons, firstly,  it was an opportunity for us to catch up with any grantees attending the Symposium. Often we know the more senior researchers in the lab quite well, the people who are applying to the Association for money. Many of these researchers are supervising  or overseeing the lab work, rather than carrying out the studies on a day to day level. The networker was for everyone, those people that are doing the lab work as well as their more established colleagues.  It sounds corny, but the former are the future of MND research, so its important to support them as much as we can.

MND researchers and healthcare professionals networking before the start of the symposium

Although over 950 people attended the conference, the MND research community is a small one. If you’re not in a big MND research lab, it can be hard to set up links, bounce ideas around with someone who knows the research field or share resources. It’s another reason to get people talking. Finally I was trying to encourage those that attended into the ways of social media  – to enhance their opportunities to share the research and learn about others work but also to talk to lots of people about the exciting research they are doing – because as you’ve read in earlier posts, it is exciting!

So whether they were chatting and setting up new collaborations, considering ideas to pull geographically distant researchers together or being encouraged to pass on tips to raise the funding to attend the Symposium (you know who you are.. !!), the mini networker was a success!

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