Community, Pre-doctoral

Should I attend a research conference?

Should I attend a research conference?
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Not sure whether a research conference is for you? Master’s students and Emerging Minds Network interns Rowan and Felicity reflect on their experience of getting involved with the recent Emerging Minds Summit on children and young people’s mental health research, the range of different people they encountered there, and how other early career researchers can make the most of it.

What is the appeal of a research conference to Master’s students?

Felicity: To be completely honest, I’d never attended a conference before. Whilst the idea has always appealed to me, when I’d heard of other friends in research attending conferences, I’d always seen them as something for established researchers in a particular field. Before taking part in the Summit, I assumed that you had to know what you were interested in to attend a conference and as someone still quite new to the field of mental health research I didn’t think I fitted the criteria quite yet. Now I am really keen to go to more.

It’s not just a good way to meet people in a field you already have experience and knowledge in, but it’s also a great way to learn more, and to understand the field that you’re in more holistically, not just via studies and papers that you find.

Rowan: I love attending conferences whenever I can. I find it really useful to get exposure to a wide variety of research going on in the field, especially as someone who tends to get very absorbed in specific interest areas.

It reminds me that there is so much out there in psychology, in mental health research, and it’s not only coming from universities.

I think as a student it’s easy to think that there’s just one way to be involved in research production, but what I really appreciated about the Big Emerging Minds Summit was the range of research and action coming out of co-production with groups like the McPin Foundation and local authority initiatives, including using methodologies like legislative theatre. It’s also a great opportunity to meet established researchers in your field and make some excellent connections. I highly recommend attending conferences early in your career.

What was your favourite part of the day?

Felicity: It’s hard to choose, but if pushed, I’d probably say watching everyone chat during the breaks. I didn’t manage to get as involved in the workshops or the conversations as I’d have liked to as there was lots of running around between rooms, but it was worth it to see everyone getting together and feel like we’d played a part in making it happen.

Rowan: Getting to meet loads of fantastic people involved in research!

I found it really inspiring to chat to people who are involved in all sorts of areas, from co-production to data analysis to advisory roles. It’s definitely given me a lot of things to think about regarding my own research.

What will you take forward from the conference into your future research?

Rowan: One of the biggest things to come out of the Summit has been the importance of co-producing research with lived experience experts. It’s clear to me that any action to come out of youth mental health research has to be rooted in collaboration, and the ideas and voices of young people themselves (as well as their parents and carers).

It’s really highlighted the power that researchers and clinicians have in shaping the experience of mental health care for children and young people.

I know that any future roles I have will be informed not just by my own lived experience, but by those of the communities I serve.

Felicity: Alongside the importance of co-production and ensuring that the voices of young people and parents are heard in mental health research, I’ve also grown to appreciate the vast number of people who care passionately about this work, and the myriad of ways that it’s possible to get involved.

There’s no one route into mental health research, and whether you can participate through the research or work you do, or through facilitating other conversations and research, it’s all important, and your contributions to the conversation are just as welcome.

What’s next for you after your internship with Emerging Minds?

Rowan: The next step for me is finishing up my master’s degree and my dissertation. I’m also finalising a paper for publication next year and (hopefully) presenting at the European Congress of Psychology in July. I’m keen to get involved in more research and in clinical opportunities, particularly in projects around men’s and boys’ mental health, LGBTQ+ health, neuropsychology, and intra-community psychological support/social prescribing.

Felicity: I’m staying in research for a little while at least! I am hopefully starting as a research assistant with the Oxford Department of Psychiatry as part of the O-CAP team (Oxford Cognitive Approaches to Psychosis) on a clinical trial in December. I’m particularly interested in early intervention, both in psychosis and more generally in young people’s mental health support, and outside of my work, I’m hoping to get involved in more projects in and around Oxford, as well as continuing my online volunteering for SHOUT.

The Big Emerging Minds Summit brought together researchers, commissioners, policymakers, and lived experience experts to discuss and explore interdisciplinary mental health research for children and young people.

For more information, see

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