Collaborating with research teams abroad during PhD training is of paramount importance for three main reasons: firstly, it exposes you to diverse perspectives and research cultures, secondly, it helps develop adaptability and cross-cultural communication skills, and lastly, as a consequence, it can provide complementary expertise in a specific field of research. Not only does this lead to personal growth and a more comprehensive and globally relevant research experience, but also can be the basis of new collaborations essential for cutting-edge research.
In this sense, the COORDINATE Transnational Access Visits (TAV) programme provides an invaluable opportunity to foster personal skills by supporting the collaboration between either academic or non-academic research groups engaged in projects about children’s wellbeing in Europe.
I participated in the programme as a 3rd year PhD student at UCD School of Medicine, researching the role played by digital technologies in children’s life and wellbeing. Through the programme, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a non-academic research group based at IPSOS Berlin that worked on a European project about children’s use of digital technologies (EuKidsOnline). Through the TAV programme, I had access to the German dataset under the supervision and guidance of Dr Robert Grimm and Dr Johannes Kaiser. The first part of the project, namely familiarise with the dataset, was carried out online. Then, I spent one week at IPSOS Belin, where I met with the team, I presented my plan for the analysis and I received fundamental feedback about how to improve and finalise the project.
It is worth highlighting that, beyond the access to the dataset, this experience allowed me as an early career researcher to gain further knowledge on the topic I am researching and to develop my data analysis skills thanks to the support from professional researchers in IPSOS. Also, I had the opportunity to learn how to collaborate with a research group abroad and improve my communication skills. Finally, the experience with IPSOS had the additional value of helping me better understand how research is carried out in a non-academic setting, which is very important from a career development perspective.
In conclusion, for PhD students not only does the value of the TAV programme lie in the access to data that are useful for analysis and possible publications, but also in the experience of linking with professionals who can enrich the PhD training through their knowledge, competences and different research approaches and perspectives.
Author: Mattia Messena, PhD Student, UCD School of Medicine