Notes from INSPIRE Career Development meeting at ICBM conference 2014

Notes by Dr Ellinor Olander, Chair of UK Society for Behavioural Medicine Early Career Network

Career advice from Professor Phyllis Butow (The University of Sydney, Australia), Professor Vish Viswanath (Harvard School of Public Health, and Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Centre, USA), Professor Jim Sallis (University of California, San Diego, USA) and Professor Rona Moss-Morris (King’s College London, UK)

Jim Sallis talking about his career at the INSPIRE midday roundtable at ICBM2014

Jim Sallis talking about his career at the INSPIRE midday roundtable at ICBM2014

INSPIRE members at the midday roundtable

INSPIRE members at the midday roundtable

Phyllis Butow

  • Say yes, take opportunities to sit on committees and be part of organisations
  • Respect and value yourself, ensure you are recognised

Jim Sallis

  • Be driven by answers and impact
  • Work with people that have other skills than you, and that work in different disciplines than you. These people are likely to bring new ideas and answers to questions.
  • It is important you have confidence in core skills; conceptualisation and knowledge of theory, measurement, intervention development/evaluation and writing.
  • Work hard, and value yourself.

Vish Viswanath

  • Work with mentors that have the skills you need/want such as theory and/or measurement
  • Be entrepreneurial
  • Care less about tenure and more about opportunities that develop you
  • Work hard
  • Have a core set of values, to help you know what kind of academic you are, stick to a core program of research whether it is topic, theory, research design or population etc.

Rona Moss-Morris

  • Believe in what you do
  • Enjoy it
  • Work with good and nice people, learn from what they do and how they do it
  • Don’t be scared to make jumps to other things when opportunities arise
  • Think about why you do the work you do. Does your passion lie in implementation science, working with patients or politicians, advising national guideline committees etc.?
  • Always work with people you like.

Questions from the floor

Controversial issues

  • Get friends and allies, get patients on-board to support your cause
  • Avoid dogma
  • To have impact, you have to get into politics, have to challenge the status quo

Communicate with non-academics

  • Remember they do not read our journals, so will not have read your papers
  • Keep your message simple, then build and develop it further
  • Sit on committees to understand other viewpoints
  • What can you realistically do? Especially early n in your c career. Use social media, write letters to editors of newspapers, write blogs etc.
  • Amplify your research results by telling and working with organisations

Work-life balance

  • Difficult but not impossible
  • See taking time off work as a strength and use it to relax, the balance keeps you sane and productive
  • Important to take care of yourself
  • When building your team, you must be able to delegate to take pressure of yourself
  • Always negotiate working and pay conditions, there are still large pay disparities between genders

Post-doc to tenure

  • Use your post-doc to become an attractive candidate for tenure, i.e. make the most of your post-doc
  • Fellowships are more prestigious than post-docs, but more competitive
  • A high teaching load may be a step back, rather than a step forward

Working in one vs different areas

  • You can do different things but stick to your broad programme of research
  • It is good to develop at least one area to build your reputation, so that people know what you do
  • It is also important to be pragmatic, where is the grant money? But your research need to be coherent.
  • The panel agreed that there is no right or wrong answer to this question, as some had had a more broad research experience than others.


  • Chose collaborators wisely, avoid jerks
  • Appreciate your mentors and they will remember you, small things like paying for dinner goes a long way
  • Have more than one mentor
  • Remember to be assertive, and ask for help


INSPIRE Career Development Forum on Social Media