Early career preventionists in North America: Who are they and what do they hope for?

The EUSPR’s Early Careers Forum is not the only network for early-careers preventionists. A similar network has been existing in North America for over two decades: the Early Career Preventionist Network (ECPN). We have invited the current chair, Marie-Hélène Véronneau, Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), to introduce this network and reflect on current debates and developments among early-career preventionists in North America.

In this first North American blog post, I would like to introduce the Early Career Preventionist Network (ECPN). This network is part of the Society for Prevention Research (SPR), which is more or less the North American counterpart of the European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR). ECPN is something like the “sister organization” of the EUSPR Early Careers Forum from across the Atlantic. I will first outline a brief history of ECPN and explain its structure, then I will give you an overview of who is currently involved in our steering committee, and finally I will say a few words on our hopes for the future of prevention science.

History and Structure of ECPN

In 1994, ECPN was created as a way to facilitate communications among early career researchers, and to promote their participation in SPR. This professional organization promotes prevention research through many activities, including publications, networking opportunities, and annual scientific meetings. SPR members have always been extremely supportive of the upcoming generation of prevention scientists. Year after year, mid-career and senior members of SPR have generously agreed to participate in a variety of events organized for/by ECPN members (e.g., a student poster contest that we hold during our annual meeting; a mentored review program in collaboration with the society’s journal, Prevention Science; ECPN-sponsored sessions held during the annual meeting and, on occasion, as part of the meeting’s preconference).

The chair of ECPN is elected by the general SPR membership for a two-year term, and is assisted throughout his/her mandate by the ECPN chair-elect. ECPN members are invited to get involved in committees that handle various tasks throughout the year (i.e., the student poster contest, the ECPN awards, the ECPN sessions at the annual meeting). Also, ECPN has a steering committee whose members play the role of liaison with SPR committees and task forces, so they can represent the ideas and priorities of early career members, but also keep ECPN members informed of important issues being discussed in those committees.

This year, we have 24 people on our steering committee. Most of us have recently entered a faculty position. We also have some graduate students and postdocs. We would be happy to include folks from outside of academia in our steering committee, but perhaps the fact that contributing to professional organizations is usually not part of their job description limits their ability to take on this commitment. We have a wide variety of backgrounds: psychology, social work, public health, medicine, human development, etc. Such multidisciplinarity is representative of prevention science. Most of us have our affiliation in the United States, even though some of us completed part of our training in other countries. As an exception to the rule, my own affiliation is in Canada. We enthusiastically welcome members from outside of North America, and although some people from other countries have shown interest in getting actively involved in ECPN when we met them at the SPR annual meeting (this is where we usually recruit our steering committee members), it has rarely translated into regular participation in our committee. Is it because our meeting schedule is not convenient for people outside of North America? Or could it be because the topics we are interested in are at times too tightly linked to our geographical context (e.g., obtaining funding or a job in North America may entail a very different process than in other countries). If you have any insight into that, please let me know!

Our Hopes for the Future of Prevention Science

This part of the post is not based on any survey data. It is based on my intuition, after having been involved in ECPN for about seven years. Overall, early career preventionists in North America hope that science will bring real, concrete, positive change in the life of people. They want to contribute to that change in various ways, such as studying the epidemiology of disorders or public health issues, but also by refining the design of prevention programs, their evaluation, and their adaptation to different contexts in a real-world setting. They also hope to get sufficient funding to carry this work—and cuts in budgets cause many of us to worry about our ability to make our professional dreams come true. That being said, I think most of us are still optimistic that with hard work and creativity, good science can be achieved even in the current context. I am happy to see that there is more and more cultural and ethnic diversity in our group, but there is still a long way to go before disadvantaged populations who are the primary targets of prevention programs be well represented among prevention researchers. More diversity in ECPN (and in SPR) is something many of us are hoping for. We are also hoping that collaboration rather than competition among us will help further the field of prevention science, and I think we are on the right track because our members work really well together to organize fantastic activities for all ECPN members, year after year. I hope that collaboration will be brought up to another level by establishing a long-term collaboration with ECF members.

To Learn More About ECPN

ECPN is open to all early-career individuals who are interested in prevention science; all you have to do to be a member is to sign up to be on our listserv (see http://www.preventionresearch.org/ecpn-mission/ for instructions, if you are interested). Although ECPN members are encouraged to become SPR members, it is not a requirement. “Early career” refers to students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career individuals working in the field of prevention research, either within or outside of academia.

About the author:

My name is Marie-Hélène and I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Canada. After studying psychology in Montreal, Canada, I had two objectives in mind for my postdoctoral training. First, I wanted to live abroad. Second, I wanted to get more familiar with prevention research. Thus, I spent almost four years at the University of Oregon (United States), and this is when I first got involved in ECPN. In addition to contributing to most ECPN committees over the years, I have served on the SPR membership committee and International Taskforce. I have been elected to be the chair of ECPN from 2015 until 2017. You can follow me on twitter @MHVeronneau, and write to me at veronneau.marie-helene[at]uqam.ca.


3 thoughts on “Early career preventionists in North America: Who are they and what do they hope for?

  1. Thank you Angelina for your note! It is impressive to see how much the ECF has been able to accomplish since its recent creation. I can tell that your members are really working hard to build a network of European early career prevention researchers.
    Regarding your comment on the post, I’d like to mention that issues of diversity in the field of prevention science is central to the activities of the Diversity Network Committee (DNC, another standing committee of the Society for Prevention Research, just like ECPN). Many ECPN steering committee members are also active members of the DNC and contribute their ideas to support the professional development of students and researchers from minority group who are interested in prevention. For example, DNC provides minority travel awards for our annual meeting, and collaborates with other organizations who have similar goals (like the Robert Wood Johnson foundation). Next time you attend the SPR meeting, make sure to look up their sessions in the program.
    And thanks for the reminder about the call for paper for the EUSPR meeting! I hope I’ll be able to come this year.

    • Thanks for the additional information. It’s interesting to hear about the SPR’s Diversity Network Committee. I’ll keep an eye out for DNC activities, as I’m curious to know how their work is perceived and what impact they’re having or hoping to have. I’m not sure to what extent we’ve been able to address this issue within the EUSPR so far but it’s certainly something that requires our attention.

  2. Dear Marie-Hélène,

    Thank you very much for this post. Impressive that ECPN has been going since 1994 and has developed so well! Thank you for making contact with us last year, and for sharing your experiences with us to help us develop our much younger Early Careers Forum at EUSPR. I’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge your help with planning our early careers activities at EUSPR’s last annual meeting in Ljubljana.

    Coming back to your post, you make a really interesting & important point there that “there is still a long way to go before disadvantaged populations who are the primary targets of prevention programs be well represented among prevention researchers”. I’ve recently been engaging more with critical accounts of public health & prevention in particular, and I think if we had more prevention researchers who are actually represent our so-called target populations, then we would be in a much better position to address some of the criticisms which those more critical scholars are voicing (e.g. prevention as a white middle class project). I would be really interested to hear more about your efforts and thoughts in this regard, either on this online forum or perhaps at our next annual meeting in Berlin if you are able to join us (abstract submission is still open :-).

    Thanks again for this post,
    Angelina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *