Come on let’s TWIST again! Early Career Bursaries @LxAddictions 2017

In this post, Dijana Jerković and Larissa J. Maier share their experiences of securing funding through the TWIST project, in order to attend LxAddictions 2017. The aim is to describe the TWIST training and the application process to support other early career researchers who may want to contribute to the upcoming third conference in 2019.

 

Lisbon is calling! This month’s blog post comes from Dijana Jerković and Larissa J. Maier, who both successfully applied for an early careers bursary to attend the LxAddictions 2017, the largest European conference on addiction research. In this blog post, they will share their experience with the TWIST project (Training WIth STakeholders) to encourage other early career researchers to follow their example.

The Lisbon Addictions 2017, in the following referred to as LxAddictions 2017, was the second European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies happening in Lisbon. Running from October 24th – 26th 2017, with more than 1,200 participants from over 60 countries it was clearly the place to be for young addiction researchers like us. However, the participation fee of 400 Euros is among the highest in Europe, which results in difficulties for early careers if no project funding can be used to cover the conference plus additional travel costs. At the time of abstract submission in spring 2017, both of us were preparing for new positions. Nevertheless, attending the LxAddictions 2017 to present the findings from own previously conducted research was equally relevant for us. When we then were informed about the TWIST project, a new “Training WIth STakeholders – Applying European Addiction Research”, that would sponsor all of our costs upon successful application, we were ready to become part of it!

 

About TWIST

The TWIST project offers a platform for connecting early stage addiction professionals with experienced research and non-research stakeholder groups from Europe and neighbouring countries. TWIST is committed to ensuring balance and diversity in terms of geography, ability, gender, and career stage. The main aim of the project was to enable a training strand on using knowledge and research in the field of addiction. In 2017, this initiative was supported by the European Union’s DG Justice Programme “Drugs Policy Initiatives”, which brought together over 140 early stage professionals. The TWIST project covered the flights, accommodation, daily lunches, and conference fees for the training programme participants.

Application Procedure  

All early career addiction professionals in Europe and neighbouring countries, who received their latest formal academic qualification within less than 8 years, were eligible to participate. First, we had to complete the TWIST Training Development Survey in which we were asked to identify our topics of interest based on which the organizers could plan the relevant training activities. Secondly, we had to submit the TWIST application form combined with a short CV and a brief letter of motivation to explain our interest in the training, as well as the expected impact of the training on our work. The project committee then selected the participants on the basis of a) their need for support, b) the relevance of their academic and/or professional activity to addictions, drug policies, and practices, and c) the scope and achievements of the academic and/or professional in accordance with the career stage. Luckily for us, we both fulfilled all the criteria and were selected – this is where the long working hours and efforts actually had come to pay off.

TWIST Training Programme  

TWIST kicked off with a pre-conference cocktail evening. Dijana was able to attend this pre-event and rated it useful to connect with other programme participants for the first time. Larissa had to miss the event because of flying in late following her talk at the 5th International Conference on Novel Psychoactive Substances in Vienna. This was, unfortunately, overlapping with the LxAddictions, although both conferences were organized by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) amongst others. Overall, TWIST offered 19 training sessions that were incorporated within the LxAddictions 2017 conference. The sessions covered a broad range of topics, and were focused on new methods for the monitoring of drug use trends in Europe and globally, policy developments, publishing, and interventions designed to treat various forms of addiction. A list of the sessions, presenters, and supporting materials is available here. Each participant was free to choose up to six sessions with no minimum requirement. A TWIST app was developed to facilitate the evaluation of the programme based on participant ratings and a certificate of attendance was handed out to the participants afterward.

Overall Experience

Our overall experience was not easy to describe in a few words, due to the fact that this was a great opportunity to learn, practice presentation and discussion skills, socialize, network, discuss further collaboration, and much more. In spite of that, we have tried to summarize our personal highlights below:

  • Both of us had an active role at the LxAddictions 2017. For instance, we both contributed to the structured session “Online surveys of drug users: proceed with caution”, we presented our experience with two important online surveys on drugs, and participated in a fruitful discussion on strengths and limitation of online methodology.

Dijana presenting the findings on Facebook advertisements as a recruitment strategy in the “European Web Survey on Drugs: patterns of use” pilot project (© EUSPR).

 

Larissa presenting her experience with the Global Drug Survey, the largest survey on the use of psychoactive substances with more than 100,000 participants worldwide each year (© EUSPR).

  • Attending the LxAddictions 2017 was a chance to meet dear friends and colleagues in an informal setting.

Socializing with friends & colleagues (from left to right): Gregor Burkhart (EMCDDA, Lisbon, Portugal), Dijana Jerković (University Psychiatric Hospital Vrapče, Zagreb, Croatia), Larissa Maier (UNODC, Vienna, Austria), Martha Canfield (King’s College, London, UK), João Matias (EMCDDA, Lisbon, Portugal), Stefanie Helmer (Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, Germany) – Picture used with permission from all included participants (© EUSPR).

  • This was also a suitable time to discuss further collaboration on the Global Drug Survey project. The Global Drug Survey 2018 is now online in 20 languages, so please share this information within your network and help us make drug use safer. The survey is available at: https://surveys.globaldrugsurvey.com/s3/GDS2018

Networking & discussing the collaboration within the Global Drug Survey 2018 (from left to right: Alfred Uhl (Gesundheit Österreich GmbH, Vienna, Austria), Adam Winstock (Global Drug Survey, London, UK), Larissa Maier (UNODC, Vienna, Austria), Johnnes Thrul (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US), Maximilian von Heyden (Finder Akademie, Berlin, Germany), Dijana Jerković (University Psychiatric Hospital Vrapče, Zagreb, Croatia), Bruno Wiederkehr (Enterpreneur, Bünzen, Switzerland), Michael Schaub (ISGF, Zurich, Switzerland) – Picture used with permission from all included participants (© EUSPR).

 

Conclusion

The TWIST experience has been truly fascinating. The organization behind the training was simply amazing and the training sessions that we have attended were all beneficial for our early careers. Most importantly, we will keep in touch with the other early career addiction professionals thanks to the TWIST Facebook page for all participants and a soon to be established network area on their website. On this occasion, we want to thank the TWIST project for this ultimate experience! We can warmly recommend all early careers to watch out for the new application forms in summer 2019 – and we plan to be back with you soon!

 

Dr. Dijana Jerković holds an MA in Social Pedagogy, a European Certificate in Integrative Psychotherapy (ECP) and a PhD in Prevention Science. Since September 2017, she has been working at the University Psychiatric Hospital Vrapče in Zagreb, Croatia, and as external associate (lecturer) at the Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Sciences, University of Zagreb. At her previous job (Croatian Focal Point for the EMCDDA), she was involved in the promotion of the European Drug Prevention Quality Standards, and was responsible for implementation of Facebook ads in recruiting participants in Croatia within the pilot project European Web Survey on Drugs: patterns of use. Currently she’s been involved in the Global Drug Survey promotion. For further information please contact her at dijana.jerkovich[a]gmail.com.

 

Dr. Larissa J. Maier is one of the four members of the Core Research Team of Global Drug Survey (GDS) aiming to make drug use safer, regardless of the legal status of the drug. Currently, she is appointed as a consultant in Drug Use Epidemiology at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Before, she has conducted significant addiction research studies at the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction (ISGF) at the University of Zurich. In March 2015, she completed her doctoral degree at the University of Zurich in Psychology, where she specialized in Clinical and Health Psychology. Her research aims to investigate why people use psychoactive substances and how to best prevent harmful use. Research Gate.  @maier_larissa.  For further information please contact her at larissa.maier[a]hotmail.ch.

 


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