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Sydney Pain Researchers: the Next Generation (SPRiNG) 2017

The SPRiNG 2017 was held last week at the University of Sydney. The idea of the event is to bring together research students and early career researchers in the musculoskeletal pain field in Sydney and Newcastle. The organising committee (myself, Tie, James, Steve, Chris, Hopin and Claire) were very proud of the event and happy that 66 people registered.

We just got the results from the feedback survey we sent after the event, which about 80% of the participants responded, and would like to share with you. We also asked two PhD students (Aidan Cashin and Thiago Lopes) to write about their impression of the day. Feel free to write something in the comments section below if you were there and have something to say or have some advice for what we might do better next time around.

Who was there?

How likely is it that you would recommend SPRiNG to a friend or colleague?

Overall, how would you rate SPRiNG 2017?

How often do you think the SPRiNG event should be held?

For SPRiNG 2017, we have opened the event to musculoskeletal pain research students (instead of only back pain). Please indicate whether or not you think we should consider other research areas.

What did you like about SPRiNG?

Overall, people were happy with the talks and poster section. Some people enjoyed the networking session and mentioned that it is great to hear what other PhD students are doing and that it is great to meet others.

What did you dislike about SPRiNG?

Dislikes included lack of time to interact with other participants, too much information for one day, short poster presentations, Not knowing who was in my field Not being able to see the people in my groups poster, lacj of a themse or objective at beginning.

Aidan Cashin, Neuroscience Research Australia

From as far south as Nowra, to Newcastle, and everywhere in between, the 2017 SPRiNG symposium brought together postgraduate students, post docs and other early career researchers with an interest in clinical pain research. For its second incarnation, the SPRiNG symposium expanded the catchment from Sydney to include the neighbouring cities south and north and expanded the focus from back pain to cover all clinical pain research. Early career research fellow Dr Gustavo Machado set the scene for the symposium – collaboration – by describing how he and his fellow SPRiNG colleagues had created an opportunity from discussions held at the last symposium. The talks following by the panel of professors were engaging and invaluable and were a clear highlight to me. Pertinent insights were discussed for the next generation of pain researchers into cause and effect, placebo in clinical trials and research translation. The associated Q&A panel discussion with the professors provided an open platform for conversation including lessons learnt and future advice. It was refreshing to see such senior researchers be so approachable and generous with their time.

A key message was that collaboration is essential for good quality research. SPRiNG encouraged collaboration through a relaxed poster session. As interesting as it was to see the work of your peers and hear the interpretation of their findings, I found the informal networking over coffee and lunch the most stimulating. Hearing about other students’ experiences, issues and successes in their research journey was inspiring. Putting faces to names and gaining an understanding of what other labs do and how they run was great.

We are often reminded how competitive research is, whether it be in scholarship or grant applications, conferences presentations etc. The reality is, our peers, including lab members are both potential collaborators and potential competitors. The perspective you hold and your openness to opportunity is important. Like death and taxes, competition is inevitable. However, as Gustavo attests, having open conversations to share ideas with like-minded peers can lead to great success. However I won’t forget the exception given by Professor Rob Herbert: “just don’t work with psychopaths”.

Thiago Lopes, Faculty of Health Science, University of Sydney

This year of 2017 was my first time attending the SPRiNG and I couldn’t be happier and impressed with the organization and such amazing talks presented at SPRiNG. I really enjoyed everything and in my opinion the most important and valuable part was the opportunity to meet early career researchers and dozens of PhD students from similar and different fields of study while tasting good biscuits and delicious coffee. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to share my research and the experience regarding the enjoyable but tough journey of a PhD candidature with many students. If I would attend the next SPRiNG? Yes, definitely! If I think all PhD students and early career researchers should attend it? FOR SURE, DON’T miss the next SPRiNG!! (Thiago Lopes / PhD candidate - Health Sciences)