Research frustrations

[By: Linda]

After the first two posts written by Saya and Aude, I will share one of the challenges from my first year as a PhD student.

I’m Linda, an early stage researcher from Uppsala University in Sweden, working with Professor Gustaf Gredebäck. I obtained my undergraduate degrees in psychology and applied psychology and a master’s degree in psychology at the University of Amsterdam, in The Netherlands. I moved to Uppsala 9 months ago and am working on a project about the development of reaching early in infancy and its effect on cognitive abilities throughout infancy and toddlerhood. More specifically, we want to assess whether we can teach pre-reaching infants to reach for objects and whether this self-produced action will have cascading cognitive effects.

A challenge researchers are often confronted with is the lengthy and frustrating process of obtaining ethical approval for your study. One might think that this is as easy as assuring the ethical approval board that you will not harm the children in any way, but right now I am in the third month of the ethical approval process and it will be at least two more months until I can start collecting data. Of course we, as researchers, understand why this process takes some time. We want the kind families who sign up for our studies to have a fun but safe experience, so we don’t want them to be exposed to situations that will affect their day and development in a negative way. However, we are often so excited to start data collection and our analyses to find out if infants behave as we expect them to that we forget why it’s important to have an ethical approval board. Someone needs to protect participants during a study, especially participants who can’t give consent themselves. Another source of frustration is that, as a PhD student in Uppsala, I only have four years to complete a longitudinal study where I follow 144 infants from the age of two months until their second birthday. Since my first year is almost over I find myself wondering if I will have enough time to finish data collection and write my thesis. I have of course accepted this situation as there is nothing we can do about it. Luckily a PhD student is never bored so I will be able to cope in the meantime, but I am still very excited to start data collection!