The 2017 ESCAP Research Academy Workshop

Bright perspectives for child and adolescent psychiatry

Alexis Revet1, Johannes Hebebrand2, Paul Klauser3

CHU de Toulouse, Hôpital La Grave, Service Universitaire de Psychiatre de l'Enfant et de l'Adolescent (SUPEA), TSA60033, 31059 Toulouse cedex 9, France.
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, LVR Klinikum Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.
Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois, CHUV, department of general psychiatry, Lausanne, Switzerland.

From: European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, October 2017, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 1279–1280.

Back in 1998, Professor Helmut Remschmidt inaugurated the ESCAP research seminars, with a first workshop in Heidelberg, followed by a series of successful annual meetings. In 2015, under the initiative and guidance of Professor Johannes Hebebrand, the re-birth of ESCAP’s Research Academy took place at the 16th International ESCAP Congress in Madrid thanks to the effort of four young researchers: Susanne Mudra, Lizanne Schweren, Ida Wessing and Jochen Seitz [1]. The aims of the ESCAP RESEACH ACADEMY biennial meetings are to promote research excellence and collaborative work among young clinical scientists in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry (CAP).
Currently, CAP does not have the reputation of being a medical speciality driven by young and dynamic physicians interested in cutting-edge research. In contrast, there is more of a general opinion of child psychiatrists showing very little interest for evidence-based approaches and sometimes handicapped by petty squabbling. Indeed, there is an urgent need to show to the public that many young trainees have both a strong interest in developing both fundamental and clinical research and the strong will to develop the way mental illness in children and adolescents will be assessed and treated in the future.
Clear perspectives for academic career development, that are essential to attract motivated and talented young physicians and psychologists [2], are also currently missing in most European countries. However, they are crucially needed if we want to support the long-term development of our speciality. Accordingly, ESCAP and its President, Professor Stephan Eliez wish to support early careers by promoting training, encouraging collaborations and by providing a forum to share experiences with senior leading researchers in CAP and psychology. This is totally in line with one of the six research priorities, namely, “developing and maintaining international and interdisciplinary research networks and shared databases”, elaborated by the ROAMER consortium to promote mental health research across Europe [3].
The 2017 ESCAP Research Academy meeting took place from July 9 to 11 just prior to the 17th ESCAP International Congress in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s meeting focused on “development after early life adversity”, namely, the effects of child deprivation and abuse, which have implications for almost all psychiatric disorders and cognitive and emotional functioning.
Four international experts in the field of child trauma presented their work with a special highlight on research methodology, thus rendering attendance well worthwhile for early career investigators, who were not directly involved in research related to early life adversity. In his introductory lecture, Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke provided an in-depth insight into the results of longitudinal studies based on the English and Romanian adoptee project. A lecture from Professor Gordon Harold introduced novel research designs to ‘disentangle’ genetic from early rearing influences on children’s psychopathology. Professor Johannes Hebebrand provided an overview of important findings from genetic studies and discussed their implications from both a clinical and research perspective. Advantages and disadvantages of animal models for early stress were discussed by Professor Carmen Sandi. Lastly, Professor Doron Gothelf highlighted common pitfalls on the pathways from an idea to a research design.
The 2-day meeting was organized and chaired by Paul Klauser, Alexis Revet and Professor Johannes Hebebrand, editor-in-chief of ECAP journal and head of ESCAP Research Division.

Twenty-three young researchers (in training or within 5 years after board certification) were selected among the most promising applicants. In total, 18 European countries, including Romania, Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Finland, Norway, Serbia, Spain, Croatia, Macedonia, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and France, as well as two non-European countries (i.e. Israel and Australia) were represented.

The workshop relied on three phases:

  1. 1. Short presentations from all participants, in which they outlined their personal background, their main topics of interest as well as their ongoing research projects.
  1. 2. State-of-the-art presentations from international experts, each focusing on a specific methodological aspect of research on the longitudinal effects of early life adversity.
  1. 3. Work in small groups, each group being animated by an expert and during which five to six young researchers had to elaborate a collaborative project.

Among the four groups:

  1. 1. A first group brainstormed on “genes × environment”, under the supervision of Professor Gordon Harold, exploring the link between nature and nurture, the concept of genes and environment interplay and developing the idea that the “envirome” could be as complex as the genome.
  1. 2. A second group explored the “impact of postmigration detention on child and adolescent refugee’s mental health”, under the supervision of Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke, focusing on risk and protective factors of developing a mental disorder in displaced and refugee children and adolescents.
  1. 3. A third group reflected on “genetics in the mirror of early life adversity”, guided by professors Johannes Hebebrand and Doron Gothelf. They particularly developed two questions: How to measure heritability of vulnerability and early life adversity? What are the gene variants associated with vulnerability to early life adversity?
  1. 4. A last group of fellows examined the question of “how to design an animal model of early life adversity for juniors researchers or clinicians”, highlighting the pros and cons of such models and the main pitfalls associated with this type of research. Professor Carmen Sandi passed them on her great experience in this field of research.

In general, the ESCAP Research Academy provided a unique opportunity for these young researchers to establish strong connections, to benefit from seniors’ sound advices, but also to exchange on more personal questions including their difficulties in conciliating their clinical activity and their research career and the main pitfalls when starting a research career. Most important, they will stay connected through the elaboration process of the four research projects briefly described above. The success of the 2017 ESCAP Research Academy workshop will be continued through the organization of bi-annual meetings and maybe, depending on the funding, more frequent encounters. The idea is to establish a network of well-trained and productive young international researchers, able to conduct research projects at an international level and, thus, to contribute to give a strong impact on the future of research in CAP [4].

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. 1. Mudra S, Völker U, Schweren L et al (2015) YICAP/ECAP international young investigators paper and grant writing workshop. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 24:247–248. doi:10.1007/s00787-014-0653-5CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  1. 2. Paniagua FA, Pumariega AJ, O’Boyle M, Meyer WJ (1993) The role of a research seminar for child psychiatry residents. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 32:446–452. doi:10.1097/00004583-199303000-00029CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  1. 3. Wykes T, Haro JM, Belli SR et al (2015) Mental health research priorities for Europe. Lancet Psychiatry 2:1036–1042. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(15)00332-6CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  1. 4. Ehrlich S, Jefferson-Lenskyj N, Plener PL (2007) Worldwide research networks for young child and adolescent psychiatrists: how can we help each other help children?: impressions from the IACAPAP 2006 Donald J. Cohen fellowship program. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 16:525–526. doi:10.1007/s00787-007-0628-xCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

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ESCAP Research Academy 2017