Training fellowships
Training fellowships were awarded to researchers at ECNIS institutions to spend a period of between 2 weeks and 6 months at another ECNIS institution, to allow the sharing of knowledge, expertise and laboratory facilities.  During each of the 5 years of ECNIS, training fellowships were advertised within ECNIS member institutions and on the ECNIS website, inviting researchers to apply.  Applicants agreed a research proposal with their home and potential host institutions for their application.  Applications were independently reviewed and scored by senior scientists at IARC, Imperial College London, the Institute of Cancer Research (UK), Athens University, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine (Poland) and Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium).  This selection committee then met (via telephone conference) to discuss scores and decide on fellowships to be awarded.

Over the 5 years a total of 19 training fellowships were awarded, funding a total of 49 months of research (an average of 10 weeks per fellow, up to a maximum of 6 months).  Examples of the topics of research include "Mediterranean diet and risk of gastric adenocarcinoma", "EPHX1 gene modify and non-malignant pulmonary diseases", "Glutathione conjugates of PAHs and CACO-2 cells", "Using aggregated evidence from observational studies to assess benzene leukemia exposure response curve" and "The role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in lung cancer." 

The training fellows were awarded to researchers at various levels of their scientific careers, with a greater focus on those beginning their careers.  Seven training fellowships were awarded to PhD students, 8 to post-doctoral fellows and 4 to junior/mid-career scientists.  Typically, training periods were spent in another laboratory that had equipment or expertise not available in the fellow's home institution. 

The experiences of the fellows during their training experience were evaluated in year 4.  The fellows evaluated their fellowship period through completion of a questionnaire asking about their experience, and scoring it based on various criteria (knowledge gained, skills acquired, ability to speed up research, support in host institution, potential of future collaboration).  There was an overwhelming positive response to this questionnaire by nearly all fellows.  They found the program to be ‘good' or ‘very good' and that the period was beneficial to them.  For many (70%), their research benefitted from new technologies in the host institutions, for example use of Affymetrix technology and new techniques in proteomics.  Most fellows felt that their research gained momentum from the exchange period, e.g. by learning new statistical software or methods to analyze pooled genetic data.  Some fellows specifically said that they felt their research would not have been possible without the program.  Fellows were asked what were the best and worst features of the exchange period and how these could be improved.  The best features included an efficient focused use of time and establishing research collaborations. Some fellows felt that the knowledge they gained was not only useful for themselves, but that they would be able to transfer this to their colleagues back in their home institutions.  The effects of this exchange program therefore go beyond the fellow concerned.

Training workshops and courses
Workshops and courses were held throughout the 5 years.  They were organised by ECNIS scientists working throughout the network, advertised on the ECNIS website and emailing list and open to attendance to all ECNIS researchers.  An average of about 20 courses and workshops was held each year.  The courses varied from shorter one or half-day workshops which were often in connection with methods developed within other workpackages, to longer full-week courses.  A major ECNIS-funded one-week training course on Molecular Epidemiology was held each year, at Imperial College London. Not only a useful opportunity for face-to-face learning, but this course also contributed to workpackage 13 on the dissemination of knowledge to the scientific community, through adapting it for online learning available to interested researchers who could not attend.

Courses covered a very wide range of topics and research methods needed by ECNIS researchers, from exposure assessment, molecular and genetic epidemiology to statistical methods.  Examples of course topics are: Oxidative stress - Disease, Methods and Concepts; Standardization and validation of the comet assay for the measurement of DNA damage and DNA repair phenotype; Methods and guidelines for the Development of spectral mutation databases in cancer;  Advanced Course on A Critical Review of Environmental Mutagenesis and Carcinogenesis; - Novel Biomarkers and Techniques for Large Prospective Studies. 

All together over 550 students took part in training workshops and courses.

Opportunities for PhD students
A particular focus on training for PhD students has implemented through the organisation of PhD oral and poster presentations at annual meetings of ECNIS and at workshops.  For the annual meetings, PhD students were invited to submit abstracts and the best five were selected to be presented orally. The abstracts were evaluated by the same selection committee that selected the training fellowships.  Some of the meetings where sessions for PhD students were programmed include the International Symposium on Integrative Molecular Cancer Epidemiology (IARC France, July 2008), the ECNIS 4th annual meeting in Leuven, Belgium (March, 2009) and a workshop on ‘Biomarkers and Cancer' in Porto, Portugal (September, 2009).

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