Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Media training for graduate researchers (Edwina Kay)

Stephanie Amir (right) interviewing Anne Brouwer
(Photo by Edwina Kay)
The importance of sharing our research with a wider audience is something my early career researcher and PhD student colleagues have been talking about for years.

Talking about it is easy, but actually doing it is much harder.

We all think our research is important and suspect other people will find it interesting, too! While we dutifully publish our research in academic journals, and present our findings at conferences, sharing it with a non-academic audience is often something we’re not sure how to do.

I’m an archaeologist, and part of how archaeology as a profession justifies its existence (and the costs of excavation) is by claiming that what we do is in the public interest.

We say the public cares about heritage, and that it’s our job to record it and protect it. Sadly, much of what we find languishes unpublished, or is published in academic journals that aren’t accessible to everyone.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Why you need a triple backup strategy (Merran Williams)

Image credit: Perspecsys Photos
A couple of weeks ago, a bushfire went through the property where I live.

While there was extensive damage, I was fortunate that most of my possessions survived. My study got very wet, courtesy of the water bomber (I’m not complaining, they helped save the house!), and my desktop computer and backup drive were wrecked.

When the fire started, we had to evacuate quickly and all I took were the dogs, my handbag, phone and laptop. Even if I hadn’t been able to get my laptop, I wasn’t worried about my PhD research. All my notes and writing are backed up in the cloud, together with important family photos and financial records.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Notes to my grad researcher self (Erika Duan)

Image/doodle by Erika Duan
They say that hindsight is always 20/20.

So, this is the list of hard-won insights I would like to send to my graduate researcher self, if only time machines had been invented:

1. Fighting off the graduate student blues

Looking back at my PhD experience, the aspect I wish I could've changed was my study outlook. Rather than taking all the dead ends to heart and aiming for a magnum opus, it would've been more efficient to round off unexplainable observations much earlier.

The ability to remain positive and move forward - even incrementally - is not only the best antidote to scientific despair (and the fastest way to accrue scientific data), but also a means of demonstrating your ability to organise independent projects and meet expected deadlines to future employers. Twenty years down the track, it is far more likely that these skills and a resilient outlook, rather than the number and impact factor of your PhD publications, will govern your career success and progression. And, to the scientific idealists out there, I felt great satisfaction in pursuing my research questions as far as I did, but this enjoyment has all been retrospective!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A little help from my friends (Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere)

Photo by Anoir Chafik | unsplash.com
As researchers, we spend our lives thinking, breathing, and even dreaming about our topics of interest.

I have focused my PhD topic over time and, finally, have decided that I'll assess 'the limits of perception and metacognition in animals by researching how dogs see and think about their environment'.

As I've gone through this process, I've found it more difficult to explain my interests and goals to my closest friends and family. Where I once relied heavily on their input and feedback, a 10-minute conversation to address a brief question can now turn into a 2-hour overview of basic principles and foundations.