Join The Crawford Fund to celebrate and discuss Queensland work for food security and to encourage more young scientists to be engaged in international agricultural research for development
You are invited to “Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security – Involving the Next Generation,” a free Crawford Fund forum and networking reception to be held on 19 February at Queensland’s Parliament House in Brisbane from 3-6.30pm.
The Hon Mark Furner MP, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, will be present to open the forum.
Feedback is sought from:
- Early to mid-career researchers (EMCRs)
- People responsible for (either directly or indirectly) employing, supervising or mentoring EMCRs
If you don’t fit into either of these categories and you would like to let us know your thoughts, please feel free to complete the survey.
1 - Networking Events
2 - Capacity Building Events
I’ve had some fortuitous opportunities in my career as a social scientist working in climate resilience and agriculture development. But these opportunities were not just down to ‘luck’. I’d like to think they’ve have arisen from (i) building good relationships, (ii) taking advantage of opportunities, and (iii) continuously evolving and building my skills.
In my experience, later career academics often fail to explain these things simply to early career academics. So let me give you some examples.
I met some great people when I first came to Australia; I made the effort to get to know them, taught into their courses, and had great hallway conversations. They knew and understood my real passion was to get into development work. These relationships led to unimagined opportunities.
Image 1. Testing the ASEAN Community based tourism standards in Sambor Prekuk - Cambodia
Example one. One staff knew my interests, and found an opportunity for me to work with one of her colleagues via a small teaching contract at Hue University in Vietnam. Eight years later, that University now partners on one of my projects. This year, one of my former students was a participant in my policy workshop. One of her classmates, another former student, helped me out with some translation work when I was caught short on another project. My fortune came from working with students.
Example two. I first went to Cambodia to support a student tour four years ago. I saw a need for more integrated development work at the community scale. I now have a small grant working there on community resilience, food security and climate change adaptation with Ministry of Environment (MOE). Another former colleague now living in Cambodia told me about a new FAO-MOE project. I am now collaborating with that project, sharing data, and we are leveraging off one another’s work. My fortune came from the networks I developed.
Image 2. Discussing alternative resilience-building livelihood opportunities with the commune leader during a village walk in Lvea Krang, Cambodia
Example Three. My manager sent me to Kenya for a three day UNEP meeting – that’s three days of flying for a three day meeting! At the time, I didn’t really ‘get’ why I was there. The meeting introduced me to approaches that provided context for my research in Vietnam and Cambodia and Australia. It helped me to see new directions and research possibilities, and it really helped me to respond to reviewer’s comments on my proposals. I now know my fortune was my manager’s foresight!
Example Four. I was on a Pacific Island student’s PhD confirmation panel. Seven years later, the student, his advisor and I led the development of the Pacific Islands Agriculture Extension Strategy with SPC. It was a lot more work than we had anticipated, but we wanted to do a good job for our partner, and I think we did that. I now have an honours student working with SPC. My fortune came from maintaining my networks.
Image 3. Working to teach students community mapping field research skills for understanding landuse change in Hue, Vietnam, and learning just as much from them!
The key lessons from all of this?
- First, setting your intentions right is critical to fortuitous opportunities. During and just after your PhD, try to find small ways to weave your passion into whatever you are doing, and let people know it.
- Second, take advantage of opportunities that arise, even if you are unsure what might come from them. There might not be instant dividend, but things add up and you will probably benefit several years later; be patient and humble.
- Third, don’t think you are finished learning after your PhD. You can learn a lot from you students and even the most mundane experience. For example, the technical language sets different groups use and the ways they interact (including what bar they meet at on what night!).
Fortuitous opportunities are not really about good fortune, but more like a waka (canoe) that is packed with an open-mind, ready to learn, prepared for teamwork and flexible to wherever the winds might take you.
Chris Jacobson is Research Fellow (Sustainability) at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Most recently, Chris has worked with FAO and ISET to develop and undertake resilience assessment for climate adaptation in SE Asia and with SPC to develop the Pacific Islands Agriculture Extension Strategy.
Image 4. Another day at the office trying to avoid the cobra while entering migration, food insecurity coping mechanisms and social consequences data
Image 5. Copying a photo pose with a former student (now completing her doctoral studies at Wageningen), at her mum’s house, just like we did 8 years ago
By Di Mayberry, Julia Hoy, Nick Hudson, Dennis Poppi, Megan Sullivan
Conferences are an important part of being a scientist. And while catching up on the latest news in your field can be exciting, it’s the networking opportunities at these events that will help to shape your future career. Meeting new people can help you get a job, find research collaborators, solve a science problem, secure funding, publish papers and much more. Many young scientists find networking intimidating, so we’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your next conference experience.
Submit a paper for an oral presentation – it’s the easiest way to introduce yourself and your work to a large group of people.
If you’re travelling to get to a conference, arrange to visit local research institutes. This gives you an opportunity to meet scientists who aren’t attending the conference. Most groups love having presentations from visiting scientists (including students!), so it’s also a great opportunity to share your work.
Read the conference program and delegate list before the conference starts. Identify which sessions you want to go to and who you want to meet. It’s often helpful to ask your colleagues for recommendations on who to catch up with, especially if you’re going alone. You might even like to contact someone before the conference and arrange a meeting (but make sure you have something specific to discuss).
Pack the right clothes and dress appropriately. If it’s a conference you haven’t been to before, ask someone who has what the dress code is like.
Get some business cards printed with your name and contact details. Hand them out to people you meet, and expect to collect a similar number in return.
Who should you network with?
Everyone! Talk to lots of people – you never know who will be useful. Conferences give you a great opportunity to meet other scientists from different institutions, countries and research areas. There’s also likely to be representatives from industry, funding bodies and scientific journals.
Meeting other students and early career researchers is just as important as meeting experienced researchers. These people will be your peers and colleagues in the future.
Starting a conversation
Know what you want to say. Be able to introduce yourself and give a clear and concise explanation of your research (10-30 seconds).
Sit next to people you don’t know.
If you’re too shy to introduce yourself, ask a colleague for an introduction.
Many scientists are not extroverts or good at networking, but everyone likes being asked about their work.
Take advantage of tea breaks, functions, field trips and networking events, and always say ‘yes’ if you’re invited to join a group for dinner or drinks after the last session for the day. People are usually more relaxed and easier to talk to in less formal situations.
Don’t spend the whole conference on your phone or laptop – it makes you less approachable, and people will be much less likely to stop and start a conversation.
Good manners are always appropriate
Be a good listener. Ask open ended questions about other people’s research.
Thank people for their time and advice (even if you don’t agree with it!).
Don’t be rude or use inappropriate language.
When asking questions during a session, keep your question brief and to the point. Being overly critical of others’ work will reflect worse on you than the presenter.
Accept rejections gracefully
Networking can be like dating – you won’t hit it off with everyone you meet. But you need to put yourself out there and keep trying.
After the conference
If you told someone you’d keep in touch, make sure to follow up. When exchanging business cards or contact details it’s often helpful to make a note to yourself what you were going to contact that person about.