Respect Research Forum – 6th November, 2014

We are a country bursting with intelligent, inquisitive, passionate people who undertake research in order to make a positive contribution to our world. And yet, the state of science and research in Australia is dire:

  • Funding is ever-declining and there are clear biases in its distribution.
  • Work performance models do not incentivise researchers and academics to translate their knowledge into “real world” outcomes.
  • The workforce that conducts research and teaches the next generation of researchers has become increasingly casualised and reliant on fixed term contracts.

Tonight’s Respect Research Forum brought together Prof Peter Doherty (Nobel Laureate and immunologist, @ProfPCDoherty), Dr Krystal Evans (CEO of BioMelbourne and medical research scientist, @dr_krystal), Adam Bandt (Greens MP, @AdamBandt), and Jeannie Rea (President of the National Tertiary Education Union, @NTEUNational) to discuss these and other major challenges facing researchers in Australia.

If we don’t support research in Australia, we won’t have innovation. Without innovation, we won’t have the kind of society that we aspire to achieve and maintain: a society that makes a meaningful contribution to the state of the world. Without innovation, without the growth that new ideas promise and deliver, how can we expect our economy to flourish in the modern age?

Here are my sketchnotes from the forum. Please share widely and talk to your colleagues, friends, and family about why research in Australia is critical to our country’s future! Log onto the Respect Research website to learn more about Australia’s incredible history of research innovations that have made lasting positive impacts worldwide.

Respect Research Forum, 6th November 2014 | Sketchnotes by Jacquie Tran

Click to view full size.

(Thesis) Baby on the Way

Recently, I reached an important milestone. Nine months to go in my PhD scholarship.

Naturally, I’ve taken to calling it my “thesis baby”.

I’m not naive to the fact that it’s just an old reframing trick, adapted from psychology lectures in my hazy undergraduate past, and rehashed for my postgraduate needs. But here’s the way I see it: if we can literally create human life in 9 months, then writing a thesis and finishing my PhD in that same timespan is absolutely doable!

In my third (and hopefully final) year, I find myself reflecting on how far I’ve come, while trying to keep a level head about the work that’s still ahead of me. I have to admit that I am battling an old foe again, the foe who likes to rear his head as any major project comes to a close.

A few years ago, I decided that my best path forward was to passionately practice wide curiosity. With my capacity to be wander down rabbit holes, it’s little wonder that I can be prone to the “ooh, shiny!” kind of distraction when interesting opportunities present themselves.

But with this thesis baby well on the way, we are definitely reaching the business end of proceedings. The last 2.5 years have been afforded me the luxury of time to think, to tinker, to experiment, to analyse, to interpret. I have also indulged long-standing passions, discovered new interests, and allowed myself many happy diversions in order to find relief from the PhD grind. But now it is time to tell the story of these last few years of work.

Somehow, I am not so concerned about the academic task of writing a thesis (though it is a mammoth task).

My biggest concern is making sure that my thesis does justice to all the people who have contributed to my PhD experience. Because all in all, it’s been damn fun*.

* I reserve the right to change my mind about how “fun” it is to do a PhD, particularly once I have endured the birth of my thesis baby.

To Start: A Confession

I’ve already past the six-month mark of my PhD and have been blogging about it all this time, over at my Tumblr.  (It feels a little dirty to link to my Tumblog in the first sentence of my first WordPress post!)

You’re probably wondering, “After six months of PhD blogging, why the change of format?”

It’s more or less about separating out things according to my thoughts about what is Tumblr-friendly and what is WordPress-friendly.  Though I have strayed from the model many times, I still think of my Tumblr as a place to capture snapshots: in photos, videos, songs; of short quotes and emotional responses “in the moment”.  I like how the format encourages content generation straight from one’s stream of consciousness, and discourages long posts (read: posts with more than one paragraph).  Both of these things are good for me; I am inclined to overthinking and rambling.  On the other hand, the more I blog about my life as a PhD student, the more I find that certain pieces don’t quite fit the Tumblr mould.

Given the test run over the last six months, I’ve decided to launch this blog, where I will be posting more considered posts about my PhD experience.  I’ll still be posting about the PhD on Tumblr, but you should know upfront that I can be highly personal, emotional and impassioned over there (often all at once).  Also, as it is my personal blog, there’s plenty on there that is irrelevant to my academic pursuits.  You have been forewarned 😉