At the beginning of a new year we are often encouraged to start afresh, broaden our horizons, try something different and create a ‘new you’. So… how many resolutions have you broken so far? The truth is we should be reinventing ourselves every day.
For early and mid-career researchers (EMCRs), every single day presents the opportunity to learn a new method, develop a new skill, push the boundaries of their knowledge and connect with colleagues. Last year, the Science Next Collaborative (SNC) presented such an opportunity. This exciting initiative aims to expose EMCRs to commercialisation and industry, and strengthen their skills so they can better translate their research.
Ask almost anyone in academic science today, and they will say that things are tough. Contributing forces include the tight fiscal climate, the burgeoning costs of research, the increasing number of PhD graduates, and the limited number of research positions in Australia – in academia and industry.
It is vital that we equip EMCRs with entrepreneurial savvy and operational know-how to energise our innovation sector. We want to them to pursue their dreams, start their own companies, pick themselves up if they fail and try again. They will also need to communicate between disciplines, across borders and around the world. This mindset will become increasingly important as the mining boom subsides and the need for science-related skills in almost any job increases. It will be crucial too, given the recent changes to the Cooperative Research Centres program, and the funding opportunities to come via the Medical Research Future Fund. Innovation is the buzz word!
Innovation can mean the translation of research to product, practice and/or policy. All three outcomes will have significant economic impact through revenue and/or savings. There is also a fourth and often under-valued research innovation which is translation to knowledge. Every scientist knows discovery, knowledge and translation all go hand-in-hand.
This is why the SNC launch is timely. We want EMCRs to see their research through every possible lens, consider all pathways to translation and then have the capacity and understanding to innovate. SNC will also extend the professional network of EMCRs and enhance their skillset for a wide range of scientific careers. There is no doubt that connecting with professionals beyond the bench will expose EMCRs to a diverse range of people, different jargon, new mentors and novel perspectives and thinking. All of which will feedback to benefit their research career and more.
I commend Sigma-Aldrich for devoting time and resources to the future of Australian science. SNC has the potential to upskill an entire generation of researchers and contribute to a vibrant science sector that teems with ideas, collaborations and applications. It important that EMCRs leave their comfort zone, and make the most of such opportunities. This requires them to make the time to go to workshops, polish their pitch, and network – but also share these opportunities with others, so they too can learn something new.
This is not about defecting to the dark side, “them versus us”, or making lots of money. As the future research workforce, EMCRs can ditch these outdated misnomers. This is about harnessing the talent of our best and brightest to maximise how we use our research knowledge and discoveries to the benefit of society. It’s about synergy through collaboration. Being the change you want to see. It is about helping people live better lives. Isn’t that why you became a scientist in the first place?
My new year’s resolution this year is the same as every other year: continually reinvent yourself. Now that’s a resolution anyone can keep! May this year be your most transformative yet.