How important is it to present at conferences early in one’s career? (Part 1)

Way back when, Julie Gold asked: “How important is it, really, to present papers early in one’s career?” (Research Whisperer’s Facebook page, 3 Feb 2018).

I took Julie’s question to be about presenting at conferences and my short, immediate answer (in my head) after I saw it was this:

“Even though many things have changed in academia, and I’d argue that most people could do with less conference-ing (rather than more), though getting the word out about your work early in your career is very important and sustained networking even more so.

There are many ways to do this, though, that don’t HAVE to be conferences – it’s just that conferences still retain a standard allure for academia that will take a longer time to shift…”

Then I stopped and thought a bit more about what I was saying. I realised how narrow my own experiences were (humanities, based in Australia, relatively recent social media zealot) in the broader pool of academic conference lore.

In addition, I’m speaking from a ‘mid-career’ position in the system, with established networks and an established track-record of conference presentation and attendance.

So, I approached a wider circle of Research Whisperer colleagues from various disciplines, perspectives and career stages. They were brilliant! They responded with thoughtful, useful advice and fascinating sharing of their experiences.

In fact, their responses were too good (and, therefore, hard to slice down) so this planned single post has become a 2-parter!

Here’s part one, featuring Inger ‘Thesis Whisperer’ Mewburn, Dani Barrington, Euan Ritchie, and Eva Alisic. Read more of this post

More Open Access – take the pledge

7i8skr7iEva Alisic is a senior research fellow at Monash University, Australia, where she leads the Trauma Recovery Lab. She is also a visiting scholar at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Switzerland.

She studies how children, young people, and families cope with traumatic experiences, and how professionals can support them.

A generous and engaging colleague, and a scholar with great initiative, Eva has just finished a stint as co-chair of the Global Young Academy.

Eva writes on the Trauma Recovery blog and tweets via @EvaAlisic.

Two islands: The island of Doctor Moreau is closed and sad; while the island of Doctor More Open is welcoming and happy.

The Island of Doctor More Open, by Rob Jenkins.

“Come on in, the water’s fine!” tweeted Jonathan, one of the Research Whisperers.

I hope you’ll agree with him and join us for a More Open Access splash.

Why do we need more Open Access (OA)?

Many research articles are still not available

Despite substantial movement towards Open Science, we’re not there yet.

Many papers are still behind paywalls. And even those that are shared in repositories are often not indexed in Google Scholar, a frequent starting point for literature searches.

This is a serious problem for several reasons. I’ll focus on the practical ones. Most importantly, we expect practitioners in medicine, psychology, education and other fields to conduct ‘evidence-based practice’. How is that possible if they do not have access to that evidence base? The same is true for policy advisors – how can they base their policies on evidence, if they don’t have access to the evidence base?

Also, more and more citizen scientists are doing excellent, relevant projects. They could do even better if they had access to the literature. With much academic research being conducted with public funds, there is a moral imperative for those projects’ findings to be made publicly available.

Finally, a substantial number of researchers still can’t access all literature. This is a problem, especially in low-resource settings. There have been several great initiatives to improve access for researchers in low- and middle-income countries, from the Egyptian Knowledge Bank to Sci-Hub. These are partial solutions, and they are not known or accessible to all. There are grey areas when using ‘pirate’ sites such as Sci-Hub or #ICanHazPDF: access to research should be legal and free. Yet, arguably, these methods only exist because of a publishing system that is failing.

Read more of this post

Planning your next career move

Dr. Eva Alisic is a psychologist and research fellow at Monash University, where she focuses on children’s recovery from traumatic events. 

Eva grew up and studied in the Netherlands, while spending some time in France, Switzerland and the US.

She edits the Trauma Recovery blog, which has weekly updates regarding traumatic exposure and recovery in children, adolescents, and their families. It includes news, practical tools and key insights from research findings. 

An engaging colleague and a scholar with great initiative, Eva is also a regular at our Friday #shutupandwrite sessions at RMIT. She is on Twitter as @EvaAlisic. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-7225-606X


First, decide what you would really like to do. Then, find out how you can make it work.

Sounds obvious, right? Often, it’s not.

Many people start by thinking about the constraints and try to design their future within those boundaries. Many ‘yes, buts’ show up quickly after a great, bold idea surfaces and make the enthusiasm disappear even more quickly. Sometimes, there is simply a lack of thinking about what it is that really makes you tick. You just continue on the path that you appear to be on.

I hope to activate you, to make you combine dreaming and doing.

This post was initially meant to be about doing a postdoc abroad. I was planning to tell you about the pros and cons, and give you some hope by showing how far I got with the few contacts I started with. Then I considered a post on ‘Paper in a Day’, a process that I’m developing to stimulate connections and collaborations among early career researchers. Both may eventually be written, but each time they got me thinking about the ‘yes, buts’ that I had encountered.

Yes, I am absolutely aware of constraints and limitations. And I think there is often a way around them. There are many opportunities if you dare to believe and act.