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Researcher Resolutions 2016

Well… 2015 threw us some curve balls, that’s for sure. Which saw us develop agility and flexibility as researchers (and people) in the face of constant change. We still managed to tick off several key professional and personal KPIs (https://thehealthresearchjourney.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/2015-the-year-that-was/).

As researchers we always like to have something measurable in place so this planning provided an evidence-base for some academic tasks which at times can make you feel like banging your head against a wall (i.e. navigating journal submission systems, hoop jumping in the form of meeting grant specifications, and increasing administration tasks which go hand in hand with contemporary teaching roles).

Given the changes in the 2016 year and as blog collaborators not in the same office, the coming 12 months promises some unique but exciting opportunities. You’ll notice several of these involve working together across tasks… and that’s because (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140824235337-22330283-the-three-qualities-of-people-i-most-enjoy-working-with ).

collaboration picture

But we digress… Writing down things we’d like to achieve and then reflecting on these proved very satisfying. So we are doing it again!

  1. Write, find, inspire some useful resources for health research
  2. Guest bloggers – let’s grow this space (AD, CB, IP, LS…)
  3. Joint paper (at least one submitted this year)
  4. Joint project planned
  5. Virtual whiteboard -our attempt to keep connected #watchthisspace
  6. Regular M&M catch ups (some for study, some for op-shopping, some for futures planning!) and more celebrations of achievements together
  7. PNI research hub (let’s dream big!)
  8. Keep working on saying no, but also saying yes
  9. Learn from conflict (try not to run away and hide from it) #Eureka
  10. Be proud of being a multipotentialite – What do you want to do when you grow up? Lots of different things!
  11. Be confident in what we have to offer
  12. Play more across work and life #worklifebalance



Each of us has some additional goals…

JOB would like to:

  • Meet all core assessment and competencies for Masters Health Psychology coursework
  • Work part-time in family business successfully #lifeofachambermaid #multipotentialite
  • Submit my nemesis paper – an RCT vitamin study for stressed women
  • Maintain research connections for future research as a Scientist-Practitioner
  • Be present. Be patient. Be persistent.

LB would like to:

  • Submit 5 current low hanging fruit papers (and have at least 3 of them get accepted)
  • Get some policy experience (maybe by embracing opportunities offered by being a member of different professional associations)
  • Follow through
  • Stop checking emails after hours
  • Be brave and step out of the comfort zone



2015 The year that was

What we achieved

In 2015 our Health Research Journey goals were to:

• Take our lessons from 2014’s grant and mould this proposal into brilliance worthy of category 1 funding
Done! (still haven’t heard how we went though, apparently ‘announcement in October’ is code for ‘we’ll let you know sometime in January…’)

• Have four papers accepted for publication
Done! With a few more currently under review 🙂

• Create an ECR network mailing list
Change of plan (oops!) – we focused on social media instead 😮

• Attend an international conference
Done! (It was in Melbourne, last week we squeezed it in, but it was still an international conference) 🙂

• Invite guest bloggers to post on their experiences of the journey
Invited – yes, received – not yet

• Get better at saying No – being strategic
Work in progress (https://thehealthresearchjourney.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/just-say-no/) but we are much improved

• Reward big but also small steps towards goals
Sort of done, though our rewards chart (https://thehealthresearchjourney.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/research-rewards-and-relapse-prevention/) slipped off the radar as we got busier

• Fail fast – it’s difficult to receive criticism and review of our work BUT if we are able to consider, take on and produce something better as a result then we can reap the rewards
Another work in progress, we are constantly developing ways how to do this but have certainly learnt a lot this year

• Attend a minimum of three lunchtime pilates/yoga classes per week
Not done. We moved offices this year which made it harder for this to be possible – we are sorry we didn’t achieve this one 😦

• Leave work at work
Sort of done. We might not have taken documents home but we took emotions home this year (Note to self: heart on sleeve not on research project). However, we have had lots of chats about work/life balance and what’s important and have tried hard to focus on these things instead

• Leave work before 6pm
Mostly done! 🙂

• Make a social life out of academia (can it be done?!)
We had some great times at conference dinners and some awesome officemate excursions and we have grown our network of people we enjoy working and hanging out with! And identified those we don’t :-/

• Be mindful of what tasks we do have control over and be careful not to overload, where possible do one task at a time and appreciate the process
Fail! But we’ve discovered we are multipotentialites (http://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling) so doing one task at a time is just…well…boring! We will continue to practice mindfulness where possible though.


What comes next

Well, what comes next looks a whole lot different than we might have thought a few months ago. 2016 will see our partnership change – we will no longer be officemates but instead be cross-sectoral collaborators. Jodie is following her dream and going back to uni to study to be a clinical health psychologist #biggestversionsofourselves. Lynsey’s current role has been extended for six months but when that door closes she is not sure what the next door will open into #hellouniversewhatdoyouhaveinstore. We are sad that this chapter is ending but are excited about the possibilities that next year holds! Times of change are full of opportunities #someonewisetoldus



Christmas traditions

This year we had a two-part grey-fitti as we moved offices in May: two offices, two whiteboards. This has led to a Christmas wordle spectacular… thanks Tagxedo!

Conference times

We’ve just returned from a week at a conference and it has inspired us to share the entertaining and important learnings we have experienced at conferences…

Travelling to a conference
You need to be comfortable and arrive refreshed and ready to engage. Crumple free clothing is a must, especially if you run into a big potato as soon as you get off the plane. Similarly, matching your suitcase to travel clothes can make for less confusion at the luggage carousel. Wear comfortable shoes. There can be a lot of walking involved both outside and inside some enormous conference centres.


Depending on your discipline, the scale of a conference can be enormous. Fortunately lanyards and name tags have alleviated the name-forgetting-distress; however there are still times when you may need to use word association to recall who that important person was. Some of our top picks: puzzle girl, crazy suit guy, beetroot woman. On the topic of name tags though, this can be a cause of its own distress – signing in should be simple but some people have a double barrelled name conundrum, am I in the A-E or M-Z line?

You will meet all sorts of people at conferences. Some people love a conference, get super-pumped about catching up with old friends and making new ones; some people like to observe and see what’s happening in their field; some are a mixture… Thanks to Brittany Leaning (@bleaning) for this insightful blog on the 12 types of people you’ll meet at a Conference: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/types-of-people-at-conferences

Networking is daunting but necessary and the sooner a conference delegate can get over the initial anxiety the sooner they will engage. The more relaxed you feel, the better conversations to be had with current and potential future peers. Professional associations are often a place to start – AGMs are sometimes scheduled around conferences so get along and get involved. Make the most of the coffee/cake/sandwich line to start a conversation with the people around you. Mentoring or buddy programmes at conferences can also assist. Attend the conference dinner – there is no better place to network than on the D-floor! Take pictures on the dance floor – you’ll need to remind yourself that to become a senior academic you’ll have to out dance the Profs. We recently saw a lot of bonding occur over a three kilo block of chocolate with a chisel and a hammer. Who knew?

conference truths
Conference Truths sourced from : https://brainthatwouldntdie.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/surviving-academic-conferences-without-crying/

Conference stalking
Strategically identify who you might want to talk to in your field at the conference. It might be someone you’ve referenced continuously, or someone you’d really like to work with in the future. Make a list, aim high, write a few dot points about what you might like to discuss with them and then put yourself in the networking and social spaces for this interaction to happen. When you do meet someone, exchange business cards (note to self: must pack business cards), and write a couple of notes about the topic and actions you talked to someone about on the back of their card. Make sure you follow up post-conference with a casual friendly email e.g., ‘it was great to meet you last week…’

Presenting at a conference
In our previous lives as undergraduates and PhD candidates we despised and avoided public speaking at all costs. And it cost us… this was an incredible barrier to growing our research profiles and potential career progression. We have endeavoured to work on this (it’s still a work in progress) but these days we participate and sign up. We feel the fear and do it anyway. Because as researchers one of our most important roles is to translate research, make it accessible and continue to improve on our practice as researchers. Presenting to peers, policy makers, and consumers makes us think about how best to explain our work and make the material relevant to different audiences. The pressure is a privilege. Prepare adequately. Speak calmly, slowly and confidently. Fake it till you make it. And make the most of the adrenalin rush that happens the minute you walk away from the lectern!

comfort zoneOut of your comfort zone sourced from: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/2012/05/feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway1/

Social media
Social media at conferences is increasing. Representing organisations, associations and individuals can make for fragmented tweeting. It’s vital to remember – which twitter account am I today? It’s a good idea to consider developing a social media strategy prior to attending a conference. Some general rules of thumb include saving twitter drafts (posts that might be considered too controversial, particularly if you’re tweeting on behalf of an organisation), thanking followers, and etiquette. With so much content coming in you might get a case of tweeter-block. Do not panic! Breathe and just enjoy the presentation.

There are some other really important parts to conferences:
• Conferences are a marathon not a sprint so there are some side effects of this delirium. You might start dreaming about the conference – don’t be alarmed, this will pass. Just try not to interpret these too literally.
sleeping allies• Don’t try to get to every session, workshop, meeting, breakfast, and dinner. This is the joy of social media – you can get a taste of the key messages from different sessions and prevent yourself from burning out.
• Select your exhibition booth goodies carefully – the coffee mug is a great idea until it ends up smashed in your suitcase. On that, don’t worry about perfecting the sneaky steal of booth freebies – the booth delegates don’t want to pack up all their merchandise and take it back to the office, they would prefer that you take it with you so go in brazenly!
• There’s a lot of staring at screens, a lot of eating rich foods and a lot of brain power required at conferences. Make sure you pack the Rescue Remedy, B-B-Berocca and of course some Panadol. Where possible, try to resist the salted caramel tarts until the last day and make sure you always eat something green (m&ms do count).
berocca rescue remedy
Rescue Remedy (http://www.bachflower.com/rescue-remedy-information/) and Berocca (http://www.berocca.com.au/products/)

• Do something fun either side of the conference. Reward yourself for all that hard work. Some ideas we have tried and recommend – visiting Wet ‘n’ Wild on the Gold Coast, Sydney we had a day walking around the markets and various landmarks, cycling on the NSW North Coast, bungee jumping in Cairns.

waterslide minjin swing
Waterslide image sourced from: http://overseasattractions.com/pacific/australia/gold-coast/wetnwild-water-world/
Minjin swing image sourced from: http://1770travelbugs.com/product/aj-hackett-cairns-minjin-swing-14000ft-skydive/

The key is to think about why you’re attending a conference – what are your expectations, what are you hoping to achieve, who do you want to meet, and what do you want to find out? Conferences can be fantastic sources of inspiration, crowds of people who share your passion, wanting to work together and exchange ideas to progress the field. Make the most of the opportunity and have fun!


When no news is good news in health research (and life generally)

1. School or childcare have not contacted you before midday

2. The manuscript submitted has not been returned to you within 24 hours of submission – good chance its gone for review

3. Error messages – SPSS, Endnote, Word -you name it – no news is good news

4. The mechanic hasn’t called you soon after you dropped your car off to announce that your credit card is going to be sad today

5. Health isn’t mentioned in the budget cuts news article

6. Research isn’t mentioned in the budget cuts news article

7. You’ve requested co-authors to make any final edits to a manuscript prior to submission – and silence

8. The ethics committee’s initial approval notice is the only correspondence with this committee across the course of the project

9. Grants submission portals – either crashing due to last-minute research enthusiasm or when they are up and working they request some left-of-field pieces of bio information from a co-investigator who’s on leave and uncontactable for an extended period in a remote location – happy days when these messages don’t appear!

10. No email calendar meeting requests for an entire day.


Welcome to the Journey

Why are you here?

  • You’re a researcher?
  • You’re feeling confused or frustrated with the research journey so far, or this particular stage of the journey?
  • You’d like some ideas about surviving in health research, or just want to know that you’re not on your own?

Who are we?
We had the good fortune of being thrown together in an office having both recently completed our PhDs.

Lynsey walked out of the school gates into the psychology section of the university library. She often feels like she’s trying to fit eight days’ of activities into a seven day week, balancing researching, teaching, conferencing, paper writing, netballing, dog walking, socialising, Nutella eating, shoe shopping, list writing and sometimes even sleeping. Lynsey loves the opportunity to be involved but has some lessons to learn in prioritising and saying no.

Jodie followed a path from university drop out, uni-bar hopping, backpacking OS travel, plus a couple of beloved ‘career interruptions’. Jodie thrives on the generation of ideas, big-picture thinking, and the struggle for work-life balance that comes with having two young children. Whilst loving research Jodie also has several manuscripts in various stages that make her sad, mad or glad depending on what day it is.

The paths were different but post-PhDs the workplace was new, the work completely removed from our disciplinary backgrounds. We had to find a way through.

Researchers – different ages, different roads, same start, same current space.

BtUFtH2CMAExXYr.jpg large

Why have we started a blog?
In our office around 3.30 on at least one day of the working week we have philosophical conversations about where the bloody hell are we, how we got here, and most importantly what happens next; about feeling confused, uncertain and at times isolated, and not feeling confident about knowing what we should focus our energy on.

Our email inboxes are constantly bombarded with messages about grant writing, professional development opportunities and increasing pressure to publish but how do we know where to start, what to say yes to and when to just say no.

So… instead of eating yet another packet of peanut M&Ms, we thought we’d write a blog.

BvDf4HPCQAASNEi.jpg large
What is this blog about?

We have found some useful tools, tips and resources along the way, things that have made our lives easier, or that we wished we’d known about when we started, and we wanted a space to be able to share them, and where other people could share their brilliant finds and ideas.

We have also had some useful and heartfelt conversations and wanted a place to extend these chats to others about issues facing health researchers (especially early career), questions that we often discuss over chicken nachos at Friday lunch and wonder if other people are asking the same things.