Gaining momentum

It’s been nearly 5 years since I graduated from my PhD and I’ve been either on maternity leave or working part-time since then. Even so, I’m publishing consistently with wonderful collaborators and I’ve come to appreciate the peer review process of academic publishing.

In 2022 I’ve had several works published, focused on health technology and climate justice, Indigenous data sovereignty and participatory science, and the arcane history of shellfish divers and oceanic voyagers I’m immersed in through my ancestry.

Now my children are a little bigger I’m contemplating more work next year, as well as my chess mentoring initiative that’s being embraced by our neurodiversity community. It’s the start of a new era for me, post-babies, I’m ready for it!

Four new publications, maternity leave

What a year, hey? The nature of academic publishing means that though I’ve been on leave for half of the year, I’ve more publications than last year.

The first was part of a special collection in the Journal of Science Communication, from the Australian Science Communicators conference at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute in February. It’s about how a climate change sceptic politician changed their mind. It was my last in-person conference presentation for the year, as the pandemic was spreading to Australia. I cancelled a trip to Sydney the week afterwards and have worked from home since.

The next emerged from my work with the UN and CERN in Geneva, as part of a special Sustainability issue about citizen science and sustainable development. It was about sustaining citizen science beyond an emergency and was mostly written before the pandemic, but found its place in 2020.

The third had its roots in the early days of my PhD, when I was researching and experimenting with participatory decision-making methods. It’s my first debate article, in the journal Evidence & Policy, about participatory budgeting for research funding decisions. Since my PhD literature review stage, research progressed about how randomness would be a better way of making research funding decisions than most current processes. This article builds on that research to argue that participatory processes would be better still, to improve governance for societies as well as science.

While much of the world was in lockdown, we were getting to know our new baby at home. Life with 2 children under 3 means that being stuck around home – as long as we could visit the park and beach – isn’t that different from what we’d be doing anyway. I learnt from travelling overseas when our first was 4 months old that it’s not as appealing as the solo travel I enjoyed previously! The pandemic isn’t over yet, but I’m incredibly grateful to be living in Australia at this stage of my life. Given I’ve lived in several countries on different continents and spent most of my twenties overseas, I’m incredibly lucky I happened to be grounded at home when the pandemic happened.

The final publication wasn’t academic, though I gave some related interviews and remote presentations during fire season and the pandemic, talking about how people documenting their experiences would be historically valuable. I’ve now contributed some of my pregnancy story to the National Museum of Australia as part of their Momentous project. I don’t share much about our kids publicly online, as they can’t yet consent to it. I shared this story to raise awareness of the risks of poor air quality to vulnerable people, including pregnant women and babies. Among the mixed fortunes of 2020, my greatest blessing has been a healthy and happy baby girl.

New book chapter, profile, conference

I’m delighted that a book chapter on community forest rights emerging from collaboration in Asia has just been published.

I’ve been working with UNSW for almost six months now and finally have my researcher profile up!

I’ve recently joined the leadership team of the Australian Citizen Science Association.

In February I’ll be involved in multiple sessions of the Australian Science Communicators conference at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, some supported by the Centre for Social Impact and one by a bursary from Future Earth Australia. Our paper for the research program is online now and I welcome your feedback!

#CitSciOz18 reflections

I benefited from a scholarship to attend #CitSciOz18, in return for sharing my reflections. It’s been several months since the conference now, which have felt like forever and no time at all (an album on high rotation at home), as in that time I’ve become a new mother. What a time of joy and no sleep!

I’m writing this at 4:30am when my son is nearly six months old and hasn’t woken to breastfeed. I am in the habit of being awake at this time, so suddenly have a moment to write (while listening out for him, ready to save this as a draft for another day and resume active parenting).

Back in the days before social media I used to blog voraciously – between Twitter and parenting, my blog posts have become like hen’s teeth. Marginally more common though, given this one.

I presented at the conference about some of my citizen science work, professionally and as a volunteer, in humanitarian disaster response and mapping projects.

It was fantastic to have a full house for our #EngagingCitizens session.

The conference was especially fun for me as it was the first conference I’d attended since graduation from my PhD, so was the first for which my name tag said ‘doctor’. Having recently submitted the final version of my thesis, I particularly enjoyed the parts of the conference I saw through the lends of my PhD research.

Given my impending motherhood I was interested in research about women’s experiences with workplace breastfeeding spaces.

I was happy that the importance of encouraging ‘don’t know’ responses for data quality was emphasized in one presentation, something I’ve learnt in disaster response work.

The best thing about the conference for me, however, were not presentations but people. In particular, people who actively supported me attending a conference while heavily pregnant.

Most notably, a woman (who I’m not sure wants to be named) who noticed I was looking a little shaken when I arrived on the last day of the conference. I’d been to an obstetrician’s appointment that morning, where I’d been advised to have an induction by 40 weeks. Also, the conference was happening during a heatwave, so getting to the conference in the city from the hospital in the heat was harder than I’d anticipated. However I was enjoying the conference so much that I wanted to attend what I could of the last day.

She noted I seemed different to yesterday and asked how I was going. I explained where I’d been and that I was processing information I’d been given. She suggested we skip the next session and instead have a one-on-one discussion. She listened, then sensitively shared her experiences having her children and reminded me of my right to informed consent for interventions. It was exactly what I needed at that time. It’s not surprising that professionals in the field of citizen science also excel at evidence-based patient advocacy. A citizen science conference was an apt environment for living my dual roles of doctor in one field and patient in another.

So thank you to the organizing committee and this person in particular, for making my experience great personally as well as professionally.

For those wondering, yes I did have the induction, but was still able to give birth naturally without pain relief, as it happened on my terms. I’m loving being a parent, as well as finally a doctor!

Update: a video of my conference presentation is now online: