Dr. Jill StJohn, ARMS Conference Awardee from UWA, writes about her first impressions, highlights and thoughts on follow up.
I buckled in for the flight home after from the recent ARMS conference realizing the next stage of my journey as an Research Development Adviser was just starting.
The conference title “Stimulating Change: Inspire, Innovate, Engage” intrigued me because “Stimulating Change”, for the better of course, is the holy grail. And change in what? Did it mean change in process, change in people, either researcher or research manager or group change? The rest of the conference title was Inspire, Innovate, Engage. I hoped to experience the trifecta.
I have never attended a friendlier conference. The conference organisers were so welcoming and helpful, setting the scene for a really personable conference and a great buzz. My first impressions were spot on as I found it really easy to meet and talk with new people at all times. Best of all I had my fill of networking – one of my primary aims in attending.
Conference Highlights: Inspire, Innovate, Engage
Among the programme pickings, I couldn’t go past Jason Fox for Inspiration. Jason is a motivational researcher, idea challenger and red-haired extraordinaire. He kicked off the conference with a fresh approach, entertaining us while he explained his conference role. Jason would watch the main speakers and provide us with a conference summary and our a-ha moments as take home comics! I loved the concept of him sitting up high above the stage watching on from his non-research management perspective. At the end of the two days Jason did not disappoint us with his quirky views and takes on all he saw. His comical presentation of a-ha moments is the first, and best, summary I have ever received from a conference. I can’t help wondering how he would have drawn our conference dinner had he been there – the packed trams, the dancing and the singers in their shiny gold dresses.
Innovation for me was covered by Paul Wong in his presentation “Crossing boundaries: Research Managers as Researchers and Educators”. He outlined two cases where academic staff and students helped solve technical problems in their Research Management Section. He used the knowledge within the University to provide solutions for research management to improve their practices while doing research with post-graduate students. This win-win for all demonstrates that we are not siloed within our universities and we should use our strengths to our advantage wherever possible to find new ways of working better.
Engage: The International Perspectives Panel was most engaging. DVCR Mike Brooks brought the panel members to life with insightful questions of interest to the audience. The discussions in medical research investment turned my views upside down when we were told how Singapore and other Asian countries are increasing funding while USA is decreasing. Cultural aspects of collaborations were discussed reminding me of how culture can influence situations. Another a-ha moment for me was understanding just how fast the world can change, so I should be careful when making assumptions!
Bringing it home: So in the weeks since the conference I have begun the most important phase – bringing it all back into my job. I’ve had a few nice email exchanges from new friends, I’ve signed up to Jason’s ‘museletter’ to remind me to be inspired and to have a laugh. I’ve mulled over and started to initiate some great new ideas on engaging with some of my new-made contacts. As the conference title promised, I’ve been stimulated and now I am going to change some of my activities and my behaviours to find new ways to support my researchers and improve research. Hopefully my changes can help stimulate change in researchers, both individually and as a group, as well as the process where needed. I thank the ARMS WA Chapter for their support.
Yours in Stimulating Change: Inspire, Innovate, Engage.
Dr Jill StJohn is a Research Development Adviser in The Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics at University Of Western Australia.