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New PhD project on biodiversity indicators

June 1, 2016

We are looking for a new PhD student to undertake research on biodiversity indicators, supervised by Emily Nicholson in collaboration with Simon Ferrier at CSIRO, Beth Fulton (CSIRO), and Ben Collen at University College London (UCL). The project will be supported by CSIRO, providing a top-up and research funds, for a student able to get an Australian Postgraduate Award. Please get in touch with Emily Nicholson by mid June 2016, with the possibility of a mid-2016 start. Applications will close as soon as a suitable candidate has been found.

The project: Reliable and sensitive biodiversity indicators are critical to track progress towards conservation targets. Yet most biodiversity indicators remain untested in their ability to reveal the trends needed by decision-makers. This project aims to develop much-needed methods to test, design and select biodiversity indicators to support conservation decisions. It will provide the first comprehensive test of indicators used to monitor biodiversity change at local to global scales, by sampling ecosystem models to evaluate how indicator design, data bias and environmental variability affect performance. The research will evaluate and improve the way change in biodiversity is measured, globally and in Australia, and provide new methods for policy evaluation with biodiversity indicators. Project outcomes will have significant implications for predicting and measuring impacts of policy such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The student will develop and/or adapt a range of modeling approaches, including ecosystem models, for use in indicator testing, together with large databases. The project is in collaboration with researchers in biodiversity conservation and fisheries science, at CSIRO and Universities overseas including UCL. The student will be based at Deakin University in Burwood, in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and will be a member of the Centre for Integrative Ecology, a supportive research environment with a strong ecological focus. We are looking for a student with quantitative skills and experience in R or similar. Please send a CV and cover letter to Emily Nicholson (

10 tips for dealing with work and parental leave

March 30, 2016

A version of this article was originally published on Women in Science AUSTRALIA. Read the original article here.

As a Science Mum, I am often asked how I managed work and maternity leave, particularly by parents about to embark on a similar journey. So I thought that it might make a good topic for a blog post and start of a discussion. Here, I want to tackle things you can do as individuals for managing work and maternity/paternity leave – both for the person going on leave (e.g. mum or dad), and their colleagues – assuming that the person going on leave wants to maintain their academic career post-leave, including PhD students. There are other pieces for another day on what institutions should do to support those going on parental leave, and tips for coming back from leave (see also my previous post on accounting for career breaks in a CV or track record). I refer to maternity leave but this can equally be paternity leave – or any leave when you are taking a big chunk of time largely away from work to pursue other things in life. First, though, I’ll preface my tips with a little about my background.

IMG_4904I am writing predominantly from my own experience. Briefly, I have three children (born 2009, 2011 and 2013). I took about 8 months maternity leave with each, and returned to work part-time (3-4 days a week). All three were born while I was a postdoc on fellowships, the first two in the UK and the third in Australia, with good paid maternity leave provisions, and which allowed me to return to work part-time and extend my contract pro rata. For the first baby, our family was on the other side of the world, so we had little week-by-week support, and my husband was in a very demanding full-time job; while I was on maternity leave with my second we moved back to Australia, where we both work part-time and have a lot of family help and support, which makes a huge difference. I am a conservation scientist, and my work is desk based, including modelling and analysis, plus the usual academic roles of paper and grant writing, reviewing, editing and supervising students, but no teaching at the time. So the type of work I do wasn’t much affected by working part-time or being on leave.

For each maternity leave, I had a different ‘model’ for managing work on maternity leave. With my first two, I didn’t think much about what I wanted to do and where to set limits. In my first maternity leave, that manifested as a glorious 8 months away from work, within minimal but enjoyable contact with my colleagues (after all it is nice to talk to grown-ups), such as a few meetings with my PhD student, reading the odd draft of something, and participating in a fun workshop with my baby in tow. With my second baby, I said yes to several things with no strategy or thought, which resulted in trying to meet some difficult deadlines at bad times, feeling like I was working too much, and consequently feeling resentful. With my third baby, I made a much more conscious effort to manage work. I decided that I would do nothing for the first few months, then have semi-regular meetings with my PhD students in the second half of my maternity leave (baby in tow), and that I would also submit a grant that I started before maternity leave that was due while on leave – the proposal required regular small efforts to pull together because I had done most of the thinking and planning with my colleagues beforehand.

Tips for a parent going on leave

1. My number 1 tip to new parents (or any parents) is to ignore most of the advice that people routinely and endlessly give you, particularly the non-evidence based garbage (which is almost all of it). Ignore most of it, pick out the things that make sense, and work out what works for you. Any tips I write here are things that worked for me – they might not work for you, and that is fine too. Below is just a list of things I found useful to think about.

2. Try to manage your own expectations for your leave. Think about what work you might like to do while you’re on leave, which may well be none. Adapt to how you’re feeling (particularly because babies change all the time), but not because other people put pressure on you (see guilt, below). Start thinking about this as soon as you are pregnant (or even beforehand), because deadlines you agree to might loom many months later with bad timing (see thing to avoid, below). Consider any constraints such as things you might need to do (e.g. supervise existing postgraduate students), and deadlines for things you’d like to do in the future (e.g. grants with annual submission cycles). Your decision about what to do can change – you might find you can’t cope with any work at all, or that you can’t cope without engaging with work. Fun things can include seminars, conferences or workshops where you can wander in and out and with no pressure to participate or contribute, and meetings to keep in touch with students and collaborators (in person or on the phone – can be done while pushing a pram). These types of activities are nice for staying in touch with people, as much as the research. See some suggestions for things to avoid below.

3. Communicate: With my third maternity leave, what I felt I got right was communicating to everyone my intentions about what I would do, which I failed to do with the first two babies. This is really important – whether it is telling people not to get in touch with you at all about work while you’re away, setting an out-of-office saying you’re out of contact until the end of the year, keeping your supervisor in the loop if you are not coping with workloads, or otherwise. I told people that I would like to receive emails, might read them, but may not respond, and set and out-of-office saying I was on leave and might eventually reply. Let people know what you want to do and how you want them to manage your absence, especially your postgraduate students, so they don’t freak out. This can also change – you might decide the last thing you want to do is read another email about staff meetings and teaching – just let people know. This is largely about managing other people’s expectations of you while you’re on leave.

4. Find out all your entitlements (and your partner’s) and insist on them, such as paid maternity/paternity leave, right to return to work part-time, extending your contract to account for these (I had terrible time with contract extensions around my first two kids and had to really fight for my rights), teaching and research support while you’re on leave, and keeping in touch days (these are available in the UK and are great – you can work for up to 10 days while on leave and take those days off when you return to work. I did this informally as well even when they weren’t formally available). Remember, our mothers and grandmothers fought for these rights, along with unions and many men – honour their efforts by taking up your rights. Get all the details in your contract straight so you can enjoy your leave. These things can take a while, so you get started early.

If the policies aren’t in place or available, ask about them – you never know your luck – and speak with your union. My second postdoctoral fellowship didn’t have a policy for dealing with part-time work – I asked about it and they wrote one. Similarly, a grant I applied for didn’t account properly for part-time work and breaks for maternity leave, so I wrote to the granting body and they revised the guidelines accordingly. Ask your friends and influential people to help you change things that aren’t right.

5. Suggestion for things to avoid:

Don’t say yes to anything you don’t like or don’t want to do – you’ll inevitably avoid doing it and leave it to the last minute, and run up against a deadline (see below). And don’t feel guilty (also see below) about saying no – you are on leave and can do whatever you like – it is your right.

One way of deciding to undertake any work is whether it will benefit your track record. If the answer is even ‘maybe’, think seriously about saying no.


My babies weren’t into sleeping much during the day except in my arms

Avoid deadlines, or especially short ones. The work that caused me the most trouble while on maternity leave had hard deadlines, such as paper reviews, thesis reviews and presentations at conferences or symposia. They inevitably came when the baby/child/children were going through a horror patch and not sleeping, or were sick, or I was sick. Anyway, unless you have a long run-up to the deadline and can manage it, avoid anything with a hard deadline.


Avoid things that require sustained effort and a lot of intellectual heavy lifting. Remember, you will be tired, oh so tired, even if your baby sleeps like a dream. It is very hard to think clearly and concentrate when you are tired. Don’t rely on babies napping to get lots of work done. I hear there are mythical babies who have long daytime sleeps or are happy to lie there and play on their own (not mine!), but don’t count on it.

6. Don’t feel guilty, or at least, try not to. Guilt plagues all mothers, and probably fathers. Guilt about not contributing to running the school/kindergarten fete, not doing reading in class etc. The list is endless. Don’t feel guilty about not working, saying no to things, and taking time off during maternity leave – it is leave after all! And also don’t feel guilty about doing some work, going back to work or not doing the washing etc. It’s all fine, and you are doing a good job.


Things you can do when your colleague is going on maternity leave:

7. Ask your colleague going on maternity leave what they want you to do in terms of communication – do they want to be included in emails on projects (but with no pressure to reply), invited to things, or to be left alone while they are on leave? Have a frank conversation about it, and allow them to change their mind (see above). I had colleagues who continued to invite me to things and it was great – I both accepted and rejected invitations to workshops and conferences with no sense of pressure, and enjoyed the ones I went to.

8. Do little things that make a big difference. I will be eternally grateful for the colleagues who got papers and grants over the line while I was on maternity leave (you know who you are!). This included co-authors getting a paper that was 95% done to submission, others doing the revisions needed to get a submitted paper accepted, and doing the onerous things on grants such as budgets and formatting so I could concentrate on writing the proposal. And actually, on a selfish level, such activities benefit you – the paper will come out earlier, the grant is more likely to succeed, than if you didn’t help.

9. Fight for their rights. I was having all manner of problems getting my contract sorted out before my second maternity leave (it dragged on for months); my supervisor wrote to the Powers That Be and helped sort it out for me – it was a great weight off my mind – again, eternally grateful.

10. Provide local support. If you’re organising a conference, provide a parents’ room (and if you’re a parent going to a conference with your baby/kid, ask for one), where participants can take kids to play/feed/change while watching a broadcast of the conference so they don’t miss out. Several mums from my lab were going to a conference together so we asked: the conference organisers provided an amazing space, with toys and books brought in by local science mums and dads.

If you see a parent trying to have a meeting with a cranky baby, or just looking really tired, take the baby for a walk.

And tell the mums and dads they are doing a great job – sometimes you really need it.

Many thanks to amazing Science Mums Libby Rumpff, Rebecca Lester, Alice Gaby, Kelly Hunt de Bie, Emma Johnston and Claire Keely for their contributions and insight, which made this a much better post.


Inspiring women in science

December 9, 2015

The last week has been a good one for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) – an unusually positive spin for an area that is usually rather doom and gloom (e.g., this, this and this earlier blog post). And I am fortunate to be part of some of these happy happenings.

The Turnbull Government announced their new National Innovation and Science Agenda, with a strong emphasis on bringing women into STEM disciplines and keeping them ($13M target funds, including supporting for the Science in Australia Gender Equity pilot, SAGE, in which Deakin is participating). This move is in response to the rather poor stats on gender equity across STEM: only 1/5 senior research positions are held by women; although in some disciplines, women comprise at least half of undergrads and postgraduate students, even postdocs, women aren’t gaining tenure, the permanent positions that give job security and platform to develop independent research careers.


Percentage of women (purple) and men (orange) by level in ecology at 12 Australian Universities. Thanks Gerry Ryan for the graphics.

This is particularly the case within my own area of ecology; we collected data from University websites for 12 Australian Universities on ecologists, looking at gender and level – the results are shown on the right, and are quite typical for the sciences. The violin plots show individual universities – several have no women at Prof level (E), although there are approx equal numbers at levels A and B, at postdoc level. The proportion of women falls away at level C (senior lecturer), when positions tend to move from contract to ongoing.

Our data on gender by level for ecologists in Australian universities formed part of an exciting and ground-breaking plenary on gender equity in ecology at the Ecological Society of Australia meeting, presented by Prof Emma Johnston (who you may know from earlier blog posts, and who is also my sister-in-law) and Prof Mark Burgman. A team of researchers collected new data and collated existing information on gender and ecology. The plenary was very well received, and was storified. Although much of the data presented was pretty dire, there are some very positive initiatives and moves for change.


Receiving my Inspiring Women award from the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau. Photo:

One such initiative is a new scheme called the Inspiring Women Fellowships, the results of which were announced last week. And I am delighted and honoured to be one of the recipients! The inaugural Inspiring Women Fellowships are funded by the Victorian Government through the Office of the Lead Scientist and delivered by veski. The fellowship scheme directly addresses the loss of women between the postdoctoral and tenured stages, and provides support for outstanding female researchers as they juggle career and carer commitments, keeping them competitive in their fields of endeavour.

The other inaugural Inspiring Women Fellows are:

  • Dr Maria Liaskos from The Hudson Institute of Medical Research’s Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases who will hire a research assistant to continue the momentum of her current research program.
  • Dr Catherine Satzke from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute who will remain connected with her work in the Infection and Immunity area and the Pneumococcal Research group by employing a research assistant who can act as her ‘hands’ for research while she is away from the laboratory.
  • Dr Natalie Hannan to support her continued work at The University of Melbourne’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and allow her to travel to, and actively participate in, key international meetings with the support of a carer for her young family.

(L-R) Philip Dalidakis, Dr Maria Liaskos, Governor Linda Dessau, Dr Catherine Satzke, me, Prof Ian Smith, Dr Natalie Hannan, and Dr Leonie Walsh. Photo:

Between us we had 9 children aged between 6 years and 5 weeks. But as is too often seen in women at this stage of our careers, I was the only one with an ongoing position within a university – my fellow fellows are all still in contract-based research fellow positions (although Catherine and Maria are both in Research Institutes where very few have permanent positions). I hope that this fellowship can provide the momentum for these outstanding women to gain tenured positions to continue excelling in their research.

In addition to providing recognition of excellent women scientists and the battles they face as Science Mums, one of the most important elements of this fellowship is design of the scheme. The flexible funding of up to $150,000 each over three years, as well as support from their institutions both financially and in developing leadership potential, allows the women to identify how the funding will best support their research and careers – amazing! For example, hiring a research assistant to keep research momentum through breaks and part-time work, travel to international conferences and childcare.

The Inspiring Women Fellowship will provide me with funding for two main initiatives, co-funded by Deakin University (through central funds, the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, and the Centre for Integrative Ecology). First it will support a postdoctoral researcher for 18 months, driving forward my research and building my group. Second it will fund two workshops for a major project I’m involved in, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, which you can read more about here, here and here. The first workshop was held a few weeks ago, 11-13 Nov, at Deakin University, and brought together a global team (below) to develop a strategic plan to assess the state of the world’s ecosystems. The second workshop, to be held in 2016, will plan an Australian Red List of Ecosystems.


The workshop team developing a strategic plan for the Red list of Ecosystems globally (L-R):
Arild Lindgaard, Dan Ierodiaconou, Ed Barrow, Richard Kingsford, Nick Murray, Jess Rowland, James Watson, Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio, Irene Zager, Lucie Bland, Emily Nicholson, James Fitzsimons, Emma Burns, Rebecca Miller, Tom Brooks, Tina Oliviera-Miranda, Tracey Regan, David Keith

Another amazing bit of news for women in science is Jane Elith‘s extraordinary and well-deserved success in awards: first the Prime Minister’s Prizes – The Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the year, which I was lucky enough to attend; then the Fenner Medal from the Australian Academy of Sciences (unrelated but also named for Frank Fenner). I wouldn’t want to be up against her for anything at the moment.

So although the statistics for women in STEM aren’t great, there is a huge momentum for change in the culture of science and academia; the initiatives outlined above are a large part of this. It is a very exciting time to be a woman in science, or a bloke for that matter.

Eureka! IUCN Red List of Ecosystems team

August 27, 2015

Some of the global IUCN RLE team (L-R): Richard Kingsford (UNSW), Tracey Regan (ARI), David Keith (UNSW), Emily Nicholson (Deakin), Lucie Bland (Uni Melbourne), Nick Murray (UNSW) and Tony Auld (NSW OEH)

Our wonderful team working on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems won the Eureka ward for Environmental Research last night! The Australian Museum’s Eureka Awards celebrate Australia’s leading scientists and scientific breakthroughs, and is a wonderful night out. I particularly loved the emphasis on team research that came out over and over again throughout the evening.

Prof David Keith (UNSW) and the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems team (a large group of researchers around the globe) were awarded the 2015 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research, for our work to develop the criteria that underpin the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, the first comprehensive and quantitative method for assessing ecosystems that is applicable globally and to all ecosystems – marine, freshwater and terrestrial.

The impact of this work in environmental and conservation policy and management is substantial: in 2014 the criteria were adopted by the IUCN, the world’s biggest environmental organization, as the new global standard to assessing risks to ecosystems, with great uptake around the world and within Australia.

Eureka15win2We are very lucky to work with such a great group of people, who also look quite flash when all frocked up for a special occasion! Our next major meeting will be hosted by Deakin University in November 2015, to plan our global strategy for global domination! I am looking forward to getting (most) of the team back together again.

The team has produced some outstanding research over the last decade (see here or here for publications), in particular a huge number this year, including a special issue of Austral Ecology, guest edited by David Keith (with one paper led by me). Some key publications (mostly open access) are shown below.


Me and Emma ready to go to the Eureka Awards!

A big congratulations to all the Eureka Prize winners and finalists, and a special congrats to my wonderful and talented sister-in-law Prof Emma Johnston (also of UNSW), who won the Department of Industry and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research. What a great night!

Key Publications:

Keith, D.A., Rodríguez, J.P., Brooks, T.M., Burgman, M.A., Barrow, E.G., Bland, L., Comer, P.J., Franklin, J., Link, J., McCarthy, M.A., Miller, R.M., Murray, N.J., Nel, J., Nicholson, E., Olivera-Miranda, M.A., Regan, T.J., Rodríguez-Clark, K.M., Rouget, M. & Spalding, M.D. (2015) The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: motivations, challenges and applications. Conservation Letters, 8 (3): 214–226 [link].

Keith D.A., Rodríguez J.P., Rodríguez-Clark K.M., Nicholson E., Aapala K., Alonso A., Asmussen M., Bachman S., Bassett A., Barrow E.G., Benson J.S., Bishop M.J., Bonifacio R., Brooks T.M., Burgman M.A., Comer P., Comín F.A., Essl F., Faber-Langendoen D., Fairweather P.G., Holdaway R.J., Jennings M., Kingsford R.T., Lester R.E., Mac Nally R., McCarthy M.A., Moat J., Oliveira-Miranda M.A., Pisanu P., Poulin B., Regan T.J., Riecken U., Spalding M.D. & Zambrano-Martínez S. (2013) Scientific foundations for an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. PLoS ONE, 8(5): e62111 [link]

Rodríguez, J.P., Keith, D.A., Rodríguez-Clark, K.M., Murray, N.J., Nicholson, E., Regan, T.J., Miller, R.M., Barrow, E.G., Bland, L.M., Boe, K., Brooks, T.M., Oliveira-Miranda, M.A., Spalding, M. & Wit, P. (2015) A practical guide to the application of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B, 370: 20140003, DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0003 [link].

PhD opportunity: Red List of Ecosystems

August 11, 2015

LacAlaotra: Emily Nicholson 2007Ecosystem-level management is increasingly the focus of governments, NGOs and scientists, across fisheries, natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. Effective management relies on understanding the risks to biodiversity at the ecosystem-level. The Red List of Ecosystems was developed over the last decade to provide a set of transparent, repeatable and quantitative rules for assessing the risk of ecosystem collapse, and culminated in their formal adoption in May 2014 by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), the world’s biggest environmental organisation. The criteria assess (A) change in distribution, (B) restricted distribution, (C) change in abiotic processes, (D) change in biotic function, and (E) quantitative risk analysis through process-based modelling.

This exciting project will focus on a range of research questions on the Red List of Ecosystems, through case studies in marine, terrestrial and/or freshwater ecosystems, and quantitative analyses. These may include (but are not limited to):

  • how ecosystem risk can be assessed using multiple measures of degradation, and how these may be represented spatially;
  • how to make assessments under uncertainty, including effective use of expert judgement;
  • integrating Red List assessments with other information including ecosystem services and threatened species (e.g. Red List of Threatened Species).

Required skills and experience

The student will need to be able to work independently, showing a high level of initiative. They will need to have some quantitative skills (e.g. statistical or process-based modelling), preferably in R. The student will get a great understanding of how this important policy tools works, meet people involved in ecosystem assessment at national and international scales, and gain experience in quantitative methods for ecosystem assessment.

Project funding and supervision

The primary supervisor will be Dr Emily Nicholson at Deakin University (Burwood campus), with co-supervisors to be drawn from a team of researchers at Deakin, UNSW, The University of Melbourne and overseas (e.g. IUCN Cambridge, IVIC Caracas Venezuela) – see

The project will commence in early or mid 2016. Students must obtain scholarship (e.g., an Australian Postgraduate Award or a Deakin University Postgraduate Research Scholarship, or an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, and can apply for an annual ‘top up’ of $5,000 per annum for three years. The student will be based primarily at Deakin University, Burwood.

Please contact Emily Nicholson (

Closing date October 31st 2015, but please get in contact as soon as possible for discussions and an informal interview.

Metrics for Mums: tips for writing about a track record with career interruptions

May 15, 2015

The loss of women from scientific research is well documented: while women make up approximately 50% of PhD students within STEM (depending on the research field), the proportion of women quickly drops off at higher levels of career progression within research (e.g. 18% of Professors in STEM in the UK and 17% of biology-related professors in the US. Many drivers of this loss have been described, including gender stereotyping, implicit bias (e.g. here, here and here), explicit bias, desirability of research careers and self-selection. A major perceived barrier to a scientific career for women is having children, with associated career interruptions and impacts on track records. Some of these drivers can be addressed relatively easily; others less so. Specific training can help reduce implicit bias, while increasingly in Australia and many other places, research track record is now (supposed to be) judged relative to opportunity, i.e. the number of years actually worked.

In an article published in Science today, I give some tips for writing a CV and research track record that accounts for opportunity, with the aim of making it easier for the reader, such as grant assessors or job panels, to recognise the achievements of a researcher whose career has not followed the assumed norm of full-time and uninterrupted research. While I write largely from my own experience as a mother of three boys, the same principles apply to those whose careers have been interrupted for health reasons, and other caring responsibilities.

My main point is that it is critical is to write explicitly and clearly about career interruptions, and make it easy for the reader to see what you have achieved during that time, for fair comparison with others. If you hide career interruptions or only mention them, then it will just weaken your apparent track record.

Tip 1. Get the data: Work out the proportion of time worked. For example, I have an excel spreadsheet with the percentage full-time equivalent (FTE) worked each month of my career, post PhD: 1 when I’m full time, 0.6 when working 3 days a week, and 0 when on maternity leave. It’s a good idea keep this up to date to make it easy to work out FTE when applying for grants or jobs. Next, work out what you have achieved in that time (you’ll be pleasantly surprised!), such as publications by year, citation rates, authorship status, etc.

Tip 2. Do the maths: Rather than hope the reader does it for you, work out what these would equate to had you worked full-time, presenting these data in the light of career interruption. This includes using multipliers. For example, if you have worked on average 60% during the last 5 years (=3 years FTE), and have had 10 publications in that time, this is equivalent to 17 publications (16.7=10/0.6) over 5 years had you worked full time. This can also be done with citations and other metrics – assuming you would have published more but equally good papers during your career interrupted time.

Tip 3. Don’t hide career interruptions – write about them upfront and in a positive way: State what you have done at the top. I put it on the first page of my CV, and always include FTE in my metrics/career summary (e.g. in grant applications) to make it easy to readers to find it and work out your value.

For example, in my CV, I have career interruptions explicitly listed on the front page, in the section on positions held. For example: “Career interruptions: I have the equivalent of 5.6 full-time years of post-doctoral research experience over 8.5 calendar years. I have three children (born March 2009, March 2011 and June 2013, 8 months maternity leave with each), and have worked part-time since. I have worked 3.3 years (55% full-time equivalent) since January 2009.

I also include summary statistics including FTE multipliers in my summary of research achievements on the first page of my CV, and state my achievements during and post-career interruptions. For example: I have 30 peer-reviewed publications in leading peer-reviewed international journals; 23 of these were published in the last 3.3 years full-time equivalent, since 2009.”

And I do the maths for easy comparison with others. In grant applications, I always include FTE metrics in my achievements, and tell the reader what that means in terms of track record; for example:

“Since 2009, I have worked the equivalent of approximately 3.3 full-time years, an average of 55% of full time. Yet it has been a highly productive period: 23 publications—including 12 as lead or last author—a research fellowship, and a major grant. On a pro-rata basis, that equates to 42 publications in 6 years of full-time work. This is exceptional in the face of career interruption.”

But I also like to emphasize that reduced working hours is not everything – working part-time and having kids isn’t easy (while trying not to sound like I’m complaining too much – not an easy balance to strike) – but I’m still doing reasonably well:

“This does not account for the reduced networking opportunities, impacting collaborations and citation rates, as a result of reduced time at work and limited ability to travel. Nevertheless, I have developed substantial international networks, and my research has both scientific and practical impacts”.

I want the reader to think, if she managed this working part-time, with breaks and sleep deprived/exhausted, imagine what she can do when the kids grow up a bit.

Conclusions: Although metrics such as the number of publications, H-index, citation rates, impact factors, and grant income have come under substantial (and oft warranted) criticism as the main measures of academic success (here, here and here), these metrics are used to judge and compare researchers. Whether we like them or not, we need to make them workable for everyone, regardless of their path through science, so that the comparisons between researchers are fair and bias reduced. I hope these modifications might help along that path. Good luck!

Ref: Nicholson, E. (2015) Accounting for career breaks. Science, 348, 830 [link]

Update: I am so pleased that this article has been well received and, more importantly, well read: it is the most downloaded/read article in Science in the week after publication, and has done very well in Altmetrics (top 4% of Science articles and top 1% of all articles evaluated by Altmetrics!). i hope it helps more than a few people out.

(Many thanks for Prof. Mick McCarthy and Prof. Emma L. Johnston for their advice on writing my CV and track record.)


Let’s aim for less of this…


… and more of this

Goings on

April 21, 2015

It has been a rather busy couple of months since I started at Deakin, somewhat too busy to write about. Therefore (like everything it seems) I’ll blog vicariously, and link to blog posts by others at the same things – much easier.

Women in Science: Last week I had a very enjoyable night out with several women from Qaeco (my old group), who have been part of a group of us there doing a lot of reading and thinking on women in science. We went to an event at the Wheeler Centre, called F-Word: Science, part of a series on feminism. Cindy Hauser blogs about it here. We combined it with pre-event drink and post-event dumplings – yum!

The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: In March, I went to Helsinki for the first meeting of the Committee for Scientific Standards for the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. This comprised a 3 days meeting of about 25 clever and very nice people (see photo below) from a wide range of ecological and conservation backgrounds, from threat analysis, ecosystem science, vegetation mapping and so forth. We made a lot of progress, and it was very enjoyable! We also had a day with representatives from the Finnish Environment Institute, who hosted us, to talk about their listing processes for ecosystems in Finland. Lucie Bland writes about the meeting here. Tracey Regan and I also visited Mar Cabeza and her group at the University of Helsinki – a very interesting day. CSS Helsinki-sm

Papers: Collaborators and I have already had a few papers out in 2015, two on the Red List of Ecosystems, and one on biodiversity indicators, work by Brendan Costelloe, a masters student from a few years back co-supervised with Ben Collen:

Keith, D.A., Rodríguez, J.P., Brooks, T.M., Burgman, M.A., Barrow, E.G., Bland, L., Comer, P.J., Franklin, J., Link, J., McCarthy, M.A., Miller, R.M., Murray, N.J., Nel, J., Nicholson, E., Olivera-Miranda, M.A., Regan, T.J., Rodríguez-Clark, K.M., Rouget, M. & Spalding, M.D. (2015) The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: motivations, challenges and applications. Conservation Letters, in press [link].

Rodríguez, J.P., Keith, D.A., Rodríguez-Clark, K.M., Murray, N.J., Nicholson, E., Regan, T.J., Miller, R.M., Barrow, E.G., Bland, L.M., Boe, K., Brooks, T.M., Oliveira-Miranda, M.A., Spalding, M. & Wit, P. (2014) A practical guide to the application of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria. Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B, 370: 20140003, DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0003 [link].

Costelloe, B.T., Collen, B., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Craigie, I.D., McRae, L., Rondinini, C. & Nicholson, E. (2015) Global biodiversity indicators reflect the modelled impacts of protected area policy change. Conservation Letters, in press [link].


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