A message from the outgoing EMCR Forum Chair

By Raffaella Demichelis

Whadjuk region of the Noongar Nation | She/Her

Twitter: @raffademichelis; LinkedIn

Raffaella Demichelis. Photo: supplied

“How did I get to Chair the EMCR Forum, and why am I doing it?”

I asked myself this question several times throughout a very busy 2022.

After a few years navigating through the pushes-out that affect women while transitioning from junior to senior roles and people with prolonged career breaks, I was thinking of leaving research. It was time to either solve problems or transition to another career.

I had a Eureka moment when I came across this survey from Timewise, entitled Part-time work: the exclusion zone? and, at the same time, I found a door open with a good listener behind it. 

There are heaps of data highlighting the need for a change in the way we think of careers and in the ‘one-size fits all’ approach. And more are being collected (e.g. here and here). I realised the power of creating a narrative around these data and using it to actively influence change. And a way to amplify influence is to find good listeners and promote a listening approach. 

Keeping my research job while channelling my frustration into activities that can influence change and help others sounded like a good deal to me. So, amongst other things, I submitted an EOI to join the EMCR Forum – and the EMCR Forum got me onboard! 

Over the past two years in the EMCR Forum, I directed most of my efforts to the long-term goal of bringing the voice of EMCRs and the diversity of their voice to the tables where decisions are made. While my advocacy goals were originally related to parenting, gender discrimination, career breaks and part-time challenges for EMCRs, they got a lot broader. 

Indeed, I started my term in the Executive while returning to work after my second period of maternity, during COVID and dealing with a condition of chronic neuropathic pain, which has been physically and mentally debilitating for more than two years. To understand the various direct and indirect discrimination factors that affect disadvantaged intersectionalities, there is nothing more powerful than belonging to one, even if just for a limited amount of time. And once you develop this sort of understanding, you start seeing the invisible challenges of others with a clearer lens. 

When I got elected Chair for 2022, I was thrilled with excitement, but also afraid of not being able to hold this role. And I would not have been able to, if it wasn’t for a fantastic group of awesome, hardworking Executive members and the Diversity and Inclusion team of the Academy of Science. Their support, understanding, flexibility and kindness have made 2022 a very successful year.  

The sources of fuel that powers the EMCR Forum to be so highly achieving are:

  • the opportunity of channelling the frustration we experience as EMCRs into championing change in various advocacy areas 
  • the opportunity to learn new skills through working with the Academy and through peer-to-peer mentoring. 

It is thanks to a combination of these two factors that in 2022 the Forum laid the basis for four important, long-standing goals to be achieved:  

  • initiation of engagement with the ARC, resulting in multiple occasions to deliver the feedback of our community directly to the ARC, and co-organisation of a national workshop to support 450+ EMCR fellowship applicants
  • initiation of engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EMCR community, resulting in the appointment of two Indigenous EMCRs for the first time on the Executive
  • initiation of international engagement, through starting the process of becoming an affiliate member of the International Science Council (accepted in 2023) and contributing to activities of the Global Young Academy
  • initiation of engagement with a broader EMCR community, by revising the definition of EMCR to make it inclusive of non-linear/non-traditional career paths. This resulted in improving the diversity of the Executive (which now includes also one EMCR working in industry) and the network, which amplifies the Forum’s capacity to address the challenges of our research system. 
EMCR Forum Annual  Report 2022

Our 2022 Annual Report is being circulated to our community, and to various institutions and stakeholders. It includes a detailed report of our activity in 2022, and information about how the Forum operates, what we do and our strategic plan. 

On top of the four points highlighted above, in 2022 the EMCR Forum has:  

  • developed a submission on the Research Block Grant reform, highlighting the dangerous consequences of cuts to fundamental research funding
  • developed a submission to the review of the ARC Act 2001 that had identifiable influence on the final review recently released; see our article in this newsletter
  • contributed, together with the Academy of Science, to an interview with Nature News about the 2022 federal election
  • started multi-year projects to pave the way for more sustainable definitions of futures and success
  • contributed to redesigning the Theo Murphy Initiative funding scheme and assessed proposals
  • initiated the redesigning of our network of representatives across Australia (RepNet), to strengthen the relationships between the Forum and institutions/local networks and enhance the transparency and accountability of the EMCR Executive (link to share feedback is still available)
  • supported/organised/contributed to international panel discussions/workshops about research, equity and inclusion
  • been very active in the media and communications space, through our Twitter (5000+ followers) account, LinkedIn account (still under expansion, please follow us!) and three newsletters.

The Forum also benefited from collaboration with the Future of Meetings initiative (CSIRO). This brought key experience and connections that empowered the Forum to advocate for the importance of developing capacity to support effective virtual meetings, while addressing both sustainability and equity problems at the same time. 

As a concluding note, I am grateful to the vibrant national community of EMCRs, a continued source of inspiration to the Forum. While chairing, I did my best to put the Forum in a position to represent their voice and to provide them with resources to grow professionally in a challenging research environment. I have no doubt that the Forum will continue and expand on this quest in the future, with a great and diverse cohort of new Executive members joining in 2023 and a fantastic new leadership team – a warm welcome to them all!  

I am looking forward to seeing the great things the Forum will achieve in 2023. It will probably be a year as challenging as the past few ones; my best advice – and one that works for me – is to invest in human relationships. Your network is your strategic asset, and one that will hold you up when circumstances will try to push you down. 

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science