It already seems an age ago that we met in Cairns for the 2002 scientific meeting. Lots of things have happened since then and the pace of life has again accelerated to lightening speed. As I write this we are racing towards June - it is only 219 days to Christmas!
The Cairns' meeting was a very stimulating affair and I came home full of new ideas and unanswered questions. I am sure I was not alone in this. No matter how many journals we read, how many discussions we have with our own teams, the networking that occurs at the ASM adds a whole new dimension to our professional lives. It is through listening to others talking about their research, their puzzlement's and their solutions that we advance our own knowledge, experience and passion.
The trouble is that as we return to our own service-driven worlds, all too easily the stimulation wanes. I returned to fight deadlines on two business cases, a 5-year capital expenditure plan, a departmental budget and an annual appraisal. I also had two new staff members. So much for ideas and stimulation! I have decided drastic action is required.
The reward to be gained in attending and, in particular, presenting at the Annual Scientific Meeting is indeed great. It is a safe environment in which we can all develop our scientific and presentation skills whether we be neophytes or old campaigners. We should all be aiming to be at Adelaide in March 2003. If you are to present at the next meeting, though, now is the time you must plan for it. You need to devise your question and construct your hypothesis now or the abstract deadline will be upon you before you know what is happening. I speak from bitter experience. If you lack ideas, then review the abstracts from Cairns and dissuade yourself of the idea that you don't have anything worth saying. Little ideas well thought through have a habit of becoming bigger ideas. Run your ideas past others in your team or perhaps a senior member of the Society. Sketching your ideas on paper can be a very useful step in developing a kernel of an idea. You will be surprised how quickly ideas can mature through holding a brain storming session. Perhaps at your next Branch meeting? Perhaps over a coffee or a beer with the Boss? Having formulated the project then its progress needs to be planned and timetabled. Set key milestones along the way and mark them in your diary. Stealing the time for research is not an easy task in our service driven worlds, but if the desire is there, then it can happen.
In an attempt to achieve a higher priority for "research activity" in my own Department, I have set as an objective for my next appraisal, namely that I will have a paper to present at the Adelaide ASM. Furthermore, I have undertaken that another member of my team will also have a paper to present. As a means to help achieving this, I am trying to ensure that each of my scientific team have scheduled "library time" each week. Gaining senior management agreement to these objectives means that they have to accord such activity similar priority to that given the administrative work I am expected to perform. I also figure that with this commitment by senior management, the argument for support to attend the meeting will be a little easier to win.
If a culture of scientific enquiry is to be fostered in my laboratory, then I need to plant that stake in the ground. I just hope that my head is not atop that stake at year-end. I really do believe, though, that by making a stand such as this, an environment can be created where there is recognition that research is an important facet of our work and that such endeavour will slowly become an expectation for future employees. It will not happen overnight, but it cannot fail to happen so long as we believe in the idea sufficiently strongly.
I throw down the challenge to the younger members of the Society to make the "Old Campaigners" fight for the oral slots and cause a headache for the organising committee to find the time / space for all the posters at Adelaide. Go to it!
'til next time,