Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


APECS South Africa LogoA day of insight hosted by APECSSA - Wisdom from experienced scientists.

We have enjoyed a very successful day on 15 September 2020 via zoom (over 70 participants from around the globe), gaining valuable insight and tips to keep in mind and draw inspiration from as researchers at the beginning of our careers - or otherwise, as mentioned by some of the speakers, starting out at the bottom. The morning was more than rhetoric, although plenty of phrases stood out.

A couple of good ones:

If you aim for the moon, you will land on the kraal wall. But if you aim for the kraal wall you will land with your face in the mud (Dream big! ). - Bettine Van Vuuren

Local is Lekker (South Africa offers incredible opportunities for science, take advantage and dont underplay South Africas contribution to science) - Sebastiaan Swart

Never look a given horse in the mouth (take opportunities, they are not always what they seem) - Bettine Van Vuuren

Avoid getting caught in an echo-chamber (read widely, broadly, have your own opinion and be critical) - Tracy Klarenbeek

Lead Balloons don’t Fly (If you know in your gut something isn’t ready for publication, it probably isn’t, or trust your judgement). - Werner Nel

Here, we’ll summarise some of the key points that were raised but all the slides and recordings are available on the APECSSA website (

Steven Chown opened the morning. One of his take away messages emphasised that the primary focus of scientists, and especially early career scientists, should be placed on doing excellent science with integrity. It is from that strong foundation that science can become impactful for policy. As the day progressed and each panelist added their experiences and advice. The design of good science right from the start is imperative. To design good science: Read, Read, Read. Read widely. Use your creativity and imagination. And don’t try and do it alone. Work with people. Co-create science. Ask for advice. Find a mentor, or mentors. Working with people is essential. But as in all human interactions, relationships need to be cared for. So look after and maintain your network, with stakeholders, with policymakers - with sincerity. Always remember to acknowledge the people who help you along the way, and don’t forget your roots. Be courageous. Independent and individual voices are valued. Add your voice to the conversation. Get involved with committees, panels (but don’t forget that good science comes first, try not to overburden yourself). Spread the word about your scientific work. Celebrate your victories - and celebrating with others is more fun!

Overall, to build a sustainable scientific career, the themes that emerged throughout the day emphasised the importance of excellence in science, co-operative science, reproducible science, diversity in science and the importance of caring for and maintaining relationships - between student and supervisor, peers and colleagues across the world working in your field, the public as stakeholders, as well as your personal relationships.

A huge thanks goes out to the APECSSA committee for organising this event, APECS International for their support and to Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA) for sponsoring prizes.

Author: Isabelle Giddy, APECS South Africa

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