032 – Impact Activation Postdoctoral Fellow

The IDEMS Podcast
The IDEMS Podcast
032 – Impact Activation Postdoctoral Fellow
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Description

Lily and David discuss the “Impact Activation Postdoctoral Fellow” role at IDEMS. They discuss the objectives and experiences of the fellowship program, and its impact on both individuals and the broader organisation. They explore the flexibility and opportunities provided by the fellowship to engage in diverse projects, the transition to more permanent roles within IDEMS, and the overall aim of making meaningful social impacts through their work.

[00:00:00] Lily: Hello, and welcome to the IDEMS podcast. I’m Lily Clements, a data scientist, and I’m here today with David Stern, a founding director of IDEMS. Hi, David.

[00:00:16] David: Hi, Lily. You’re no longer an Impact Activation Postdoctoral Fellow. You’re now a Data Scientist.

[00:00:22] Lily: It is much less of a mouthful. I feel that at least with this role, people have an idea in our own minds of what a data scientist does. It might not be an accurate idea, but it’s a lot easier to explain than an Impact Activation Postdoctoral …

[00:00:39] David: Absolutely but it’s also a permanent position, so it’s great to have you in this role, fully established as part of the IDEMS team. And I guess part of the aim of this discussion is to talk a little bit about the old role and what that is, and why we have these fellowships. You know, was it useful for you as a process to go through?

[00:01:02] Lily: Well, yes, yeah. At the moment I don’t feel that there’s too much difference between when I was a fellow and now being a data scientist, but I suppose that I’ve only just become into this role of data scientist this year.

[00:01:14] David: Well, I would argue the other way on, that you’d already become the data scientist while you were still in the fellowship role, and that’s where you were ready for the transition.

So I’m quite happy that you don’t feel there’s been too much of a change, because that means you were already established into the role that you’ve now moved into. Which is the aim of the fellowship role in the first place, to help people to find their direction, or it’s one of the aims.

[00:01:39] Lily: Well then, how do people find that? Obviously you help people find that direction because you find, okay, you’re enjoying this work and you can then work in those areas a little bit more. But what happens then if someone doesn’t find a direction in those few years?

[00:01:53] David: Well, I mean, we’re talking in the hypothetical here, but it might be that the reason that people don’t find that direction within a fellowship within IDEMS is because actually IDEMS isn’t the right sort of a route for them in the future. We, we intend the fellowship as also enabling people to go back into academia, having experienced a more impact oriented work life, but to then say, actually, no, I want to go back to a more academic life.

And we value academia, if you want, as collaborators and as a valuable alternative route. We see it as being complementary, and the fellowship is not intended to always take people away from academia, it’s also intended to enable people to gain different experiences, which can help them going back into academia.

[00:02:43] Lily: Okay, but have we had anyone do the role and then go back into academia?

[00:02:48] David: The closest is Herine but that was a slightly different scenario, and it might not have helped her to transition back into academia because she’s actually set up her own organisation, and it might have helped her to go through and build her own thing. So it’s sort of slightly different.

So I guess at this point, not really. I would be happy if there were people who had come through and said no, actually, I’ve now got this experience, whatever it is, and I’m wanting to now pursue a tenure track position in this way, because I recognize that actually the research element is what I’m wanting to do.

And I think there’s a really key element there. We’re not in, I would argue, direct competition with academia for people, because what we’re giving people as an opportunity is rather different.

[00:03:41] Lily: And do you think that it’s a positive thing for people? So in general people stay on IDEMS after completing this Postdoctoral Impact Activation Fellowship. But generally people after completing this actually tend to stay in IDEMS. Do you see that as a, well, obviously you’ll say you do see it as a positive, but do you think that it’s a positive that people aren’t going into academia after it?

[00:04:02] David: At this point, everybody who stayed on, I’m delighted they stayed on. So yes, from my perspective as a director of IDEMS, this has been a way where we’ve recruited amazing people who are now doing amazing work. So for me, it’s been great. Would I see it as positive if we had a balance of people staying on and moving on?

Well, if we had a bigger program, yes. And I think to me, the long term aim might be to run a bigger program where there are people going through and some would stay on and some would go back into academia. I have to confess that in my recruitment I tend to be recruiting fellows who I hope will stay on and so there is a bias from the start, in the recruitment process, of trying to identify people for whom IDEMS is potentially a good match and where I hope they might transition into this permanent position, but that the fellowship is a period where they can find themselves and have a bit more freedom than they would maybe have afterwards.

[00:05:10] Lily: Well, obviously as a former Postdoctoral Impact Activation Fellow, I will agree with that, but there is that freedom there and there is also the ability to still do those academic related things if you want. I’ve still went to conferences and still now, I’m encouraged to do papers.

[00:05:25] David: And teaching as well, you had the opportunity to teach at AIMS, and so on. you are an interesting example where I think you have taken the role, you’ve made it your own and you’ve created a role for you in IDEMS, which I’m delighted with and I hope you are too.

[00:05:41] Lily: Absolutely.

[00:05:42] David: But it’s a role which I think is not taking you that far from academia. I think you could head back into academia almost at any point, if that’s what you wanted in the future. And that’s not the case for all of the fellows who then transition into IDEMS. Some actually appreciate the break with academia and the pressures of sort of publication and so on more than I think you have.

Whereas you’ve quite enjoyed keeping, you know, a more academic angle, looking at writing papers in different areas from your previous research, but staying, if you want, academically active.

[00:06:19] Lily: Staying academically active but not having to be in academia still. This was, I guess, going to be my next question. Why do you think people are staying on? For me, certainly, academia is not something that I want to stay on in. So why do you think people are staying on after this role?

[00:06:34] David: I, of course, have views on that, but I guess to come back to you specifically, why is it that for you academia didn’t feel right and IDEMS feels better? Can you articulate that?

[00:06:46] Lily: Can I articulate that? I suppose to me it’s to do with seeing the impact. Back as a bachelor’s student, I could go down the mathematics route or the statistics route. I took the statistics route because I could see a little bit more how that was applicable.

And then as I moved throughout the, the career and I did the PhD there with statistics. I could see how it’s applicable, but I couldn’t see that kind of impact of it as much. What I was doing was I was looking at multiple imputation of a composite covariate, which is something I found very interesting and I had a lot of fun with but I don’t think it’s something that had a kind of wide area of application.

[00:07:25] David: It has applications, but only a few. There’s sort of specialist contexts which need that, which is often the nature of academic research.

[00:07:35] Lily: Yeah, and we do work with people, we work with our collaborators at Oxford, and we can see they’re doing such impactful things and work with them on these things, and that’s a lot of fun. But I couldn’t see that when I was in academia as a route that I could be in. Whereas actually at IDEMS, you can be involved in all of these different areas where you get to see that impact.

[00:07:58] David: And I think one of the things there is that the research that you’re involved in is not even necessarily your area of expertise.

[00:08:06] Lily: Not at all.

[00:08:08] David: Your expertise to support other people’s research.

[00:08:12] Lily: And that’s fun, that’s fun supporting other people actually. I enjoy the mathematical sciences and using that on that support, that’s something that didn’t occur to me before.

[00:08:24] David: And I think one of the things which is critical here is, you know, applied statistics or data science. These are areas which are applicable. But the research into them actually has to be cutting edge, but a lot of what you’re doing isn’t necessarily cutting edge in terms of the actual statistics and data science. What you’re doing is you’re understanding the research which is happening and what they need, and you’re finding and you’re identifying the tools they need.

A lot of the research that you’re doing, the publications you’ve got now, are really about building tools to give people access to things, to help people to use things, rather than making new, if you want, methods.

[00:09:09] Lily: Absolutely, and that’s where I’m comfortable, for me personally, and maybe that’s then why IDEMS was more of a fit than going back into academia.

[00:09:17] David: Exactly. And this is exactly the sort of people that I try to recruit. It is those people who have that service mentality. I have a colleague who we work with, who’s part of the agroecology work we do. And this is one of the things that brought us together. It’s this idea of a service mentality.

Researchers, academics, because if you want to be at the cutting edge, there’s a sort of competitive mentality of trying to actually get to the latest, get to the newest, get to the best. Whereas the service mentality of actually being useful and enjoying being useful and wanting to be useful, that service mentality is one which we really value and that is part of what I tend to look for in the people who come on as Impact Activation Fellows. This is why we have such a high retention rate because people who want to be useful can often find they become extremely useful within this country by serving others.

[00:10:20] Lily: Not saying that academics aren’t useful, of course.

[00:10:24] David: Well, academia has its place, but most academics are quite removed from the impact of their work. You don’t see it on a daily basis. It’s the simple thing by being at the cutting edge, you have maybe a small area of applications, which would be totally lost without you.

So of course you’re moving the knowledge forward. That’s what an academic should be doing. Whereas a lot of our role, it’s sort of bringing skills or knowledge which isn’t widely available and making it more usable, more accessible. Actually getting more people to use the things which are already known.

There is an interesting distinction and difference there, that really a lot of what we do… occasionally we get to do things, and I must admit I have a project at the moment which is which is research, it’s mathematics research in a sense, and I’m loving it. But most of the time the things that we do aren’t needing to be cutting edge.

We’re sort of building tools, even that particular case, although there is cutting edge thinking in it, really what we’re trying to do is build tools to make things which are known more accessible. That’s the main aim of the project. And that’s, that’s common to what we end up doing quite often, is increasing this accessibility.

And this is the nature in some sense of this fellowship. Impact activation is about the fact that coming out of your PhD, you had a lot of skills which could be really useful and really impactful. But as you said, in the academic role, they were being applied to an area which was cutting edge, but narrow.

And so a lot of what I believe you’ve done very successfully through the fellowship is you’ve gone into lots of different areas and helped lots of different people and done lots of different things and seen the impact of your work.

[00:12:21] Lily: Yeah, yeah, that’s very true. That is very true. And that is not something as much that I got through academia and it is a lot more what you were saying about, you know, that we’re not as much on the cutting edge here because of providing a service. Well, there’s lots of things I want to say about that, but one is that you said that there’s things that are already known, but actually, there’s things that are already known and we’re using that, but throughout my education I didn’t know that. Things about statistics that I should have known from having a PhD in statistics. Which is quite worrying that I didn’t know. So while there are things already known, I think it’s not even about using the things that are already known, or about making them accessible, but it’s just about kind of just having that education there.

[00:13:13] David: And this is a really interesting point because of course education is my passion. And I think it’s important to recognize how is it you could have a PhD in statistics and yet still find that as you started working in IDEMS, there were basic statistical concepts that you’re learning? That’s essentially what you’re saying. Why didn’t you know these beforehand?

[00:13:33] Lily: There was even one at AIMS Ghana, and Francis, one of our colleagues, gave everyone a question, and I was looking at it like, I don’t know how to answer this.

[00:13:44] David: This is the thing, and this is part of the MSc course that you were giving, Problem Solving in Statistics and Data Science. And this is a course which has been developed over a number of years with partners across Africa and beyond. And, as you say, there are elements of this where a statistics training does not give you all the tools you need to work with data.

Which is one of the reasons, of course, that data scientists exist, and that you are now calling yourself a data scientist rather than just a statistician. But it’s not just that, because there are some things even within statistics. There’s the breadth beyond statistics, which now data science sort of captures , which I think you’ve embraced quite thoroughly over the last couple of years. And there’s also, within statistics, elements where the way things are taught are very methods focused. And so you’d learnt a lot about methods, and not necessarily as much about the application of those methods in different ways, and how to use some of these to really help answer practical questions.

And I should say that I’m fortunate to have been part of the Stacks Education community, and there are educators all over the world trying to improve this, and it’s hard work. Generally the way things are taught are not aligned with getting those skills to students. So it doesn’t surprise me.

It disappoints me that, especially given you were at Reading, where a lot of these ideas were taught in the 70s. I know that because my father was part of the group who was actually the real innovators on changing the way these things were taught in the 70s at Reading. And so it’s sad to me that a few years further on when you actually studied there, you didn’t get these ideas and that training that was established as being effective many years before. It’s amazing that these ideas haven’t spread. And that’s a big part of why we have the role I think we have in terms of actually trying to get some of these ideas out at scale. And I’m not saying that we’re succeeding yet, but we are in many cases, and the fellowships are part of this, able to bring people onto these other ways of thinking, this service mentality.

[00:16:10] Lily: Yeah, so while I agree, you know, I’m not working at cutting edge, I’m not doing those things that apply to a narrow set of people but is cutting edge, a lot of these concepts still feel cutting edge sometimes, because it’s still mind blowing on how things can be explained and you’re like, wow, yeah, I should have known that so many years ago.

[00:16:32] David: So in some sense, and this is where my own evolution, if you want, I was originally an algebraic geometer and yet I was most well known as a statistics educator. And I think it’s exactly this element that these ideas in data education are so needed and yet they have been so neglected and they haven’t been taken up.

A lot of the core ideas, which keep coming up again and again, well, they’ve been mulling around since the 70s. You know, the ideas of working with real data, actually not just worrying about the method, but actually worrying about the problem. All of these things in the education system, they’ve got a long history and they’re recognized as being effective, but it’s not known how to get them out more widely. Because they’re hard, it’s hard work.

[00:17:25] Lily: Interesting, but you would have hoped it would have been found.

[00:17:30] David: I mean, I have to tell you, I was absolutely astounded, this is almost 15 years ago now, when, I was forced to teach statistics in Kenya because there was a lack of people and so my father who was an applied statistician who had been teaching in these sorts of ways since the 70s and part of, if you want, those early movements of applied statisticians to be able to make the subject more applied, more useful, so I asked him for help on how should I teach some of this material. I took the material, I then wrote up what I’d done, and I presented it at conferences where suddenly they thought it was new. But everything I’d done had come from what he’d done in the 70s. I could refer back to the paper in the 70s where they’d done exactly the same thing!

And yet, here was I at the International Conference on Teaching Statistics, and people were claiming that what I was doing was revolutionary anew. This is where my reputation sort of started, in a sense. It wasn’t that extreme, but, it wasn’t that it was revolutionary anew, it was aligned with the cutting edge thinking.

This is what, in certain areas, people have now this thinking at scale, but their implementation at scale is still struggling. And there are places which have moved really ahead in this. New Zealand is incredible for the way they’ve got these ideas into the curriculum, but the implementation is difficult.

In the US they’ve got a whole wonderful guidelines sort of series on this, but again implementation is difficult. So it’s not that these ideas were new. It’s that the way that I was able to implement them in low resource environments in this sort of way, was considered new. And that is where we have elements, as you say, which are still at the cutting edge of what we’re doing. So what we’re doing is cutting edge, but often not cutting edge, let’s say, data science or cutting edge statistics.

[00:19:26] Lily: Sure, absolutely.

[00:19:27] David: Maybe cutting edge in the applications of statistics and data science and breaking down the barriers between them.

[00:19:36] Lily: And it’s not that we’re using old tools either. We’re still using those cutting edge tools that are coming out and staying updated with them.

[00:19:44] David: And more than that, we’re helping to develop the tools to make things more accessible.

[00:19:49] Lily: That’s true. Yeah, that’s a very good point.

[00:19:53] David: I mean, just very simply, some of the work you’ve done on the R packages, a big part of what you’re doing is helping integrate tools in so that the data that comes out can be analyzed better.

It’s very simple things, but it’s those gaps which are missing, you know, people have been using R to analyze the outcomes of those tools, but because there wasn’t a nice streamlined way of getting the data in, it was actually quite complicated. People were exporting it in different ways and so on.

Whereas building the tools which enable people to take the data out of some of these systems and put them straight in, ready for analysis and cleaning and so on. Part of those pipelines, data pipelines, so to speak, that’s really important work. But if you were an academic writing papers on that, you are writing papers on it, that would not necessarily be seen as cutting edge research.

And this is, I think, one of the areas where, well, the fact you’re writing papers on this and you’re able to get it out there and make it useful, that’s good enough. And whether or not it’s received as cutting edge research doesn’t matter to IDEMS at this point in time. It’s possible that in the years to come people may appreciate just how important these links are and academia may change in terms of what it values.

But one of the reasons that I believe IDEMS exists is because in many academic circles the nature of competition is such that the things that are valued are not necessarily well aligned with the things which are impactful.

[00:21:31] Lily: And I think that that’s definitely something you know a lot better than I did, because you’ve had that experience in these different areas. But I think maybe we should discuss the role a bit more. I’m conscious that we’ve become a little bit too statistics or data science or teaching heavy, but that’s because that’s, well, that’s the E in IDEMS for you, the education.

[00:21:49] David: The education part. And it’s part of what you’ve done and the journey you’ve been on.

[00:21:55] Lily: But in general the role doesn’t have to be about educational, that side of it.

[00:22:01] David: Not at all.

[00:22:01] Lily: There’s other things that I’ve tried and then I’ve done, I’ve had fun with as well. But I suppose, yeah, how did you kind of expect the role to be when you and Danny conceived the idea of the fellowship?

[00:22:15] David: I mean, the key element was that we wanted a way to enable people who are coming out of an academic role, who were interested in the work we did, but not sure if it was a good fit for them, to be able to test the waters, so to speak, in such a way that it wouldn’t burn bridges with academia if they wanted to go back.

[00:22:40] Lily: Yep.

[00:22:40] David: But it would give them this exposure. And there’s a simple reality which you’re aware of, we’ve not had any funding for these fellowships. And so, for us, the fellowships have been funded by the work the fellows have been doing. So we’ve had to make sure that people are useful pretty much as of day one.

As of day one, some of your work was on projects which we needed someone to work on. And that has been part of what we’ve done. We’ve combined, if you want, the fellowship role with the work that we need to do. So we’ve brought people in to do work we have that we need doing and done it through a fellowship, and we’ve deliberately created flexibility in that role so that the fellows can try different things, find the path that they’re most interested in.

[00:23:31] Lily: And I’ve heard it quoted to me before anyway, that there’s meant to be this 60 – 40 split between the kind of stuff that we need, all of the stuff that you need to do and the stuff that you want to go and explore yourself in terms of your time. It didn’t really feel like 60 – 40. It kind of felt like everything that I did was a choice. So maybe that was just some cleverness on your side.

[00:23:54] David: Well, but the point there, which I think is really interesting, is that you fitted into this role really well, because you were able to make everything a choice, because a lot of the things you were choosing were things which could easily have fitted into the 60.

So, in some sense, you had the best of both worlds in many ways. You were sort of doing maybe 80 – 80. Because most of the work was both stuff that we needed to do and stuff that you wanted to do. There were some things that you did that you chose that were not necessarily things that we needed to do. The CarbonR package is a really nice example of that. Where this is something where we were delighted you wanted to do that, but this is not something that we needed to do.

[00:24:34] Lily: And the CarbonR package, just to explain, is a package which is used to help estimate carbon emissions using R, and it’s based on the UK government’s calculations for what different activities, what different things use.

[00:24:52] David: And for us as an organization, we are keen to be able to work towards being net zero in the future. But how do we do that unless we know what our carbon emissions are? And so you were interested in this and you looked at the different things which were available and said, I can’t believe that there’s nothing which helps me do these calculations in a sensible way, in the right way, and so you built the package. This was great.

That’s a really nice example of where you were able to follow an interest of your own and build something and you had that flexibility. But on the other hand, there are elements of some of the work you did, for example, on the Turing course, where, yes, you chose to get involved, but then there were elements of it where, given a choice, you might not have done as much on it as you had to.

That was a contract that we had with them, and you then took responsibility to seeing it through. And that’s sort of 60 percent, if you want. And for different people, that 60-  40 plays out in different ways. We have examples of postdoctoral fellows where actually the 60 – 40 has been really important to help explain to the funder, actually what they’re working on and to be able to build that freedom in despite where the funding is coming from.

And so that’s been important in certain ways. There’s been other cases where we’ve had to bound that at 40, so that we could still afford to keep people because there have been clear ideas of the things which people want to do, which don’t align with IDEMS.

And if we don’t have that 60 percent of paid work, it’s hard to make sure that we’re viable as an organization. We don’t have funding at this point in time for these fellowships. If we did, we could possibly be more flexible in this and I’d love it.

It’s actually quite clear to me. In general, in the past, I never thought IDEMS would want donations, so to speak. But if someone were to come with a big donation and say, what is it you want a donation for? It would be fellowships. For me, this is the thing that we’ve created, we’ve created this fellowship program. And actually, I have a list of people I would like to give fellowships to, but we can’t afford to because we don’t have projects which they could be paid on.

There’s people who have come to us when we were recruiting other fellows and so on, where I thought, oh, they would be a great addition but it’s not clear what the 60 percent is which would cover their costs. Having to cover the costs of the fellows is a real limitation of our current setup.

[00:27:28] David: If we could offer fellowships where we actually had the funding for the fellows it would be so much better both for us and the fellows. As you know, your fellowship, I think you enjoyed it a lot, but there were times when it was a bit more hectic and stressful than you’d have liked.

And, the reason that comes about with our fellowships at the moment is because, well, we don’t have separate funding for the fellowship. We only have the funding which comes in because of the activities the fellow does. And so if that alignment isn’t working, then it becomes difficult.

For you it was relatively straightforward because your interests aligned well with the funded work we had. And so that’s been easier. There have been other fellows where it’s been more challenging.

[00:28:13] Lily: I see. And you said that you’ve got this kind of list already of people that you wish that you could. Are you surprised that there’s so many people that…

[00:28:20] David: We’ve not gone out looking. If we went out looking, the list would be ten times as long, or maybe a hundred times as long. I believe this fellowship opportunity is one where actually there’s so many people in this sort of situation that you were in when you finished your PhD, where you’re not convinced academia is right for you, but you’re not sure what other options are out there, and what you’d want to do.

[00:28:44] Lily: Absolutely.

[00:28:44] David: You could probably have got a job in the city, in the banks, or whatever it is, if you’d wanted, but that wasn’t what you were interested in. And so, wanting something where you’re focusing on social impact, but maybe not pursuing an academic career, there’s so many people in that situation who are coming out of mathematical science PhDs and others. We’ve hit on a niche, a sort of goldmine of really bright people who could be brought in to work towards social impact. If we could expand the fellowship program.

[00:29:14] Lily: Nice. Well, is there anything else you wanted to add before we wrap up?

[00:29:19] David: I guess, the last thing I’d like to really ask you on this is, you know, you’ve just come out of the fellowship, actually, a year ago, you were offered a way out of the fellowship into a permanent position, and you said, no, I’m quite happy in my fellowship role and I suppose I’d love to get from you just a little discussion on what is it about the role that you really valued through your time as a fellow? Can you articulate that?

[00:29:47] Lily: I can try to. I mean, one thing was the getting to try out lots and lots of different projects. Some people thrive on having their one project and really digging into it. I work a lot better by having lots of different ones. And then, when I’ve had enough of one, it’s like, it’s fine. So I’ll just switch to that one now.

And meanwhile, your brain’s just ticking over the problem that you had in that first project. So part of what was enjoyable about it or part of the reason why I was very comfortable in it a year ago and I didn’t want to leave it a year ago, was by having all of these different projects that you could get involved in and not having to commit yourself so much to one area. I don’t think that’s actually a problem, not being a fellow now that I’m out of that.

[00:30:31] David: Maybe just before you go on to your second one, just on that, I want to be clear that fellows take this in different directions. You’ve taken that, and you’ve embraced that diversity extremely, which has been great.

But we have other fellows who have preferred to just hone in on a single project. And that’s been fine as well. And so what I think the key thing to the fellowship role is that element of being able to make that choice about the diversity or the honing in and so on, which, in a sense, once you’re in your position of more responsibility, that’s still possible, but you are now maybe more responsible for what you’re doing and how it aligns with the organisation, more than when you were a fellow. You had a layer of protection then, where you weren’t worried about, you know, is there a contract behind this or not? You just, oh yeah, I’m interested in that, okay, I’ll do that.

[00:31:22] Lily: Yeah, and I suppose part of that is from the 60 – 40 split, that you have that freedom that you can go and get that diversity in. Some people might want to stay in, hone in a little bit more on their area. And you touched on a second point, which is the responsibility. You can have fun and really get to dig into a project, but you don’t have the paperwork as it were. You don’t have that kind of responsibility. You don’t have to do those little extra bits as much.

[00:31:50] David: Well, the point is, and I think this is where when you say you kind of do, this is where I think you haven’t noticed the difference, really, as you’ve moved out of your fellowship, because you started doing that.

You started taking responsibility for projects in different ways. And so, naturally in that fellowship, you were getting to the place where you were taking responsibility to the level where you now haven’t noticed a big difference because you’re already taking responsibility. And that I think is a really important distinction, that this element of when you’re a fellow, the expectation is you never need to have responsibility.

You are offered the opportunity to take responsibility, but it’s sort of your choice. And I think that’s something where, again, I think at the end of the two years, you were now naturally taking responsibility. That’s meant there’s been a very natural and smooth transition.

Whereas I think a year ago, that might have meant that you actually had a slightly different transition as the responsibility suddenly felt heavy on your shoulders. Does that make sense?

[00:33:02] Lily: Yeah, absolutely. That absolutely makes sense. And I think it was the discussion after the first year that made me realize, okay, when I go into the next phase is when I should be taking responsibility, which is where I guess maybe that’s where part of that transition started happening. Was being aware of what those differences are, because otherwise, otherwise it’s hard to know what the differences are between being a fellow and being a more I guess permanent member, as you call it.

I say as you call it because as far as I was concerned when I was a Postdoctoral Impact Activation Fellow, I still felt like a permanent member. It didn’t feel that I wasn’t. But anyway.

[00:33:36] David: And I think that’s important. You were already an integral part of the team. The fellows are a full part of the team. The main difference, as I see it, is this expectation of responsibility, which shouldn’t be there on fellows. There should be the opportunity for responsibility. So it’s a subtle difference.

[00:33:58] Lily: Yeah. But yeah, for me that was what I was enjoying about the fellowship, I guess just that freedom of choice in there of, okay, what is it that I want to try out okay let’s try out lots of things and see and not say no for a couple of years until eventually I think I did have to say no at one point.

[00:34:16] David: I think this is a good finishing point in some ways, because this element of the role, every fellow who’s gone through this now, and we’ve had, it’s not a huge number, but it’s getting up towards 10 now, people who’ve come through fellowships or elements of fellowships in different ways.

And everyone has done it differently. You have embraced choice more than anyone else in the fellowship, and that’s been great, the way you’ve chosen to take on lots of different things and get involved in many different things has been wonderful. And there have been others who have chosen to focus on one thing and really just dig into that and then taken on responsibility when they’ve moved out of the fellowship role. Some people have only stayed in the fellowship role for months. Others like yourself have gone the full two years and so it’s been very interesting how differently different people have used the role and taken it.

And, just to finish from my side, I really, I really love this route which we’re creating and I’m really excited to see how more people could go through this. I think this is something where at some point over the next few years, expanding the program out, I’d love to have cohorts of fellows and to think about what that would mean and what that would create. But anyway, these are things for the future and ideas which I’m excited to see emerge.

[00:35:40] Lily: Yeah, and from my side I just feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to kind of really get involved in this programme and take full advantage of it as well.

[00:35:50] David: Well, but also help create it, I mean, you weren’t the first person to go through it, but you were still an earlier adopter. And so part of what we now understand of the fellowship approach has come through experiences like yours. So thank you.

[00:36:03] Lily: And then from doing a PhD and being around people who also have done a PhD, seeing what they’ve done and then seeing what I’m going on to next, I guess a lot of them have seen what I’ve done and they’ve thought, yeah, that’s, that is something I would be interested in doing. And so it is a shame that there’s not more out there or more opportunity.

[00:36:22] David: Yeah, and it’s something which I hope in the future, we will be able to create more opportunities. But I think it’s exactly why, at the moment, we’ve been very fortunate with the applicants we’ve got and the opportunities we’ve been able to create.

As I say, I do have a little backlog of people who I would love to offer fellowship to, but in general, we’ve never had a shortage of people. We’ve had one open application in collaboration with Edinburgh University, and that not only attracted the fellow which joined that, but two other fellows, one who we recruited, and another one who I want to recruit but don’t have the opportunity to do so.

There hasn’t been a sort of difficulty actually finding people who are really excellent fellows. The challenge, as I say, for us, as a small organisation, has been to just create the opportunities in the first place.

[00:37:16] Lily: Yeah, I can believe that. Thank you very much, David. It’s been a good chat.

[00:37:21] David: Thank you.