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‘Don’t do boring science!’ Advice for early career scientists from the DIVERSITAS community

Attending the DIVERSITAS celebration conference has been a rewarding and unique experience, particularly because of the opportunity to speak with and learn from numerous prominent biodiversity scientists.

The celebration conference held in Seville, Spain, was a 3-day event for the DIVERSITAS community to come together one last time to celebrate its achievements, contemplate the lessons learnt, and to look forward to a new beginning under the Future Earth Initiative. As one of four early career scientists selected to report on the event, I decided to focus on collecting the pieces of wisdom that leading experts of DIVERSITAS have for us, especially those relevant to young scientists.

Listening to the founders talk about vision and goals of DIVERSITAS and the various achievements of its projects, I have learnt much about the history and progression of biodiversity science; I have been inspired and touched by the stories and warm memories of DIVERSITAS members; and finally, I feel empowered and motivated to contribute to biodiversity science, using the DIVERSITAS knowledge accumulated in the past years to strive towards effective future biodiversity research.

As an early career scientist passionate about applied sciences for biodiversity conservation and management, I would like to share with you some of this advice summarized under a few key subjects.

On Science to Policy/Management
  1. Understand the core science before you integrate and apply it
  2. Don’t lose the basic science
  3. Build your credibility by being an expert
  4. Find an interesting research question and answer it
  5. There is space for ‘science to management’ facilitators
On Biodiversity Research and Work
  1. Work on cutting-edge science, don’t do things that are boring
  2. Don’t lose expertise in biodiversity, know about the basic natural history and ecology of plants and animals
  3. Research gaps exist in networks, resilience and system dynamics
  4. The next era will be about finding a clever way to revolutionize units of measurement
  5. Follow cutting-edge biology and conferences by electronic means if not able to attend

On Attitude

  1. Be proactive and opportunistic: situations are what you make of them
  2. Use your skills and find your niche in any project you do
  3. Recognize the times that you need help and seek answers from others
  4. Find out if you fully understand and are able to communicate your research by discussing your work every opportunity you get
  5. Do not be afraid to ask stupid questions
On Scientific Reading and Writing
  1. Cut out words from sentences and – if it still makes sense – leave it that way
  2. Take out all adjectives and adverbs
  3. Read each other’s work and keep polishing
  4. Read well and be well-read to understand scientific issues deeply
  5. Refer to the original literature and basics
On Going the Extra Mile
  1. Find placements to increase your exposure and experience
  2. Apart from journal articles, read books – they are the synthesis of many years of research
  3. Do not think of extra activities as voluntary work, use it fully to add value to your research portfolio
  4. Remember to communicate and show appreciation of the work of others
  5. Choose to do things that make you stand out and create your signature mark

I am very grateful for the chance to attend the DIVERSITAS celebration and will take the lessons to heart. For fellow early career scientists around the world, I hope that this piece will provide words of inspiration and motivation on our journey to conserve our world’s biodiversity, as it has done for me.