What is it and how do I get involved: RAID’s guide into International Agricultural Research

October 10, 2019

As part of our boosted NextGen work, we will be sharing a number of blogs with advice on how to get into International Agricultural Research. Where better to start than with this RAID Guide by Tamaya Peressini and Jack Hetherington.

Hunger, poverty and inequality remains a significant problem facing the international community. While there have been substantial improvements to food and nutrition security over recent decades, there are still over 800 million men, women and children who go hungry. Plus, in the future, we are going to see a larger population living longer with the need to reduce our environmental footprint and move to a net-zero carbon economy. So, how will we feed more people, better, with less?

On one the hand, this is a very worrying proposition, especially for agriculture research, which plays a significant role in all of this. However, a glass half-full approach would see this presents some tricky but interesting challenges. Challenges that will require inquisitive minds with creative thinking and the ability to ask new and different questions. It will not be ‘business as usual’ and this offers many opportunities in the research community.

In many ways, Australia has been a global leader in agricultural, fisheries and forestry innovation, science, policy and management over the decades. Indeed, many Australian experts have been contributing to lifting people in our region out hunger and poverty. These people work in institutions like our universities, the CSIRO and State government departments of agriculture with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Samantha Nowland and Paul Armstrong from the Northern Territory travelled to Malaysia to undertake tropical oyster aquaculture training.

However, moving through the education system it is not always apparent that there are opportunities to pave a career in the ‘International Agriculture Research’ (IAR) arena. The Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) Network is a group of passionate early to mid-career researchers with a bug for agriculture and international development. A program of the Crawford Fund, the RAID Network aims to connect, engage and support its 1,000 plus members across Australia and overseas.

We want to spread the word that the benefits of getting engaged are many and varied – in short, you help improve food and nutrition security in developing countries, your work is often of benefit to Australian agriculture, and you benefit professionally and personally.

Whatever your reason, here’s

RAID’s 5 Hot Tips for getting into International Agricultural Research

1. While you are studying

If you are an undergraduate or post grad student at university, we recommend doing a bit of research identifying people within or outside your institution who are working on international agriculture research projects. Ask if they want to take you for an honors project or a short-term internship – this may lead to more opportunities down the track (hello PhD research!). RAID also hosts regular networking events around Australia, which are a great opportunity to get talking to other people getting amongst IAR.

2. Give volunteering a crack

Groups like the Australian Volunteers Program  offer fantastic volunteer opportunities on international projects, funded by the Australian Government. Taking on an opportunity such as this can help broaden your professional network that can then help you take that next step into a research role. Additionally, it helps you apply technical skills you may already have, while developing some of the ‘softer’ skills around international partnerships, working cross-cultural teams and managing a project.

Volunteers Stephen Lang, Matt Champness and Crawford Fund Mentor Deirdre Lemerle examining perennial grasses in the Lao PDR

3. Grab hold of opportunities to mobilize you

Every year the Crawford Fund offers International Agriculture Student Awards. These are bursaries awarded to undergrad, Master’s and PhD students to help them gain experience and expertise in IAR in the field! They’re launched in November each year.

The New Colombo Plan Scholarship is also available for students wanting to work in the Indo-Pacific for 6-18 months.

Rachael Wood from NSW getting stuck into the IRRI course in 2018

4. Get to conferences

There are plenty of conferences out there in agriculture research which give you a taste of just how big and diverse the research world is, connect you with people already involved and also sharpen up those networking skills. The Crawford Fund has Australia’s main food security conference every year in August. Applying for the Crawford conference Scholar Program also pairs you up with well-established IAR researchers to mentor you over the 2 day program. And there’s a special rate for RAID members!

Conference Scholars, 2018

5. Look for internships to give you more experience

There are many opportunities for paid or unpaid internships with global international development agencies. One of these is the ACIAR Graduate Development Program – a non-ongoing work experience program for recent undergraduate students to get a taste of research that benefits farmers in Australia and developing countries. Apply now!

Now – this is only a short and sharp list of how to get into IAR – you can find a tantalizing list of more opportunities here. Also, by jumping on the RAID website and signing to be a FREE member you’ll get updated with news, events and employment/volunteer opportunities in IAR – so join the network and stay connected!