Page content

Eva Alisic: Monash staff profile

Dr Eva Alisic was recently appointed as Co-Chair of the InterAcademy Partnership. This week, we get to know Eva and her work with the Monash University Accident Research Centre and the Global Young Academy.

Name: Dr Eva Alisic

Faculty: Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC)

Campus: Clayton (currently based in Switzerland on a NHMRC fellowship)

Tell us a little bit about your recent appointment as co-chair of the InterAcademy Partnership project? What is the IAP? What will your role involve? And why is this initiative so important?

The IAP is a collaboration of national academies of science, medicine and engineering around the world. For example, the Australian Academy of Science is one of its 130 members. The academies work together to provide evidence-based perspectives on global issues such as sustainability.

Together with the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton (where Einstein was one of the first professors!), the IAP has established a project to strengthen science’s contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. In other words, to better support policy makers in making decisions about e.g. how to end hunger and how to improve education.

It’s a three-year project, funded by Carnegie Corporation. I’ve been asked to co-chair the project, together with Li Jinghai, the Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the project, ‘science’ has a broad definition for me. It includes all disciplines of scholarly knowledge, from mathematics to language studies. Combined, they provide a strong basis for policy development and decision-making.

How did the appointment come about? I understand you are/were also co-chair of the Global Young Academy? Please tell us a little bit about your involvement at the Global Young Academy and what the academy does?

Yes, my work with the Global Young Academy (GYA) was the reason I was asked. The GYA is an organisation of 200 scholars from around the world. Members are selected for a five-year term based on their research excellence and commitment to service. Most of them are 35-40 years of age and associate or full professors, so you could say we’re mostly ‘young’ in the academic sense. Our members come from over 50 countries. We have a budget of approximately $1 million AUD per year, with the German Ministry of Education and Research being the core funder of our office and activities.

We focus on topics such as: How we can make science more open and collaborative? How can we intensify collaborations between high and low-income countries? And how can scientists help address the current refugee crisis? The GYA is the most dynamic, socially committed, and diverse group of people I’ve ever worked with. When I became a member, I immediately dived in and was elected co-chair the next year. Monash, in particular Zlatko Skrbis and the leadership at MUARC have been very supportive of my engagement. I’ve just finished my two-year term as co-chair, and look back very content.

By the way, the GYA is calling for applications for new members at the moment.

How long have you worked at Monash?

It’s getting close to five years now. I’m enjoying it a lot, Monash has a very international outlook.

Where did you work prior to starting at the University?

In the Netherlands, at the University Medical Center in Utrecht.

What do you like best about your role?

My research field is traumatic stress and mental health in the face of extreme adversity. I focus on young people and families. What I love about my role is the combination of research and research translation. With our team we not only try to better understand how children and caregivers cope with disaster, car crashes or violence, but we also work with the clinicians to improve support. So for example, we conduct a study in which we audio-sample children’s daily life after a serious injury to better understand parent-child interactions, and at the same time we develop an education trial to support the work of physicians and nurses in the Emergency Department. Apart from that, I have always liked to work internationally and I get ample opportunity to do so.

Why did you choose your current career path?

I’ve always been attracted to care during and after emergencies. In the Netherlands I’ve even had a stint as a fire fighter. When the world has turned upside down, we can make a real difference to people’s lives by how we support them. And children and young people have a special place for me in that.

First job?

Research assistant for my history teacher at school. He wrote books about local villages, so we would spend hours in archives checking old newspaper items and even older written texts. Lots of juicy village gossip in beautiful writing.

Worst job?

Probably a cleaning job I had during my studies...

What project are you currently working on and what does it involve?

We study children’s mental health after fatal domestic violence. It’s a relatively low frequency event with enormous impact on children, families, and their social environment. At once, the children lose both parents, one to death and the other to incarceration. They often have to move home and change school. Many of them witnessed the killing. And disturbingly, our care for these children is seriously lacking. Our research involves qualitative and quantitative data collection to improve the services for the bereaved children and young people. Apart from that, our audio-sampling and education projects are keeping me busy.

What is your favourite place in the world and why?

Hard to say! I love Melbourne for its liveliness; all its restaurants, cafes, and festivals. Zurich, where I’m currently working for my NHMRC fellowship, is a great city close to the beautiful Swiss Alps. I like South Africa a lot; despite all its contrasts and difficulties, there are wonderful young researchers there who are trying to make a difference. The Netherlands, where I grew up, has a special place in my heart. I could go on…

What is your favourite place to eat and why?

In Melbourne? My partner and I have a rule to never eat anywhere twice because there is so much to try. But we have broken the rule for e.g. Lord Cardigan (Albert Park; nice modern dishes), Bacash (South Yarra; great fish), and DOC Carlton (tasty pizza).

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Nice you ask; colleagues at the Global Young Academy have just published “Words of Wisdom” with cherished advice from mentors around the world. Helpful advice I received is in there too.

Tell us something about yourself that your colleagues wouldn’t know.

I played electric violin in a band for a while. It was probably a health risk to come and listen!