Dr Angela Maharaj, 2021–22

Angela Maharaj

Dr Angela Maharaj

Angela's research expertise intersects across oceanography and meteorology, and her interests include online education excellence, climate change education and science engagement for lifelong learning. Angela is passionate about science literacy and was involved in several initiatives to improve links between schools, universities and science research. Angela was an investigator on the 2021 Eureka finalists' Schools Weather and Air Quality (SWAQ) Citizen Science project, is co-chair of the Science Development Team for the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Academy and the current President of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS), a national learned society representing over 500 scientists working and studying in weather, climate and allied fields.

What were you researching before you started as a Science Policy Fellow?
My work was largely in observations of weather and climate using remote and in-situ sensing. I was involved in research which involved trying to understand the role of the oceans in climate modes of variability such as El Nino, La Nina and the Indian Ocean Dipole. These climate signals are very important for Australia's seasonal and interannual precipitation as well as regional and global climate variability. I was also part of a team of investigators who launched a citizen science project where we placed weather and air quality sensors in schools across Sydney to complement the state's regulatory network. Our sensors captured data from the Black Summer bushfires as well as changes in air quality during COVID lockdowns and have provided some interesting insights into these events.  

How has your research background helped you contribute to policy development?
My content expertise has been useful for some of the work that I have tackled thus far, but policy has to consider so much more than just the science which is a very different way to approach issues than when working scientifically. It's a lot more challenging to consider the practicalities of a policy both from interdisciplinary angles as well as thinking about good governance. Some of the generic skills developed in my STEM career have been quite useful though, such as critical analysis, reviewing and being highly cognisant of integrity of process. Being in finance, we have to consider probity issues a lot. I can see how a lot of the work is analogous to the type of reviews and evaluations we would do in research to ensure that the work was rigorous and grounded in evidence.    

How has the program changed your career aspirations?
I have only been in the APS for two months at this point but it has already been an eye-opener to see the different career pathways within government that one could take. I don't exactly know where this fellowship will take me yet but I think that the network I am developing within the APS and the Science Policy Fellows is going to be very valuable.  

What is your favourite part about working in a policy role in the Australian Public Service?
I think the team work approach within the APS is great. It is very collaborative and collegiate. When I had my interview with my director, I was very much taken by how she spoke about her team. In general, this is quite different to academia where there is a lot of chest beating and while the reality of academia is also that it takes teams of people to get things done, the culture and reward system doesn't usually acknowledge this.