Dear MCAA Members and Readers,
The MCAA connects people who share a sense of curiosity, adventure, exploration and creativity. These people strive to seek out new knowledge, exchange ideas and enlighten those around them. These people are researchers, and research is what defines us.
As the Board convened last year in May to begin planning for the 7th MCAA Annual Conference, a strange thing happened. We came to an agreement with little delay as to the theme of the event: Research and Democracy. There wasn’t much discussion, nor many alternative suggestions. Linking these two topics just made sense given our present moment in history.
Research strives to be the domain of logic and reason, experimentation and objectivity. Democracy strives to give people control of their own rules, their own well-being.
When democracy is threatened, so too are the researchers who seek to uncover facts and truths which no person can negate or overturn.
We were reminded of the fragility of democracy and the backlash which research endures when the Board took part in the World Science Forum in Budapest in November 2019.
The event took place in the aftermath of two troubling developments.
Firstly, the Central European University was stripped of their ability to award US-accredited degrees, forcing it to move most of its operations from Budapest to Vienna.
Secondly, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, despite playing host to researchers, scientists and policymakers from across the globe, had been stripped of its autonomy and independence.
These events are sadly just examples, and definitely not isolated, as governments around the world seek to consolidate power and suppress voices of reason and dissent, many of which are based in science and research.
“This is why MCAA exists. Researchers may feel weak as individuals, struggling against scarce funding, constant rejections, self-doubt and uncertainty. But as a community we thrive, because working together we have enough data, enough resources, enough support, and enough knowledge.”
And while this is going on around us, we take so much for granted as researchers, putting our minds to great work on minor tasks, striving to learn a little more, publish a little more, win a little more funding, and build a little more ego.
As we fight our little battles against our data, our methods, our supervisors, our competition, and ourselves, we miss the big changes happening around us.
This is why MCAA exists. Researchers may feel weak as individuals, struggling against scarce funding, constant rejections, self-doubt and uncertainty. But as a community we thrive, because working together we have enough data, enough resources, enough support, and enough knowledge.
MCAA is many things. We are Science Policy and Science Diplomacy. We are Science Communication and Career Development. We are Networking and Support.
I welcome you all to read the pages of this issue of IRRADIUM and reflect on what MCAA is today, what it can be tomorrow, and how you would like to be a part of it.
MCAA has been a part of me for 6 years, and as you read this, my tenure as Chair will soon come to an end with the closing of the General Assembly on March 29 in Zagreb.
I am so grateful for the support of our members, the Board who dedicated their time and energy for MCAA over the last 2 years, and the countless volunteers who have helped MCAA grow into the community it has become.
Matthew DiFranco MCAA Chair