Letter from the chair - MCAA Magazine February 2023

Fernanda Bajanca
Fernanda Bajanca

If you are reading this magazine, there are high chances that you are a present or past MSCA beneficiary, and one of the twenty thousand seven hundred and six that are registered as MCAA members at the time I am writing these words. An impressive number of people belonging to an engaged community of highly educated citizens that, together, have an immense potential power to benefit society. That is one of the MCAA goals, and one small step after another, we are effectively leaving a positive mark at many levels. This letter celebrates some of the major accomplishments we have achieved together over 2022.

Every week, hundreds of MCAA volunteers organise dozens of meetings around the world, to debate, exchange experiences, learn from each other, or simply socialise and network. The MCAA Chapters, national or regional groups set up in nearly all continents, are true ambassadors of what the community can do best together. During 2022 the number of Chapters increased to thirty-five. They are behind most of our exceptional workshops, courses, and training offered not only to MCAA members but very often open to the local research community. One of the 2022 MCAA initiatives that I am most proud of is the “MCAA Around the World Webinar Series”, launched by the Communications Working Group. Once a month, an MCAA Chapter or Working Group invites a speaker to discuss a specific topic of interest for their members. This collaborative activity not only highlights the issues that the community around the world finds outstanding, but also allows sharing the knowledge with a larger audience. I was never deceived by the insights these webinars bring and invite all to follow them on the MCAA YouTube channel and social media, or register to receive updates on MCAA activities disseminated by the Communications working group.

The MCAA has also been increasingly active in advocating for researchers on the science Policy scene. The force of over 20K members is not negligible, the reasoning behind the strength in numbers applies when lobbying for researchers, and research, in the international arena. We have been further boosting our strength through numerous partnerships with other stakeholders to bring the voice of MCAA members to high-level audiences. One of the achievements of last year was the nomination of an MCAA member, Renaud Jolivet, as one of the two representatives of researchers at the ERA Forum. The ERA Forum is where the Commission, together with EU countries, co-design and coordinate the implementation of ERA actions and define the policy agenda. Another moment of pride was the election of the MCAA-backed candidate and MCAA member Karen Stroobants as vice-chair of the board of CoARA. The Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment, which is promoted by the European Commission, aims at directing much-needed changes in assessment practices for research, researchers and research-performing organisations. Having MCAA members present at this level is, first, a victory of the efforts done over the years in the Policy field by MCAA volunteering members, and second, opens opportunities to further raise the voice of the MCAA membership. And if you want to be heard, the easiest way is simply to reply to MCAA Surveys, for example the one that is currently running. By combining our voices, we have stronger arguments to influence policies that affect our lives and our careers. Over the past year, we have brought the members’ voices to local, national, European and international stages, from MSCA meetings to the World Science Forum, among many other initiatives.

A revolution was needed and is ongoing

The MCAA has undoubtedly grown to a level, both in the number of members (by tenfold in 10 years!) and activities, where it is very difficult to maintain sustainable governance. The support from EC-paid contractors is clearly not enough anymore and the MCAA can easily become a second full-time job for the active members that have been engaged over the years, working very professionally while on a volunteering basis. That’s why a revolution was needed and is ongoing. The funding sources have diversified, and in this issue, you find articles about several funded projects on areas of interest for the MCAA. Being a partner on those projects allows the MCAA to contribute to issues that we care about, like Sustainable Researcher Careers, Open Science, or Citizen Science by recruiting members to work professionally on the projects’ goals. But the most important achievement regarding funding is the new grant from the European Commission, in the form of Coordinating and Support Actions (CSA), that the MCAA successfully obtained to fund its core activities. This funding scheme will allow the MCAA to choose and pay for the services it needs, instead of taking the services provided by the EC contractors. Over the next two years, the MCAA will experience a transition phase, until it finds an equilibrium between eventually paid staff and services. Does this mean that volunteering has its days counted? Not at all! The MCAA has always been run by volunteers and will always be! The board will always be voluntary, and the bottom-up approach by the hundreds of MCAA volunteering members that made the MCAA a success story can never be replaced. Hopefully, the workload of volunteers that organise activities and contribute to the life of the association will decrease over time as there will be administrative paid staff to provide more support. The challenge will be to find the right balance between the valuable contribution of volunteers to the community and the professional work of staff that should make the association’s life easier. If the transition is successful, the board will have fewer operational and time-consuming tasks to focus on establishing the association’s strategy for pursuing the successful route that has brought us where we are today.

Wish you a pleasant reading of the pages ahead, brought to you by a fully volunteering team of passionate MCAA members, that like everything developed by the MCAA make us proud of belonging!

Fernanda Bajanca
MCAA Chair
chair@mariecuriealumni.eu
TWITTER @fbajanca
ORCID 0000-0001-8846-6611

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