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The European Platform of Women Scientists interviews a Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) member from the Gender Equality  for Mobile Researchers in Science Working Group



The intervieweed MCCA member, Giovanna Avellis, is a senior researcher at InnovaPuglia SpA, Valenzano, Bari, Italy

EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

G.A.: The MCAA is an Association providing high-quality services to enhance research and professional collaboration among researchers, including women scientists.

EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

G. A..: The non-profit purpose of the MCAA is to promote and exploit, in the broadest sense, the full potential of the community of researchers who have benefitted from the mobility inherent in the personnel programme of the “People” 7th Framework Programme of the European Community, together with its successors (in the future) and its predecessors (from past Framework Programmes). This aim was directed at research, technological development, the fostering of greater public awareness of European research and the demonstration of activities between 2007 and 2013. In order to achieve this non-profit purpose, the MCAA may engage, alone or in collaboration with third parties, directly or indirectly, in all activities related to this purpose.

The MCAA is active in Europe and other parts of the world, seeking (but not limited) to,

  • encourage networking, cooperation and mutual understanding among members from different countries, sectors of the economy and across scientific disciplines;
  • foster global relationships as ‘ambassadors’ within the world-wide research and innovation community, with particular emphasis on the Marie Curie experience of international and inter-sector mobility;
  • serve as a forum of debate, enabling members to promote the values of the Association and to enhance their own careers and the careers of other members;
  • support the dissemination of the outputs of the members’ work across disciplines and internationally.

EPWS: In a few words, what is the history of MCAA?

G.A.: The Marie Curie Alumni Association, established in 2012 as a restricted access web portal, is now a thriving organisation of over 8.500 members spread across five continents.

EPWS: Could you explain the organisation of your association?

G.A.: The MCAA is governed by an 11-member Board, which is directly elected by the MCAA membership. The Association currently comprises 22 geographical chapters and 10 working groups. The MCAA members engage with each other primarily through networking, meetings and training events organised by these Chapters (see just below) and working groups. In addition, the MCAA organises an annual Conference and General Assembly with upwards of 500 participants. Membership of the MCAA is free of charge and open to any past or present beneficiary of research funding from a Marie (Skłodowska-) Curie Action (MSCA), a programme of the European Commission specifically designed to encourage international mobility among researchers. Around 100 000 researchers have already benefitted from such actions, and this number is rising fast.

The MCAA web-portal is the main platform for interaction among Marie Curie Alumni.

Funding and support for the MCAA is provided by the European Commission (Directorate General for Education and Culture), in the form of a service contract set up, following a public call for tenders, with a contractor (presently a consortium of two commercial companies, INOVA+ and Intrasoft International) who undertakes a range of actions to assist in the creation, development and running of the MCAA.

So as facilitate the communication with members and engage with them in the development of the Association, the MCAA has promoted the creation of Chapters in different regions. These Chapters were established to:

  • encourage local networking and establish a mutually-beneficial relationship between MCAA and its alumni within a defined country;
  • initiate activities that add value to the Alumni network and encourage interaction with the general body;
  • recruit, attract, support and facilitate connections between MC fellows and alumni;
  • sponsor and support activities that will enhance the image of MCAA.

The Working Groups (WGs) are flagship instruments, set-up to fulfil the MCAA mission; their objective is to support the overall aims of the association by proposing and executing activities in a given field. As the MCAA is committed to the promotion of women scientists and is sensitive to gender issues in science, an additional ‘Women in Science’ (WiS) working group has been established:  the ‘Gender Equality for Mobile Researchers in Science’ (GEMS) working group.

EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

G.A.: The GEMS working group has been active since September 2014, aiming to promote mobility among the community of women scientists, to collaborate with other associations and organisations active in the same field and, in particular, to provide feedback from the European Community on policy issues regarding mobility.

The aims of GEMS are to:

  • strengthen the role of women scientists in Europe and discourage discrimination and marginalisation;
  • promote mobility among women scientists both in and outside Europe;
  • empower women scientists in Europe by promoting policies which foster gender equality and scientific excellence;
  • promote the role of women at all levels and support their representation in leadership and decision-making positions in all fields;
  • conduct and publish studies, articles and analysis to support the development of policies which promote gender equality and empowerment in science;
  • form networks with other WiS associations, so as to create global forums and discussion platforms on common issues of interest;
  • educate the next generation of women scientists, through training and mentoring schemes, and the dissemination of information on role models inside MCAA.

Recent achievements of the GEMS WGs are:

  • the creation of an e-book on role models of mobile women scientific members of MCAA, available at www.mariecuriealumni.eu/library  ;
  • the participation of delegates at Conferences, such as Milan, Women World Conference, EXPO2015, October 2015, Lecce, PARIDEE Women Conference, University of Salento, Italy, September 2015, Bari, Stati Generali delle Donne, da EXPO2015 a Matera 2019 #insiemesipuò#, January 2016;
  • the support of members, led by Ira Didenkulova, in the writing for the HUMBOLDT project, funded by HUMBOLDT University, on Networking and Mobility Support of women in science, see: www.therolemodels.net;
  • the organisation of the workshop at University of Bari, Italy, May 2016 on ‘Promoting Female Leadership through Role Models across Research, Industry and Business’; this was a collaboration between ITWIIN, EUWIIN, MCFA, BPW, University of Bari and University of Salento;
  • the participation in the Euroscience Open Forum 2016 session in Manchester, UK, 2016, where GEMS WG was chosen to lead the session on ‘Leading by examples? The role models of mobility’;
  • the Gender Summit Conferences, such as Gender Summit, Africa 2014, Gender Summit, Europe, Berlin 2015, and Gender Summit, Europe, Brussels 2016, where active participation was supported by presentations and posters;
  • the exploitation and dissemination of GEMS working groups results at several venues, such as ‘European Researchers Nights’;
  • the application to participate in European projects in the context of ‘HORIZON 2020’, the ‘Science with and for Society’ programme, (such as FELIA and ViaGEP project proposals on Gender Equality Plans);
  • the participation in the ‘Italian Women Innovators and Inventors Network’ (ITWIIN) 2016 conference, where two GEMS members received awards for ’Exceptionally Creative Women’ and ‘Best researcher abroad’;
  • the creation of a new @gems.mcaa Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gems.mcaa , and Twitter accounts @GEMS_Cand #GEMS_MCAA.

EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

G.A.: Future Activities of the GEMS WG will be as follows:

  • GEMS will continue to participate in Women in Science conferences (ESOF2018, ITWIIN 2017/2018, EUWIIN 2019, …);
  • organisation of the ‘European Women Innovators and Inventors Network’ (EUWIIN) 2017 exhibition and conference at the University of Bari, June 2017;
  • organisation of a Workshop in Bari, June 2018, at the Apulia Academy of Science, on ‘Boosting career development and leadership’; there will be two sessions: ‘The role models for career development and leadership’ and ‘How to improve gender equality in your organisation’;
  • organise workshops and e-books on Role Models (www.therolemodels.net) at the HUMBOLDT ‘Award for Women Networking’;
  • participation in the ‘Gender Summit Asia’ (GS10), May 2017 and ‘Gender Summit Europe’ 2017;
  • organisation of a workshop in collaboration with the HUMBOLDT project, Bremen, Germany, December 2017;
  • participation in the GEMS session at the European Geoscience Union Conference in Vienna, 23-28 April 2017.

EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members?

G.A.: Yes, with: Lucia Martinelli from Associazione Donne e Scienza and former Marie Curie fellow, and Claudine Hermann, Vice President of EPWS.

EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

G.A.: EPWS can collaborate with MCAA GEMS working group in several ways:

  • become involved in the HUMBOLDT project, by providing role models for the e-book and the database of role models;
  • participate, by proposing joint sessions, in Women in Science conferences, such the ESOF2018, Toulouse meeting, in July 2018;
  • participate in the Workshops planned by GEMS WG, such as the meeting in Bremen, Germany, December 2017, and the workshop in Bari, Italy, June 2018;
  • encourage the participation of some associations of EPWS in the ‘Science with and for Society’ project proposals, such as ‘Science4Refugees’, and ‘Science Education outside the classroom’;
  • help the GEMS WG in the exploitation and dissemination of the GEMS WG results;
  • organise the participation of EPWS to the MCAA General Assembly and Conference and, vice versa, the participation of MCAA GEMS WG to EPWS General Assembly.