Message from the Board - Reflections in the time of crisis


Dear Members,

I am writing this newsletter at a time when the world’s hopes for a brighter future are raised. In this challenging context the MCAA Board is working hard towards a bright year ahead for the MCAA.

Let’s look back at what happened at our Association in the past couple of months. Between the 5th and the 7th of March this year, we organized our annual flagship event under the theme “Research in times of crisis”.

Mostafa Moonir Shawrav

We had 15 parallel sessions focusing on researcher’s careers, science communication, science policy, mental health, science diplomacy, entrepreneurships, diversity and inclusion, proposal writing as well as sessions from our partners (EuroScience, EIT, Net4Mobility+). I had the pleasure of hosting the conference’s welcome ceremony and listen to the talk of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, where she spoke about the collaborative work of researchers during this pandemic and how the MCAA supported open science and helped building bridges among disciplines. The Chair of the Chief Scientific Advisors group of European Commission, Nicole Grobert, emphasized that scientists should build trust, and the General Secretary of Science Europe, Lidia Borrell-Damián, talked about the importance of cross-border collaboration as well as research culture. A very lively chat with one of the keynote speakers, the CEO Sudip Parikh, emphasized that scientists need to communicate science at a local level with policymakers.

I am thankful to the amazing volunteer team (Iva Škrinjar, Mladen Banovic, Damir Dominko, Ana Lopes, Azra Frkatović, Maja Mise, Valerie Bentivegna, Dragomira Majhen, Luksa Popovic, Fernanda Bajanca) led by Valentina Ferro for successfully organizing this conference. The summary of the sessions can be found in the MCAA blog written by our awesome volunteers.

We organized our first virtual General Assembly on March 12th where we fulfilled the legal formalities as well as talked about the upcoming priorities for the Association. Our Secretary Marina presented a summary of MCAA’s activities, including all the Chapters and Working Groups in the past year. We recognized the MCAA members for their achievements through the MCAA Awards 2020.

Importantly, on April 4, our previous service contract with the European Commission expired. Since then, the efforts of all the volunteers that make the MCAA became more important than ever. Actually, this is the first time that an MCAA Newsletter is published without any support from external service providers. All the tasks were entirely managed by the volunteers of the Editorial Team led by the Newsletter Editor-in-Chief, Gian Maria Greco, and the Managing Editor, Ruben Riosa. I would like to thank Gian Maria, Ruben and all the members of the Editorial Team for their extraordinary efforts and dedication. This effort once again shows us the power of volunteers in MCAA and the power of working together.

In the meantime, the MCAA Board is working on providing several career development opportunities for our members. Keep an eye on your email, we will be offering a limited number of complimentary access to Coursera and LinkedIn Learning to our members, prioritising specific groups that may need it the most. We hope this initiative will bridge a gap and contribute to the career development of those who will take this opportunity. At the same time, we are developing a new mentoring platform and aiming to launch a pilot mentorship program this year. Sometime next year, we would be opening this opportunity to all the MCAA members. Vice-Chair Fernanda Bajanca and Board member Donata Iandolo are leading the effort of the Mentorship platform, whereas Board member Ana Lopes is leading the LinkedIn learning program. As part of our collaboration with the Montenegro government, we also organized a special school at the end of March on five different topics - Leadership, MSCA proposals, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship and Open Science. Western Balkans Chapter Chair Radenka Krsmanović Whiffen coordinated the school with my support.

As an outcome of the MSCA 2020 conference in Germany, the MSCA unit very recently published a new document stating the Guidelines for Supervision for the MSCA projects. Our Vice-Chair Fernanda and I contributed to this document with the help of the MCAA Policy working group recommendations. Focusing on Open Science, MCAA supported the open letter on the right retention strategy and publishers equivocation from coAlition S.

The MCAA is also providing feedback on several stakeholder consultations organized by the European Commission on topics related to the European Research Area, the Researchers Charter & Code, and EURAXESS. In one such initiative, the MCAA Board member Karen Stroobants led the team of active policy working group members (Stephanie, Renaud, Tomislav among others) and published this policy recommendation. Board Member, Alexandra Dubini also joined the follow-up workshop and emphasized the fact that research is not only important for economic growth but it is also crucial for human wellbeing, cultural development, and social values. I joined two such consultations on supporting research careers in the context of the new ERA.

On a different note, we just updated our website. I hope that you like the upgraded user flexibility and new look of the website. This was a large operation that took several months of preparation, however some bugs still remain. Your help reporting any issues you may find is precious. The next step will be to add new content, including a better platform for all members to interact and contribute actively to the MCAA.

From the management point of view, the Management Working Group organized the first training sessions on MCAA 101 for the chairs of Chapters and Working Groups. This effort was fully led by our board member Esther Hegel and was supported by Gledson Emidio. In this training series, the internal management structure, social media strategy and the available resources were explained and discussed. In addition, our board member Sara Ricardo, who is in charge of the partnerships, gave an overview of the current partners and showed how to establish partnerships with local and regional organizations.

The new service contract from the European Commission has just started. More details will follow soon. In the upcoming year, several internal and external challenges wait for us if we want to grow as an association. I hope that together with all your support we will be able to overcome all challenges and reinforce the MCAA position as a stronger stakeholder in supporting researchers.

Mostafa Moonir Shawrav
Chair of the MCAA