Message from the Board December 2021


Dear MCAA members,

Two years ago, in December 2019, researchers in China raised the alert for a potentially fast spreading epidemy of atypical respiratory infections. They were right. Three months later many European countries were in lockdown and most of the world followed soon after. Since then, we have been at times submerged, sometimes surfing the waves of a viral pandemic disease that dramatically changed the world as we knew it.

The present newsletter issue focuses on our hopes for the future, but also on the struggles our community endured during these difficult times. The following pages will tell you about the amazing perseverance, resilience, and creativity of MCAA members, allowing them to succeed under the harsh conditions we have been facing. Their stories made me smile and feel proud of belonging to this unique community. However, I can’t avoid a bitter taste. During these long months the MCAA board has been contacted by many fellows whose projects, and careers, were severely hit by the pandemy. We have the moral obligation to incite the MCAA and the larger research community to recognise the overwhelming impact the pandemy had especially on particular cases: single and isolated parents in a foreign country without family support, research projects whose characteristics made it impossible to implement an acceptable contingency plan, serious lack of support from some host institutions and hierarchies, to mention the most striking ones. The research community must take into consideration the impact of such major forces on the projects and careers of the fellows and actively fight discrimination when evaluating their applications for jobs and grants.

During the upcoming 2022 MCAA Annual Conference (AC), we will have the opportunity to reflect together on these and other issues the community is facing. “Sustainability and the post-pandemic workplace” is the chosen theme for this flagship event of our association that will take place 26-27 March 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. An MCAA General Assembly (GA), open only to members, will take place on 27 March, closing the event and, importantly, will host the election of a new board. The AC will be a hybrid event with a limited number of physical attendees while the GA will be fully online to allow for all members to express their vote. Check the MCAA website and keep an eye on your mailbox for more information on the 2022 AC & GA as well as for the MCAA Board election call for applications.

Like everyone else, the MCAA faced considerable challenges during these two years of pandemic. The activities from local Chapters and Working Groups were initially greatly affected, but have been gradually adapting to a virtual world. The board team met face to face this November for the first time since the beginning of its mandate that coincided with the arrival of the pandemic disease in Europe. Despite this, continued efforts to stay visible in the policy arena have resulted, against all odds, in increased recognition of MCAA contributions in European research policy. The MCAA is now being invited on a regular basis to share insights into various policy activities relevant for our member base.

Policy WG Vice-Chair Renaud and Board member Sara joined the European Research Area (ERA) conference at the end of October and Board members Mostafa and Marina attended a workshop by the ERA Forum for Transition held in September 2021 at the Slovenian embassy in Brussels. Across these activities, they advocated for having an MCAA permanent representative in future ERArelated stakeholder consultations and a seat at the table for researchers in the governance of the ERA.

The call for researchers to be included as a stakeholder in the ERA Forum for Transition is one MCAA is making together with 15 other organisations. As the work on ERA progresses beyond its governance, several board and policy WG members also joined stakeholder consultations focusing on researchers' conditions in the New ERA.

Other policy events recently attended include the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE) event addressing challenges for the future of European Research, attended by Mostafa and Renaud, as well as a Science Business panel plus a Global Research Council (GRC) regional meeting regarding the science and technology workforce for the future, both attended by Mostafa. Together with 24 organisations, we have also recently supported a statement to urge the European Commission and UK Governments to work towards a successful UK association to Horizon Europe.

Finally, this year's MSCA Conference marking the 25 years of MSCA is focusing on fostering balanced mobility flows in Europe. Several members took part in the policy panel at the conference. In addition, several MCAA Members shared their journey and how MSCA helped in their career.

Together with the obvious changes implemented by all local Chapters to continue their networking activities, another major pillar of the MCAA, that we successfully adapted to the virtual world, is our career development offer. We have offered for a limited time hundreds of free LinkedIn Learning licences to our members. While this offer recently ended, I want to draw your attention to the free Coursera licences that are still available exclusively for active members, those of you around the world who give your time and skills for the benefit of the MCAA membership, and also unemployed members and researchers at risk, who are most at need for career boosting opportunities. Talk to your Chapter or WG chair if you are interested. A limited number of eCornell licences are also still available for Chapter and WG chairs. To provide such opportunities to every member is our dream goal for the future. With the present resources, the board decided to actively acknowledge and reward the extraordinary engagement of the hundreds of active members who contribute to the life of this association. It’s only fair and it’s not enough to express our appreciation as MCAA members.

Another big block of the career development support that the MCAA traditionally offers are our Micro Grants. Opened last September, the current call has received a record number of applications in the first month. While such a strong demand resulted in some delay in the announcement of results, it indicates the continuous interest of our members in this support scheme.

As communicated in the last newsletter, MCAA Board Member Esther Hegel will perform the Treasurer role until the next General Assembly in replacement of Francesco Sanna, for personal reasons unfortunately obliged to resign from his position at the MCAA board. According to article 9° of the MCAA Statutes, it is the responsibility of the board to nominate a substitute for a board vacancy. The extra tasks required as treasurer imply that Esther would not be able to continue her essential work in the internal management of Chapters and WGs. We are lucky that she has not been developing the management activities alone. Indeed, especially during Esther’s recent maternity leave, Gledson Emidio, the chair of the Brazil Chapter, has assured the continuation of the WG’s and Chapters management. He is therefore an indisputable natural choice, and he earned by merit the nomination of the board to assure the ordinary board vacancy until the coming end of this board’s term. We thank Gledson for accepting this new challenge and welcome him to the Board Team.

I am proud to close this year’s last board message with the announcement that the Marie Curie Alumni Association passed the barrier of 20 000 members! We take the opportunity to renew our promise to keep working towards strengthening the MCAA community and supporting their career development.

May the new season bring you joy with plenty of achievements and exciting opportunities.

Fernanda Bajanca
Vice-Chair of the MCAA
On behalf of the MCAA Board

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