Special coverage: General Assembly and Annual Conference - 2022 MCAA Annual Conference – What they learned

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Several members share their thoughts on what they gained from the conference.

Ruben Riosa is Chair of the Communication Working Group that managed to cover all the conference sessions. Together with Vice-Chair Nicoleta Spinu, Ashish Avasti, Arturo Castro Nava, Maria Montefinese and Pradeep Eranti, they provided precious insight for those who weren’t able to attend specific sessions. For him, it was all about collaboration. “We have seen in many sessions that collaboration is key. Working as a team is the secret to improving our research and making the world a better place. We have seen in many sessions all the effort that the EU is doing to support and help researchers, and I think this is, and will likely always be a key point: collaboration is the key to success.”

Ruben believes the main added value was the possibility of members to physically join the event.’ This increased the networking between different members and allowed them to meet up with different people that they might have known for years simply by email. Another added value was the high-quality sessions covering a huge variety of relevant topics and top-level speakers.

Gian Maria’s main takeaways ranged from voting to personal growth. “First of all, this was an election year for us. We re-elected a new Board, which means a new phase for the next two years. So, we’re going back home with a vision for the future. At the same time, I personally really looked forward to all the knowledge and insights from the different topics. Let’s not forget the human side. We really believe in the values and mission of the MCAA, so every time we get together, either virtually or physically, I become enriched, come away a better person, because I really feel all this energy around me.”

Diversity was a game changer for the event, explains Gian Maria. “The fact that there were so many sessions on so many different topics. As a result, this year we were really able to have a broad look at our research environment and the life of researchers. A very broad look, but we were also able to go into great detail with the different sessions. The added value is something that we have already been building over time, and this year there was even more diversity. I think the key is diversity; you could see the people, the faces, the backgrounds, the different expertise around you. All this was fantastic, and the way we are working towards making diversity a core factor of the MCAA is fantastic. I think this year it really came through.”

Fernanda believes the MCAA outdid itself this year with the quality of the speakers. “We’ve always had several high-level speakers, but I think this really was the year where we had more such speakers that bring a perspective and richness to very different fields. So, when you start with some names that everyone knows and wants to hear, then that attracts other high-quality speakers, and so on. Overall, I think this conference, from this aspect, was very successful.”

Building community was the conference’s added value, says Fernanda. “It’s been two years since we last presented an event. This was something we really needed. So, what I see here now is this rebuild around all these causes we are all interested in. Science policy, problems that we address together, no matter where we come from, Russia, Ukraine, working together and trying to find solutions for researchers and students that are affected. It’s really encouraging because it means that we’re able to do something positive. It’s really this community building or rebuilding, because these last two years it was difficult to keep the pace we’ve always had.”

Gledson’s main takeaway was a practical one: start organising as early as possible! “I recommend starting the first week after the conference because there are too many things to be done. Of course, some things can only be done later, but some aspects should be done in advance to have an easier process, especially if we don't have a contractor working with us.”

The event’s added value had to do with sharing in the broader sense, explains Gledson. “The conference is a unique experience because we are a multi-disciplinary association with 20 000 members in 150 countries from all kinds of knowledge fields. People who attend exchange ideas with others who aren’t in their field. They engage with people that have a really wide range of knowledge and career expertise. There’s a great mix and match of topics and themes, so it’s a great experience for networking and meeting people and exchanging ideas outside the box.”

For Esther, the main takeaway was that the hybrid form works well and the MCAA should definitely repeat it. In addition, she found connecting with others to be key, both professionally and personally. “At in-person events, networking is so important for us members. I came out of this with lots of new ideas personally – how to develop, how to move forward – but also for my professional life. It was very stimulating and motivating catching up with all those people, networking, and seeing how important it is. I wouldn’t ever like to go back to those strictly online conferences because the above points would be missing. I feel that this is what helps our members, and it’s also very important for the Board to get us to work together in a fruitful way.”

Esther’s biggest added value was professional development. “I think this applies to all career stages. Both young and experienced researchers had fruitful discussions, and there were people that could also guide you in your personal growth.” She also shares Fernanda’s view about the speakers. “I feel that the content has really improved over the past years. If you look at the speakers now, we were able to secure very high-level speakers, and this really gave us a big push. It gives us more visibility, more credibility, but also more professionalism. I’m very proud to see this development from a smaller scale conference. I feel that every year it goes a bit better, and this is very nice to see.”

Ashish Avasti is richer for the networking opportunities. “I did quite a bit of networking, and I’ll return home with a lot of connections. That’s the biggest takeaway and the most important one.”

Jerry Stamatelos
MCAA Editorial Team

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