Message from the board - September 2022

Newsletter

Dear MCAA Members,

I hope you had a nice and relaxing summer.

This issue of the MCAA Newsletter has a special focus on the different career paths of MCAA fellows. The MCAA, as a global network of researchers, is committed to bringing together researchers with diverse experiences across all economic sectors and career stages. The engagement of Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellows in activities and events organized by our community is essential to stimulate networking, cooperation, collaboration, new projects and debates with the scientific and non-scientific society to promote a common growth. Therefore, we encourage Chapters and Working Groups (WGs) to organize events and activities, essential to engage the members and support the bottom up shaping of the MCAA.

Corinne Portioli

As announced at the MCAA 2022 Annual General Assembly, an extraordinary General Assembly took place on 22 May 2022 to vote on the Articles of the Association update, necessary to comply with the new requirements of the Belgian law. The text has been approved and the legal registration process is ongoing.

In the last few months, the MCAA has been represented in several conferences and high-level meetings. MCAA Board member Marina Rantanen Modeer joined the ReMO 2022 conference, which focused on “Mental Health in the Research Workplace.” MCAA Board members Fernanda Bajanca, Giulia Malaguarnera, Gian Maria Greco and Pavlo Bazilinskyy joined the ESOF 2022 MSCA satellite event organized by the MSCA Unit to bring together MSCA fellows, supervisors and alumni in order to debate and contribute to research ecosystem topics. The MCAA was also well represented at the main ESOF event, where MCAA treasurer Pavlo Bazilinkyy was invited to speak at the opening session, while former Board member Karen Stroobants moderated a session on research assessment reform, former Chair Mostafa M. Shawrav moderated a session on mobility and brain drain, and former Career Development WG Chair Gábor Kismihók discussed mental health and wellbeing. Pavlo Bazilinskyy also spoke at the 4th Gago Conference on European Science Policy, addressing early research careers and healthy research workplaces. MCAA Board member Gian Maria Greco delivered the keynote speech at the session on “Universal accessibility and inclusion for university studies and careers'' of the 36th Rencontres Nationales organized by the French Federation 100% Handinamique and spoke at the session “Enhancing trust in science” at the European Research and Innovation Days 2022. Gian Maria Greco also spoke at the opening session of the 2022 Coimbra Group Annual Meeting, where delegates from Coimbra Group Universities and the European Commission networked around the theme “Universa Universis: Academic Freedom in a Transforming World.” The MCAA played a key role at the 2022 MSCA Conference. Several members of the MCAA Board - Fernanda Bajanca, Alexandra Dubini, Gian Maria Greco, Giulia Malaguarnera, Corinne Portioli – and Policy WG Chair Jaishree Subrahmaniam were invited as speakers, moderators, and rapporteurs. Under the title “Next generation MSCA: Opening a new era for change”, the conference addressed gender equality, the opening of science to society, the challenges of academic freedom and the Green Charter. Furthermore, MCAA Chapter Chairs participate in many more events worldwide and we deeply thank them for their contributions.

Concerning recent MSCA news, a study on researchers’ flow and mobility in the context of the MSCA, carried out by the European Commission (EC), provides an in-depth analysis and recommendations for a more balanced movement of researchers and talents in the European Research Area. Interestingly, the UK, Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands hosted almost 60% of all incoming long-term MSCA researchers under Horizon 2020. The study shows that mobility flows within the MSCA largely mirror the overall mobility flows of researchers and the programme is effective at attracting and retaining European talents. Looking at Individual Fellowships (now Postdoctoral Fellowships), Innovative Training Networks (now Doctoral Networks) and COFUND, the EU27 received 74.6% of all researchers, with the UK accounting for a further 17.4%. Over 90% of third-country nationals went to the EU27 and the UK. The main individual determinants of researchers’ mobility spanned from opportunity to work with leading scientists to quality of research infrastructure and training offered social and cultural conditions, from good career opportunities to the level of remuneration. One of the objectives of the study was to explore the possibility to reintroduce return grants under the MSCA programme, however based on the above findings, the study does not recommend this. Instead, it provides recommendations to enhance the quality and attractiveness of the less advanced research and innovation systems and their capacity to attract and retain researchers. EU Member States (and especially widening countries) should take the lead in implementing national reforms that enhance the conditions to attract excellent researchers.

An utterly important piece of news is that a Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) grant to finance the MCAA activities for the next two years has been approved by the EC. The EC-funded services, such as the most sought microgrants, will therefore restart as soon as the new funding scheme is up and running. Anticipating the start of this new grant, the MCAA Board published a job call for an experienced Executive Director to manage the association in scope with its new CSA; a selection committee has been nominated and the evaluation process is ongoing.

Another relevant item of news is that the MCAA Annual Conference 2023 will be held in Córdoba, Spain, on 24-25 February 2023. The theme will be “Challenges in Science Diplomacy & Sustainable Development.” We will host a few satellite events in the preceding days, so do block the week to fully enjoy the event! The call for Session Proposals opened last month. We look forward to exciting topics and unique sessions. Note that we are selecting volunteers to join the Conference Committee and help organize the event. If you are interested, drop us an email!

We are happy to announce that the election process for the renewal of Chapters and WGs’ Chairs is now completed. The MCAA Board gives a warm welcome to the 14 Chairs elected for the first time and the 6 re-elected Chairs. Their mandate started on 1 September 2022 and will last for two years. Among the elected Chairs, a special mention goes to Daniel Rios who we are pleased to welcome as the first Chair of the newly created Mexico Chapter. Building a bridge between the Mexico Chapter and the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) community will improve the possibilities to widen the collaborations across the entire American continent and to engage more partners and members. As you know, the MCAA lives and thrives thanks to the effort that volunteers generously offer. We wish to express our gratitude to everyone for their active participation in these activities as members or candidates.

In addition to all the striking updates, unfortunately, we need also to communicate that this September issue of the MCAA Newsletter is the last one with Gian Maria Greco as its Editor-in-Chief. As he said to me, “a remarkably enriching experience has come to an end.” During the four years of his tenure, Gian Maria’s intense work has raised the MCAA Newsletter to a high professional level through several actions, including: building the Editorial Team from scratch and training its members, setting up the workflow, launching special issues, and providing the Newsletter with an ISSN. He implemented many of those actions for IRRADIUM too, and has significantly increased the offer to our members as well as MCAA’s standing. Gian Maria decided to resign – two years earlier of his current mandate’s conclusion as Editor-in-Chief of both the MCAA Newsletter and IRRADIUM – in order to focus on other MCAA activities, including the recently established MCAA Book Publishing and the further development of MCAA science communication activities. Current and past members of the Board thank him for all the efforts and time he has committed.

The Board is also very glad to welcomes the new editor-in-chief, Oleksandra Ivashchenko, and wishes her good work.

Overall, these first six months of activity of the new MCAA Board have been exciting and intense for all of us, especially in view of the new CSA to be implemented. We are getting ready to start a new academic year with the same passion and commitment to support and engage researchers in creating a global network of opportunities. We wish you a pleasant reading with the great articles prepared for you by the Newsletter team.

Corinne Portioli
On behalf of the MCAA Board

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