20 years of MSCA Conference

On the occasion of the conference celebrating 20 years MSCA, Yoran Beldengrün, president of SciDF, formed part of a panel about the future of researcher’s training in Europe.

On 28 November 2016, the European Commission celebrated in Brussels the 20th anniversary of the Marie Sklodwdowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), a funding program for researchers, encouraging transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility.

Around 200 members of European commission, various European science ministries and researchers assembled for this symposium to talk about the past, get insight into some of current projects and look out into the future of the MSCA program.

On this opportunity Yoran Beldengrün, a MSCA fellow himself , got invited to talk on a panel on the future of researcher’s training in Europe. For the panel he was joined by Orla Feely (Chair of the MSC Advisory Group), Janet Metcalfe (Head of VITAE) and professor Alvo Aabloo (Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, MSCA coordinator). In his opening statement, Yoran talked about connecting people, data, disciplines and sectors.

Connecting people: Yoran emphasised the challenges which many scientists face, of working in an isolated manner within a competitive environment. Instead of feeling like a sand corn within an endless beach, scientists should be reminded that after all we are all a small puzzle piece within a bigger puzzle. A puzzle which represents the world, humanity and thus much more than only the scientific environment. Curiosity is the driving force behind scientific advancement, and this should also be what drives scientists of exploring the ways in which they can fit into this puzzle. The president of SciDF clarified that bottom-up initiatives, like SciDF itself, would be adequate therefore, instead of imposed top-down approaches, which less likely will lead to sustainable results.

Yoran Beldengrün during his intervention in the panel

Connecting data: Each day more and more is happening online and huge amounts of data are accumulating. Yoran emphasised the importance of available online technologies for research purposes and welcomed the European Open Science Cloud to make research more findable, accessible, interoperable, and re-usable. He also raised the issue of rethinking ways of publishing, with most literature read on the web. Online publications could be made much more interactive and allow for more possibilities than printed versions or a pdf-online version of an article.

Connecting disciplines/sectors: Yoran acknowledged that interdisciplinar, intersectoral and international collaborations in the scientific world are of highest importance and welcomed programs like MSCA which foster this development. However he reminded that we should not forget that promoting it on EU level is one issue, but local implementation is another one. Locally there are still many transformations to undergo, especially due to institutions which exist since decades and adapt only reluctantly and slowly. But he emphasised that we are on the right track and mentioned some examples.

During the rest of the panel discussion several issues were raised, such as how to implement multidisciplinary work correctly, how to create simulative research environments and trainings, how to simplify pension schemes for internationally mobile researchers and how MSCA grant holders are perceived by the rest of the scientific community.

At the end of the conference, Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, held a speech presenting amongst other the Seal of Excellence, a quality label awarded to project proposals which were submitted for funding under Horizon 2020, passed stringent selection and award criteria but could not be funded due to budget constraints. He then cut the MSCA birthday cake rounding up a day of conference and celebration.

Yoran Beldengrün