25 YEARs EUROSCIENCE: INTERVIEW OF Teresa Fernandez Zafra, Euroscience Governing Board Member

For the 25 years of EuroScience, we will publish each month a short interview with some persons who witnessed and participated in the evolution of the association. This month, Teresa Fernandez Zafra, EuroScience governing board member will give some insights into EuroScience from his point of view. 

Teresa, you are a EuroScience member but also the youngest Governing Board member. Why did you join EuroScience and why did you want to become part of the Governing Board?

The reason I became a EuroScience member was that I wanted to contribute to an organization that could support researchers’ working conditions and influence policymakers to improve the situation in academia. I strongly believe that more impact can be done by joining an organization than fighting individually. EuroScience has a strong presence in Europe and has been impacting science policy at the highest levels for a long period of time. The stability of the organization, together with its invaluable contact network were the key factors in my decision to join EuroScience.

At the time when I decided to become a member of EuroScience I found out that there were elections for candidates for the Governing Board. I was encouraged by Prof. Carl Johan Sundberg to apply, whom I knew from Karolinska Institutet, where I did my Ph.D. Prof. Carl Johan Sundberg was the champion of the first EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) and has been involved in the organization in one way or the other since beginning. I must admit that I was very intimidated to apply, given my limited experience, yet I thought it could be valuable to have a Governing Board member that was representing very closely the main target group of the organization.

From your point of view, how did EuroScience evolve in your term until now? Did the focus, tasks or issues to address change?

In my opinion, EuroScience has evolved tremendously since the first term. As the Governing Board had a mix of new members and members that were serving on the previous board, we needed to take a step back and determine how we could serve our stakeholders and what issues or tasks had the greatest priority.

EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) lies at the heart of EuroScience and in my view, it will continue to be the signature activity of EuroScience. However, the current Governing Board wanted to go beyond ESOF, and we have worked really hard by bringing other valuable activities to our members and the open public. For example, together with our partners for the event, we have arranged the first EuroScience Policy Forum as a physical and online event and discussed the topic of sustainable academia. We have also created two Science Policy Working Groups for which I have been a co-convenor which are focusing on the topics of science advocacy and communication as well as entrepreneurship and innovation.

However, it was also important for us to keep providing our members with other activities that are well established among the organization, including the EuroScientist webzine, writing open letters, and granting the European Young Researchers Awards. The list goes on and on.

You are strongly involved in EuroScience activities, what motivates you in your actions? Do you have one example of an activity that is very important for you and why it is important to you?

One of the things I enjoy the most about EuroScience is the fact that we have a very active Governing Board. We are not only interested in sitting around a table and taking decisions, but we also have a very practical approach and try to help the organization by getting involved in operational tasks as well. My motivation laid in creating a platform that would offer a direct voice of expression for our members. I believe that collaborating actively with our members to approach topics and issues of common interest lies at the core of a non-profit organization. It is therefore that I took the task of bringing the Science Policy Working Groups back to life. During the past two years, we have worked together to produce several online articles, a book chapter, and several open webinars that can also be found on the EuroScience website. The experience has been extremely rewarding and I have learned tremendously from everyone that is involved in the groups. I take the opportunity to thank them for their contribution to EuroScience and all the hard work.

You are currently working in a company, do you feel also represented as a scientist working in the private sector?

I made the transition to the industry soon after being elected as a Governing Board member at EuroScience. Although my reasons for joining the organizations were, in the first place, to improve the working situation of academics, I still found that EuroScience, as the European Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology, also has an important role in shaping the future of science, technology, and innovation. The reason is that EuroScience represents its members as individual professionals, independently of their affiliation or employer. That includes not only individuals from the public sector but even from the private sector. EuroScience has a good relationship with private companies in different sectors, and together, we have arranged a vast number of ESOF sessions on topics such as career development inside/outside academia.

I strongly believe that research and innovation are interdependent processes that feed each other and being able to strengthen the bridge between the two is in line with the vision of EuroScience, which is to support the development of a responsible scientific community that contributes to the well-being and prosperity of mankind and to the capacity of society to face the political, social, environmental and economic challenges ahead.

Should younger, engaged scientists or people involved in science join EuroScience?

Yes, yes, and yes! The more we are, the greater the impact of our actions: It is only together that we can make a difference. We strive for a membership that is as diverse as possible, and that is representing as many career stages, sectors, and countries as possible, to better understand the challenges and needs of the scientific community in Europe. There are many ways to contribute to the organization as a member, ranging from a more passive to a more active contribution. You could sign open letters that resonate with you. You can read or write an article for the EuroScientist. You can get involved in one of our Science Policy Working Groups. You can simply get in touch with them to express what you think the organization should be focusing on. Or if you are up for it, apply to become a Governing Board member, just as I did. Why not?

Do you want to add something regarding the 25th anniversary of EuroScience?

Given the turbulent times we are living in, going from a worldwide pandemic to the ongoing war in Ukraine (condemned by EuroScience in this open letter), the 25th anniversary of EuroScience is really something to celebrate. EuroScience is constantly working on creating a stronger European identity and culture, promoting the freedom to conduct research.

EuroScience has been and is indeed shaping the future of science, research, and innovation. Some of the achievements that I find to be most important include for example the contribution in establishing the European Research Council (ERC), Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, and the foundation of ESOF. I am looking forward to seeing what another 25 years of EuroScience will bring to the European scientific community.

Biography:

Teresa Fernandez obtained her PhD in medical sciences at Karolinska Institutet and now works in the biotech industry in Uppsala, Sweden. She is also a Governing Board Member of EuroScience where she co-convenes the Science Policy Working Groups. Teresa regularly gives talks about career advice at universities and conferences such as the EuroScience Open Forum.

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