This article is part of a Special Issue highlighting sessions held at ESOF 2018 Toulouse (9-14 July 2018) and proposed by the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) members.
In the rapidly evolving global research enterprise, new scientific and societal challenges require multidisciplinary approaches and the involvement of a higher and diverse number of stakeholders. Accordingly, researchers are increasingly required to work across disciplines, sectors and institutions at regional, national and international levels. They are often facing new ways of engagement with diverse audiences, such as, e.g., successful networking with industry or with civil society organisations, for which they lack professional tools.
Researchers associations are an invaluable resource to support researchers along their career development and to foster researchers communities. They may be the first to get information on new working paths thanks to the experiences gathered from their members, and they can be the first to urge new ways to provide the necessary tools, at individual, national, and international level.
Across the world, a number of researchers associations exist, each one referring to a different scientific community. Some associations aim at gathering researchers according to their common scientific field, some address specific alumni communities, others point at offering support for career development, either on a national or international basis. Most of the time, associations have a different focus, standing somewhat isolated. However, creating bridges among researchers associations is key to foster researcher’s networking beyond national and discipline borders, which leads to better support for researchers. In addition, when several grassroots organisations address a certain topic, policy makers are more likely to pick it up.
Cross-cutting issues may be a useful starting point for collaboration. Mobility, career development, efficient networking, gender inequalities, interdisciplinarity, open data, responsible research and innovation are just few examples of themes that generate a wide interest.
For instance, many parallel on-going projects and organisations relate to young researchers in Europe. In order to make the large range of initiatives more coherent and efficient, EuroScience is promoting the creation of a platform where young researchers and stakeholders can work together and share experiences.
Eurodoc, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, collaborates on a number of policy actions, projects and events with other associations – such as the Responsible Research and Innovation Networking Globally (RRING) project led by ICoRSA, or contributions to the conferences and events of the Marie Curie Alumni Association.
At ESOF 2018 diverse sessions will offer the opportunity to discuss shared topics, potentially leading to joint lobbying actions, as it is the case for the topic of and session on mental health issues that was recently advertised on EuroScientist.
The International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA) aims to provide a unified voice for research staff for input into global research policy. It supports the development of national associations by facilitating communication across borders and by sharing best practices.
At the Vitae Conference 2017, the MCAA, an international association gathering Marie Curie Actions Alumni, and the UKRSA, the Research Staff Association based in the UK, discussed, in an interactive session, about effective cooperation amongst national-based and international associations in order to offer better support to mobile researchers.
How many computations to design an interactive constellation?
Would it be possible to make a further step beyond these fruitful experiences? How many combinations could be imagined to bring together researchers associations and to foster researcher’s networking beyond national and discipline borders? Which forms can such a collaboration take (and which not)? How to strengthen an open researcher community? What are the benefits researchers may take advantage of? Would these collaborations also improve the support to career development?
A panel gathering speakers from different associations as the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA), Eurodoc, EuroScience and ICoRSA will share their views and bring case stories highlighting factors that may influence successful exchanges among associations and how a strong grassroots evolution can push topics to the policy agenda. Key questions will be then discussed with the audience in the form of a ‘brainwalk’, a method to encourage creativity in groups with the goal of animating the debate and raising suggestions from the floor. The session aims at collecting input as a basis for a strategy on how to systematise the collaboration between important actors in the field of research career development.
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