Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – Research Fellowship Programme

Posted on May 18, 2017

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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”- Marie Skłodowska-Curie

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by science…

…particularly in relation to the human body: its mechanisms and functions, strengths and weaknesses, a need to know what drives and what ails it. As a child, I couldn’t consume enough books on the subject, or watch enough documentaries or listen to enough radio shows. I was consumed by a desire for knowledge. I was inspired by the generations of scientists and researchers who had gone before me.

As I navigated through university life I become more and more involved in the world of science. I was now being inspired by my lecturers and peers and the cutting edge, exciting research taking place all over the world. My desire to contribute in a meaningful manner was stronger than ever, especially within the field of clinical research. After completing a Master’s degree in Epidemiology and Public Health, I became an intern and worked on various projects within that area. During this time I became acutely aware that while I had learned a lot in previous studies and experiences, there was so much more out there to learn and so many brilliant minds and experts that I could learn from. Therefore I began looking for the next step. Who knew it would it would come in the form of one of the first scientists to inspire my interests more than 15 years earlier?

Marie Skłodowska Curie

Marie Skłodowska Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist, famed for her research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win twice and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

She is undoubtedly one of the finest scientists the world has ever seen. A pioneer of scientific discovery and experimentation and an awe-inspiring individual, who has motivated generations of scientists. She is a constant inspiration for the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 first pillar of “excellent science”, and thus they have named one of their associated actions in her honour.

The MSCA fellowship program

Established in 1996 as Marie Curie Actions, since 2014 the programme is known as Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MCSA), to better reflect her Polish roots. The MSCA fellowship program aims to foster the career development and further training of researchers at all career stages. The programme funds worldwide and cross-sector mobility that implements excellent research in any field in a “bottom-up” approach. There are MSCA grants for all stages of a researcher’s career, from doctoral candidates to highly experienced researchers, which encourage transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility.  Researchers working across all disciplines, from life-saving healthcare to ‘blue-sky’ science, are eligible for funding, irrespective of nationality.

Endowing researchers with new skills and a wider range of competences, is a crucial aspect of the MSCA. Another key aspect of the MSCA is the promotion of mobility, and as such cross-border mobility is a must, while additionally cross-sectoral mobility is strongly encouraged. The MSCA aim to equip researchers with the necessary skills and international experience for a successful career,  in both the public and private sectors, and in many instances this is facilitated by secondments in academic and non-academic institutions.

The MSCA programme responds to the challenges often faced by researchers, offering them attractive working conditions while seeking to break the real and the perceived barriers between academic and other sectors such as business. Several MSCA initiatives promote the involvement of industry etc. in doctoral and post-doctoral research. The MSCA also support industrial doctorates, combining academic research study with work in companies, and other innovative training, that enhances employability and career development.

The Methods in Research on Research (MiRoR) project

I had long known about the MSCA across various disciplines within the scientific world, their impact, competitiveness and prestige! Every researcher’s dream job. Imagine my excitement when I discovered the Methods in Research on Research (MiRoR) project, an innovative international joint doctorate programme surrounding the field of clinical research. The projects were exciting and novel, and in true MSCA fashion they are designed to foster international collaborations between academia and industry, while training participants as researchers to contribute to the field in a meaningful manner.

I decided to apply, it was a quick and painless process, and I knew I would never regret throwing my hat in the ring! I prepared my documents and gathered my references and submitted it via the MiRoR projects dedicated website. Then came the interview offer, a video-conference with the supervisors and mentors that would be guiding the process. I was enchanted with them all, their skill and expertise and, above all, their passion for the field. By the end of the interview I was completely sure that this was the path for me. All I could do was sit tight and hope that the interview panel felt the same way. Fortunately, they did!

The MSCA is set to become the main EU programme for doctoral training, financing 25,000 PhDs, from its creation in 1996 to its conclusion in 2020. As of March 2017, over 100,000 researchers have been supported by MSCA. It is an absolute honour to be a part of such an innovative and diverse network of researchers.

I would enthusiastically recommend this incredible programme to any researcher out there as it allows one to train with, and learn from, the very best in the industry. A programme where all that matters is your passion to better the world in which we live in and where issues of career stage or nationality are irrelevant.

There are five different types of MSCA funding available to researchers:

  1. ITN: Research networks- support for Innovative Training Networks

ITNs support competitively selected joint research training and/or doctoral programmes, implemented by European partnerships of universities, research institutions, and non-academic organisations.

  1. IF: Individual fellowships- support for experienced researchers undertaking mobility between countries, optionally to the non-academic sector

Individual Fellowships support the mobility of researchers within and beyond Europe – as well as helping to attract foreign researchers to work in the EU.

  1. RISE: International and inter-sectoral cooperation through the Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges

RISE supports short-term mobility of research and innovation staff at all career levels, from the most junior (post-graduate) to the most senior (management), including also administrative and technical staff.

  1. COFUND: Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes that finance fellowships involving mobility to or from another country

The MSCA offer additional funding to regional, national and international programmes for research training and career development. COFUND programmes encourage the movement of researchers across borders and provide good working conditions. The scheme can support doctoral and fellowship programmes.

  1. NIGHT: The European Researchers’ Night

Once a year the European Researchers’ Night (NIGHT) takes place. It is an exciting and engaging Europe-wide public event to stimulate interest in research careers, especially among young people. The activities are focused on the general public and might take various forms such as hands-on experiments, science shows, debates, competitions or quizzes. This year it will be held on 29th September.

For more information on the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme please visit: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/marie-sklodowska-curie-actions

Alice Biggane

Alice Biggane

I am a Marie Curie Research Fellow in my first year of double doctorate at the University of Liverpool, UK and Université Paris Descartes, France. My primary interests lie within Clinical Research and Methods in Research.

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Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions – Research Fellowship Programme by Alice Biggane is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Unless otherwise stated, all images used within the blog are not available for reuse or republication as they are purchased for Students 4 Best Evidence from shutterstock.com.

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