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Modern Agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe: Tools for the Analysis and Management of Rural Change

Final Activity Report Summary - MACE (Modern Agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe: Tools for the Analysis and Management of Rural Change)

The MACE project included four annual conferences, three summer schools and six training courses in eight different countries with more than 500 participants. The events formed a coherent series around the topic of modern agriculture in CEE. At the conferences, researchers from various agricultural and neighbouring disciplines examined four prominent themes in research on agriculture in CEE; the summer schools and training courses transferred skills and knowledge in an intensive way on innovative areas of current research. They succeeded in reaching young researchers and preparing them for an active participation in the annual conferences. In every event, young researchers got into contact with senior researchers in order to learn from each other and exchange experiences.

The coherence of the series of events was both thematic and organisational. The relationship between the annual conferences, the summer schools and the training workshops was dialectical. In the conferences junior researchers were made familiar with new concepts and methods by more experienced researchers. During the summer schools and training courses they discussed specific topics in more detail and reflected on their own research. This enabled them to present their specific frameworks, theories, methodologies and results at future conferences, thus becoming respected partners in the international academic discourse.

The close contact between the consortium partners is one reason of success of the overall project. During the regular partner meetings the series of events has been further developed; past activities have been evaluated regularly, and upcoming events have been planned in detail.

A productive balance of participants from the EU - CEE countries in particular - but also Third Countries has been achieved. Particular emphasis was laid on the selection of female participants. Regarding the aspect of gender balance, the project was very successful. In summary, the ratio of male and female participants in the MACE project was balanced.

Junior researchers received strong support in developing and publishing their contributions. Feedback was given even before the conferences in form of a review of the draft papers. During the conferences, additional feedback was given from both, experiences researchers and the peer-groups. A particular highlight of all events was the fact that all senior researchers (keynote speakers, workshop facilitators, etc.) were actively engaged in communication and cooperation with the junior participants. After the conference, participants was given chance to incorporate all suggestions and experiences in their papers before these were published. Altogether, this three-step review process has led to a high scientific quality of the contributions.

All contributions are available from the website. Respecting the principle of scientific rigidity, only the best papers were selected for publishing in the printed proceedings.

Multiple media have been used to publicise both the project as a whole as well as every individual event. Of utmost importance was the development of a website which has been utilised for posting announcements and calls for each event, as well as for application and registration of the conferences.

In every single event - including the conferences - the focus was on training by means of group work, workshops, and structured feedback from peer-groups and experienced researchers. Emphasis was laid on interdisciplinary exchange, contacts between young researchers of different nationalities, and on interaction between young and more experienced researchers. In addition, all events were embedded in local institutions and activities, e.g. the conferences in the International Green Week agricultural fair in Berlin in order to increase sustainability.