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"Marie Curie Researchers Symposium „SCIENCE – Passion, Mission, Responsibility”"

Final Report Summary - SCIENCE-PAMIR (Marie Curie researchers' symposium: Science passion, mission, responsibility)

Executive summary:

Nowadays Europe is faced with several challenges which demand fast solutions in order to bring faster development of the European economy and prosperity to its citizens. Science is one of the areas which could try to find answers for some of them. The further investment in a quantitative and qualitative development of the human potential in research and technology is a key factor which allows Europe to stand up to those challenges.

Europe has reinforced its research intellectual capital since 1996 through political and financial enhancement of the Marie Curie Actions - a widely recognised European benchmark for researchers' training, career development and mobility across borders, disciplines and sectors. So far more than 50 000 promising researchers from 127 different countries all over the world have been supported by this biggest European fellowship programme. Inspired by the great example of Maria Sklodowska-Curie, the programme has facilitated international exchange of ideas and scientific methods and pooling of great minds. It has created long-lasting collaborations between universities, research centres, businesses and socio-economic actors, located so far in 67 different countries.

Recognising the above accomplishments, Barbara Kudrycka, Polish Minister for science and higher education proposed to Androulla Vassilliou, European Commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and aouth to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Marie Curie Actions in Warsaw - the birthplace of the famous Polish researcher and the patron of the biggest European fellowships programme - Maria Sklodowska-Curie.

The Marie Curie Researchers Symposium titled Science - passion, mission, responsibilities' organised within the SCIENCE-PAMIR project from 25 to 27 September was one of the flagship events of the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). The honorary patronage was taken by Bronislaw Komorowski, President of the Republic of Poland. The event took place at the Copernicus Science Centre - very popular among the Polish society, opened in November 2010 with a mission to popularize scientific and technological achievements and the natural phenomena to the wide public.

The Symposium was attended by 347 participants from different countries all over the world. The main group constituted of 273 Marie Curie fellows representing all 10 types of Marie Curie Actions. Other participants were representatives of the mobility national contact points, members of the advisory group and programme committee for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) people specific programme.

This truly international event gave the participants an opportunity to share and exchange knowledge and expertise about their scientific results, activities carried out in the area of science popularisation as well as about impact of the Marie Curie projects on their career development. The next important issue was the improvement of networking among Marie Curie fellows. All this was taking place before and during various sessions and events of the Symposium, namely: five general, six parallel and two poster sessions, 'Promoting science: let's be innovative: contest, sightseeing of the Copernicus Science Centre, 15th Marie Curie Actions' anniversary gala dinner and 'Warsaw in footsteps of Maria Sklodowska-Curie' tour.

The great results of the symposium are proved by the comments received from the participants and available on the event official website. Just one example: 'From a personal perspective, the conference allowed me to meet some really inspiring people, attend motivational lectures, make new friends - and gave me the satisfaction of knowing I belong to a professional community committed to the highest standards - the community of Marie Curie fellows'.

Project context and objectives:

Further enhancement - quantitative and qualitative - of the human potential in research and technology is one of the key European policies. Transforming Europe into a place with favourable work conditions, which encourage next generation of researchers to develop their research careers, is included in the Europe 2020 Strategy and Innovation Union initiative in which education, research and innovation are key drivers for competitiveness, jobs, sustainable growth and social progress. In order to meet this challenge, the EC and member states need to act jointly and get involved into the process of creation of a genuine European knowledge area supported with world-class infrastructure in which all participants (students, academic teachers, researchers, education and research institutions and enterprises) take advantage of the free movement of persons, knowledge and technology.

The next important issue which correlates with the development of the research human potential and science as such is to enhance the visibility of science and its results, raise awareness and understanding of science in the society as well as bring closer researchers and citizens (science for society). Fulfilment of these needs is a joint challenge and responsibility of researchers, politicians, media and each ordinary citizen.

Such attitudes complied with one of the priorities of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council which was the Europe's intellectual capital understood as a versatile development of the European society which uses the existing and, at the same time, creates new instruments and mechanisms for this purpose. One of the fundamental elements of this notion is knowledge and its free movement at various levels and within numerous areas implemented as the 'fifth freedom'.

Marie Curie Actions can serve as a great example for how the above-mentioned ideas can be applied into practice. For 15 years they have supported 50 000 passionate researchers in all areas of science and involved various actors from 67 different countries with an aim of attracting, training and retaining researchers at various stages of their careers and in various working environments in Europe as they are able to address major challenges faced by Europe. They have brought education, research and innovation closer to each other. They have encouraged researchers to undertake the science popularisation activities. They have promoted rewarding research careers through employment contracts with attractive salaries, full social security coverage and pension benefits. And finally, they have advocated better work-life balance, family-friendly measures and equal treatment.

The above ideas, initiatives and achievements fitted perfectly into the SCIENCE-PAMIR project objective which was the organisation of the symposium titled SCIENCE - Passion, Mission, Responsibilities during the Polish Presidency of the Council of the EU. The event which focused on the enhancement of networking and exchange of knowledge among the Marie Curie researchers was organised around important issues associated to the challenges faced by the European society, science and by the Marie Curie Action programme. These challenges, among others, aim to enhance the visibility of scientific results, bring closer research and industry and to encourage new generations, in particular women, to undertake research career.

With a common denominator of science promotion among the broad public, the SCIENCE-PAMIR project had the following objectives:

1. to discuss innovative means of disseminating research results and outreach activities which should be undertaken by researchers, which aims to improve mutual research society communication
2. to promote research careers and international mobility of researchers
3. to enhance exchange of experiences and create long-lasting research collaborations among Marie Curie researchers
4. to officially open the 'alumni' online platform available for Marie Curie researchers. The purpose of this tool is to bring closer about 50 000 fellows and to enable networking, exchange of experiences and knowledge among them
5. to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Marie Curie Actions which have been supporting career development of researchers through international and intersectoral mobility and training.

Project results:

The symposium was attended by 347 participants from different countries all over the world. The main group was represented by 273 Marie Curie fellows (out of 280 finally registered) from 46 countries of which the most represented were: Spain, Poland, United Kingdom (UK), Italy, Germany and France. There were 50 researchers representing 16 third countries, mainly: India, Russia, China, Canada and Brazil. The fellows represented all types of Marie Curie Actions, including Cofund, IAPP and IRSES. However, the most represented MC types of projects were initial training networks and intra-European fellowships, mainly financed from the FP7.

The Symposium was organised on 25-26 of September 2011 at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw and it was composed of the following various sessions and accompanying events.

The Symposium started with a short animation titled 'Greatest moments of Maria Sklodowska-Curie's life' which was commissioned by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education within the project 'Promotion campaign of mathematical, natural and technical sciences'. It was prepared by one of the best studios in Poland Platige Image - numerously awarded, specialising in cutting-edge animation technologies and special effects. The director of the video is a Polish illustrator and animator Tomasz Baginski, the author of 'The cathedral' animated short film which was nominated to the Oscar in 2002.

The opening speeches were given by prof. Barbara Kudrycka, Polish Minister for Science and Higher Education androulla Vassilliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth and prof. Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament.

The closing speeches were delivered by prof. Maria, Elzbieta Orlowska - Secretary of State, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, a former Marie Curie fellow and by Jan Truszczynski - Director General for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, EC.

The speeches were warmly welcomed by the participating Marie Curie fellows, as they were given by researchers who understood the passion and, at the same time, difficulties faced by individual researchers and scientific community. The openness, engagement, ideas and political commitments were very appreciated by the audience.

The three general sessions focused on 3 important interrelated aspects of science, accompanied by some key questions. The presentations within these sessions were performed by MC fellows with considerable achievements, as well as by invited high-level experts in the specific session subject. Each session featured a moderator (representative of the DG Research and Innovation, Directorate General Education and Culture or REA) and four speakers who were, together with the audience, trying to find answers to questions defined for each session:

Passion: Scientific career

1. What are the motivations for a career in research?
2. How to attract young talent to research?
3. How to promote Europe as a place to pursue scientific careers, be it in academic or industrial research, research organisations and science policy?

Mission: Science and challenges

1. What is the role of science in tackling challenges faced by the society?
2. In what way do researchers need to take into account global economic, technological and demographic transformations?
3. What innovative ways are available?

Responsibility: Science for society

1. How to communicate science to the public at large?
2. How to inform the society of the research results and their applications?
3. How important is cooperation between the media and researchers?

The one-hour 'Towards the Nobel Prize' session was developed as an interview between Michael Sohlman, former (1992 to 2011) Executive Director of the Nobel Foundation and a scientific journalist. The audience had a possibility to learn about the Nobel Prize Award and Foundation from behind the scenes as well to discuss and receive answers for some of their ideas and questions.

4. The six parallel sessions were organised according to the challenges faced by Europe, namely

1. Biodiversity, safe food and sustainable agriculture
2. Health and well-being
3. Energy, transport, climate change
4. Efficient use of resources and raw materials
5. Society, heritage, economy
6. Advancement of knowledge base.

The parallel sessions were designed for Marie Curie fellows who had the possibility to present and discus their research project, its scientific achievements as well impact of the Marie Curie grant on their professional career. During each session a variety of research projects were presented to other researchers interested in related or distantly related research topics. The speakers were chosen by the Abstract Evaluation Committee on the basis of the 280 abstracts submitted by Marie Curie fellows. Thirty six speakers from 17 countries were present - six for each session. The most represented countries were UK (six speakers), Italy (five), Poland (five), Sweden (four) and Spain (three). The presentations were also given by third country fellows from: Canada, Columbia, India, Nigeria, Japan and Russia. The speakers represented all types of Marie Curie Actions, including Cofund and IRSES. However, the most represented types of Marie Curie projects were initial training networks and intra-European fellowships, mainly financed from the FP7.

The two poster sessions were organised according to the topics of the six parallel sessions, supporting interdisciplinary communication between researchers as well as other participants. Each session focused on three out of six areas in order to allow the participants to interact with each other. Participation in the poster sessions was voluntary. 197 participants volunteered to present their posters:

1. Fifty seven in the 'Advancement of knowledge base' session
2. Forty three in 'Health and well-being' session
3. Forty in the 'Energy, transport, climate change' session
4. Twenty nine in the 'Biodiversity, safe food and sustainable agriculture' session
5. Twenty one in 'Efficient use of resources and raw materials
6. Seven in 'Society, heritage, economy session' session.

During the closing session of the SCIENCE-PAMIR Symposium the EC officially opened the 'Alumni' online platform designed for Marie Curie researchers. The purpose of this tool is to bring closer about 50 000 fellows and to enable networking, exchange of experiences and knowledge. The present fellows had a possibility to receive thorough information and access to the platform with the help of the European Commission (EC) staff who had a special Marie Curie stand. Most of the participating fellows decided to join the alumni.

The closing session of the conference featured a ceremony of awarding prises in the 'Promoting science: let's be innovative' contest. It was addressed to all Marie Curie researchers representing all research fields with an idea to present - in an attractive and innovative way - scientific phenomena, discoveries, applications, ways of thinking. Three best works out of the 27 submitted were chosen by the contest evaluation committee in three categories:

1. Dominika Bijos - for the comic story 'To pee or not to pee?'
2. Erik Ziegler - for the photograph 'Connective pathways in the human brain'
3. Wilco Verberk - for the digital versatile disc (DVD) film 'Oxygen'.

In addition, the Symposium participants had a possibility:

1. to discover places connected to the life of Maria Sklodowska-Curie (e.g. Marie Sklodowska-Curie's biography Museum - the building in which she was born and her first laboratory). The 'Warsaw in footsteps of Maria Sklodowska-Curie' tour was organised for 250 participants.
2. to visit the popular Copernicus Science Centre in order to find out how the Nature and scientific results can be promoted among the society.
3. to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Marie Curie Actions.

The organisation of the whole undertaking was more complicated than the project itself. Several institutions were involved: the Polish National Contact Point for Research Programmes of the EU/IPPT PAN (project coordinator), Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, European Commission: Directorate General (DG) Education and Culture, Research Executive Agency as well as two subcontracted institutions: the Copernicus Science Centre and Mazurkas Travel company. However, efficient cooperation, daily communication and division of tasks among all the involved institutions were a firm basis for the success of the event and the project objective itself.

Finally, all the undertaken activities allowed to run the symposium according to the agenda without any delays or modifications, which resulted in very positive and even enthusiastic comments from the event participants. The on-line evaluation conducted after the symposium has shown that almost 75 % of responders assessed overall organisation and content as excellent.

Potential impact:

The impact of the Marie Curie Researchers Symposium can be examined from the following perspectives:

1. improvement of networking and exchange of knowledge and expertise among the Marie Curie fellows, who had the possibility to discuss their scientific results, impact of the Marie Curie projects on their career development as well as success and failures in activities undertaken by them in the area of science popularisation.
2. enhancing participants feeling of belonging to the big Marie Curie researchers' community, which was expressed by the event participants. This common approach constitutes an indispensable factor contributing to the success of the Alumni service newly created by the EC.
3. strengthening understanding of young generations that their research activities are important for the society and can affect researchers' future development and growth. For this purpose the event was not foreseen as a typical scientific conference. It focused on other aspects of research such as combination between passion for research, responsibility for its results and mission to make the society more aware of the natural phenomena.
4. enhancement of the visibility of Marie Curie Actions and the research conducted by the grant holders in the research community and among the society through articles published in the national magazines, newspapers and on-line services and live programme in the national radio station.
5. widening the symposium participants' knowledge about Marie Curie Actions objectives and possibilities; Euraxess initiative which provides access to a complete range of information and support services for European and non-European mobile researchers; different national contact points (NCPs) existing networks which support researchers in project preparation and implementation. It was possible due to organised stands operated by the stand owners which offered information on specific area that researchers maybe interested in.
6. promoting the EU's convergence regions and helping to strengthen the potential of their organisations to successfully participate in research activities at European and international level by encouraging European and non-European researchers to consider realisation of their next career step in those countries.

The following dissemination and result exploitation activities can be numerated:

1. Symposium website turned out to be a valuable tool used for disseminating information and promotion of Marie Curie Actions. Since its launching on 26 May 2011, it has been visited almost 14 000 times by over 7 000 different users. And what should be underlined is that the biggest number of the registered persons was 511 and the final number of the symposium participants was 347, including 273 Marie Curie fellows.
2. various means of communication with the media were used: meetings, personal contacts, press conference and press releases as well as dissemination of useful information materials dedicated specially for the media. Before the event three meetings were organised (9 June 2011; 19 July 2011; 12 September 2011) for journalists representing various media. The meetings were organised in cooperation with the EC Representation in Poland on its premises. For better promotion of the ideas and objectives of Marie Curie Actions, a Polish MC fellow from the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology Katarzyna Radwaska, PhD, was invited to present her MC grants. The staff from about 20 various types of media (magazines, radio, on-line services) attended these meetings. On 26 September before the opening session a press conference was organised with Barbara Kudrycka, Polish Minister for Science and Higher Education androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth and Andrzej Siemaszko, Director of the Polish NCP for Research Programmes of the EU.
3. Thirty one articles were published by various Polish media (mainly via their internet services), including the Polish press and radio agencies, popular daily newspapers: 'Gazeta Wyborcza' and 'Rzeczypospolita', the most popular academic magazine 'Forum Akademickie', as well as television (TV).
4. a one-hour live programme was aired in the national radio station on 12 October 2011. The invited guests were MCA national coordinator and the main Symposium organiser Anna Wisniewska and two Polish researchers from Warsaw University (who implement Marie Curie grants): prof. Zygmunt Lalak (participating in the Initial training Network) and dr Dominik Gront (with outgoing individual fellowship). This popular scientific radio programme has about two million listeners.
7. publication of the abstracts book which contains the description of the Marie Curie programme and research projects of 280 Marie Curie fellows participating in the Symposium. It was sent to all Mobility NCPs located in Europe and third countries, as well as to major European and international organisations dealing with research.

The Marie Curie researchers symposium raised media awareness and interest in the Marie Curie fellows and their projects. The possibilities of cooperation with some of them are under discussion and development. The idea is to prepare programmes about science for wider public with participation of Marie Curie fellows.

List of websites:

Contact details

Anna Wisniewska

National Contact Point for Research Programmes of the EU

Institute of Fundamental Technological Research, Polish Academy of Sciences

34, Krzywickiego Street, 02-078 Warsaw, Poland