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Training programme on international research project development and management for young scientists from the academy of sciences of Albania (ASA)

Final Report Summary - TRAINASA (Training programme on international research project development and management for young scientists from the Academy of Sciences of Albania (ASA))

This is the final report for the EU-funded project TRAINASA, whose overall objective was to encourage the participation of young scientists from the Academy of Sciences of Albania (ASA) in international research projects in all fields of natural sciences. It derived from the strategic objective of stabilising, reinforcing and connecting the Western Balkan Countries (WBC) research potential to the mainstream European research activities. The project aimed to make young Albanian scientists more capable to participate in international projects via the following specific objectives:
- assess the needs of the Albanian and other WBC researchers in order to identify barriers to their EU research project participation;
- provide the necessary knowledge and skills required for successful research project development and management via three interactive training courses and traineeship programmes;
- provide international networking opportunities for young WBC researchers via two brokerage events to encourage EU project participation.

There have been several synergies between the project objectives and EU policies in different fields. The contribution was observed in the following areas:
- Research - The main aim of the TRAINASA project was to provide young scientists with the ability and skills to prepare and manage EU research projects that are in line with the EU goal of strengthening the European Research Area (ERA).
- Environment - The project focused on young researchers in the area of natural sciences that contribute to environmental research activities and policy implementation at national and international level with special focus on the WBC.
- Education and employment - The training and internship programme offered by the project enabled young researchers to improve their knowledge, skills and networking to better contribute to the Albanian and European environmental research activities in line with the educational and training strategies of the Lisbon Agenda.
- Enlargement - As the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed on 18 February 2008, TRAINASA helped young researchers to become familiar with EU policies, priorities, and activities to get prepared for future EU membership.

Work plan

TRAINASA consisted of three main capacity building activities to strengthen the research potential of ASA based on a needs assessment aiming to identify problems, challenges, and lack of knowledge and skills causing barriers to international research project participation:
- Selected young scientists from ASA and other research institutions took part in one week long intensive research training programmes carried out three times in Albania in 2008. The programme consisted of lectures and workshops about theoretical and practical issues of managing international research projects.
- There were traineeship opportunities for selected candidates to gather experience in international research project development and management by assisting senior project managers in their daily work activities covering the whole lifecycle of EU project participation.
- As closure of the project, two brokerage events were organised to provide international networking opportunities to young researchers and to link ASA with research projects under formulation.

Expected result

The consortium expected significant results from the TRAINASA programme via its capacity building activities based on the needs assessment. The result of the proposed integrated capacity-building programme, the three one-week long training programmes and six internship positions and networking opportunities provided by the two brokerage events resulted in a solid group of highly-qualified and motivated young ASA researchers who fully understood the theoretical and practical aspects of managing international research projects and were able to act as generators for future international ASA initiatives concerning European research activities.

With the help of such a competent group of researchers, ASA and other WBC universities and research institutions will be better integrated into European research activities and contribute to the implementation of the EU research, enlargement, environment, education and employment policies.

Work performed

The needs assessment carried out via on-line questionnaires and personal interviews summarised and evaluated the needs, expectations of young researchers and experiences of ASA and other Albanian and WBC external researchers and project managers with previous programme participation experiences. The report on the result of the needs assessment was prepared and integrated into the training, traineeship and brokerage event programme and was published in the first edition of the TRAINASA newsletter and on the project website.

The international research training programmes were organised with over 70 participants from Albanian universities and research institutions in Tirana, Albania 14-18 April, 7-11 July and 8-12 December 2008. The training consisted of lectures and workshops on EU policies concerning research activities, project development, management and reporting activities, mainly focusing on the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Guest lecturers provided further useful input to the course by sharing their research project participation experiences. The feedback of the participants was integrated into the next trainings in order to continuously increase the course quality.

The TRAINASA internships were organised at the premises of Geonardo Ltd. June-July, November-December and March-April 2008. Young researchers from ASA, Agricultural University of Tirana, Polytechnic University of Tirana, and University of Tirana have been involved in developing programme proposals, assessment, result analyses, management activities and report writing by assisting senior project managers.

The brokerage events were organised 25 March 2009 in Budapest, Hungary with cooperation of the RESBOAT project and 27 April 2009 in Tirana, Albania. More than 100 participants became familiar with the structure and opportunities of FP7, expressed their organisations' interest in research project participation and presented their project ideas.

It is of strong interest to the TRAINASA consortium to disseminate the project results to a wide community; therefore several dissemination activities have been carried out during the project implementation. Based on the developed dissemination strategy the project website was launched and is continuously being updated to provide information on the project's results. Four editions of the TRAINASA newsletter and posters were prepared and disseminated to the target groups. The project brochures were prepared and distributed at different national and international conferences and events.

Publishable results of the plan for using and disseminating the knowledge

The following deliverables have been developed during the two-year project period:

As part of the management activities, the minutes of the kick-off meeting, the interim and final reports of TRAINASA project were prepared. For the needs assessment the list of the preliminary selected researchers with description of their specific research topics were developed and as a result of the assessment the summary of ASA needs was prepared. The curriculum for the training courses were finalised based on the results of the needs assessment and the training course material for the lectures and for the workshops were prepared. After each training sesson, the participants were asked to fill in a training course evaluation sheet in order to increase the quality of the next course by including the previous course experiences into the training programme and material. The experiences and conclusions of the traineeships were integrated into the internship reports. Proceedings of the Hungarian and Albanian brokerage events were finalised.

To support the dissemination activities, the TRAINASA project website was launched and is continuously updated. For all other dissemination material (leaflets, newsletters) refer to the website to garner further information about the project activities.

Dissemination of knowledge

It is of strong interest to the TRAINASA project and its partners to disseminate its ideas and results to a community as broad as possible. Dissemination was an important interactive interface for the project for getting continuous feedback on ideas and concept refinement. Dissemination was based on project deliverables. Information on the trainings, traineeship opportunities and brokerage events, by being made available to the public, supported the dissemination actions. Towards the global community, dissemination was pushed with the help of conferences, seminars, workshops, and media.

The project website was developed and placed originally on the operating website of ASA. The website has been moved to a new domain, in order to avoid any potential delay or problems might occur because of the server provider change at ASA. The content is comprised of public research study and other informative documents. The research forum serves as a platform for discussions between researchers interested in European research projects also after the project closure. It provides the opportunity to get answers for questions concerning both the administrative and scientific side of research project development and management.

To further enhance the dissemination activities, a TRAINASA newsletter has been launched that is available on the website and is distributed among the partners of ASA and also among the newsletter subscribers. Lastly, the TRAINASA project was presented at different national and international conferences and events. After the project closure, the project website was still regularly updated and available to the public in order to access all project related results by the public.

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