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European Contest for Young Scientists 2019

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EUCYS2019 (European Contest for Young Scientists 2019)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-01-31

The main objective of the project is the is the organization of the European Union Contest for Young Scientists 2019. Secondary objective was to lay the foundations of an alumni network for the contest, which has more than three decades of history.

The contest is one of the core initiatives of the European Commission to make science more appealing to young people and to promote a positive image of science in the European society.
The EUCYS gives students the opportunity to compete with the best of their peers at an international level. They also have the chance to meet researchers with similar interests and to be receive advice by some of the most prominent scientists in Europe.

The European Union Contest for Young Scientists is part of the Science with and for Society activities managed by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. Within Horizon 2020, Science with and for Society aims to build a more harmonious relationship between scientific endeavour and the European Society at large.
Based on its experience during the presidency of the council, the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Research (MES) identified possible venues for the main event, as well as the events from the cultural programme and potential hotels for participants, jury, alumni and journalists. The venues were communicated with DG RTD and the best in terms of logistics were picked. The venue of the contest was InterExpoCenter in Sofia, which allowed for partnership with one of the biggest youth events in the city, ComicCon.

Travel was arranged for all participants from countries, part of the Horizon 2020 programme. The rest of the participants were offered logistical help, but were responsible for covering their own travel and accommodation.

The Institute of Mathematics and Informatics of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (IMI-BAS) joined as a linked third party and focused its experience in organisation of youth research and education events on the schedule and the materials of the competition itself. IMI-BAS also covered the submission system and the media strategy for the contest through subcontracting according to the project proposal.

The institute was also responsible for the introduction of alumni activities for the contest, employing Bulgarian alumni for the entire organisation of said activities and the drafting of a strategy for the creation of alumni network.

MES was responsible for covering the internal transport for all participants of the contest, as well as the food and potential medical help that they might need. Services for these activities were purchased according to the framework procurement procedures of the ministry.

During the competition MES and IMI-BAS jointly managed the cultural programme, including the activities of the invited alumni and the high-profile panel, where students had the opportunity to ask questions to leading researchers from Europe and other parts of the world.

MES covered the core prizes, which were increased from 9 to 12 and the remuneration of the jury. IMI-BAS worked with partnering organisations and its own resources to provide host prizes for the competition, providing prizes for five projects with a total of seven participants in the fields of mathematics, physics, computing and history. It also coordinated the travel and accommodation support for several other special prizes of the competition.
The project increased the number of core prizes from 9 to 12 in order to address the increased amount of projects in the contest and allow for a fairer distribution of awards. Furthermore, the project addressed the lack of dedicated donated prizes for the fields of Mathematics and Social sciences by providing four awards in the field of Mathematics and one in the field of History, most of which allowed for projects with authors under the age of 18 and more than one author.

This allowed for fairer distribution of the awards between the different fields and for stimulation of a broader set of interests and skills among the contestants.

Following the example of other leading science fairs such as ISEF and previous editions of EUCYS, the organisers revived the tradition of high profile panel discussion. Prof. Peter Littlewood, prof. Grigori Kabatyanski, prof. Diana Mishkova and Dr. Claire Lee provided their viewpoints stemming from different backgrounds and research interests on topics such as the development of science, digital humanities, the future of international collaborations and others. Dr. Claire Lee, a representative of EIROForum also presented a separate lecture in front of a broader youth audience, during Comicon.

The 31st edition of EUCYS also marked the introduction of an alumni meeting, inviting more than 15 contestants from previous years to meet with each other, communicate with the current participants and most importantly – discuss the creation of an alumni organisation for the contest. The meeting spanned throughout the whole contest, with the alumni participating in most parallel activities, giving talks in front of the national organisers and planning future joint activities. A strategy for the development of this organisation was developed and presented during the contest and a web platform is already under way. This structure will serve as a brdige between contestants, offering mentorship opportunities and career support for the younger participants, but also provide a discussion platform for young researchers, engineers and innovators.