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Martí i Franquès Doctoral Programme Plus

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MFP Plus (Martí i Franquès Doctoral Programme Plus)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-11-30

The backbone of the MFP PLUS project is URV's MFP programme that was born in 2012 as a natural evolution of the doctoral programme offered for the last decade by the departments of our university. It was designed to unify and boost the attraction of the most talented doctoral candidates that would work on ground-breaking research projects, in any of the 5 research areas of URV (Arts and Humanities, Legal and Social Sciences, Engineering and Architecture, Sciences, Health Sciences). However, it still had some inherent problems due to the regulatory frameworks that governed the programme at its inception, namely salary, working conditions, mobility for researchers and recruitment processes.
The MFP PLUS starts by offering one of the best salary, in Europe, for early stage researchers, and providing exceptional recruiting conditions: the selection process is transparent, open, merit-based, impartial and equitable, and provides equal opportunities for all. candidates. In fact, the participation of the latter is encouraged by reserving 2 positions (out of a total of 50), for candidates with disabilities.
Up to now, 49 candidates were recruited, from which 36% are women researchers.
First and foremost, the main goal of the MFP PLUS is to train the recruited doctoral students and for this, provides the most innovative training programme, which combines all the necessary skills training (both transferrable and research specific) such that at the end of the project, the fellow is fully prepared to continue their professional path either in academia, or in industry.
Part of the successful strategy is the mandatory secondment to another international institution, for a longer duration (between 3 and 6 months), which adds a new international and interdisciplinary dimension to the training programme.
The quality of the training programme guarantees the generation of very high skilled professionals at the end of the programme, which makes them very appealing for the local/regional academic and non-academic environment, as well as internationally.

The MFP PLUS is generating an increased visibility for our university, which, on one side, leads to a higher interest for international fellows to join our university's training programmes, and on the other side, strengthened our relationships with local and international partners, a the catalyst of new and important collaborations for future research opportunities.
There was a great responsibility for our project to deliver on the principles of transparency, equal opportunity, fair selection processes, training and career improvement
The actions took the following form:

1. publication of the calls and dissemination of the projects, in order to attract an important number of candidates, to Euraxess, various job portals etc.
2. update of the application software, where the entire process is completed online, that allowed equitable selection and evaluation of candidates
3. update of the evaluation software (automatic CV assignation to evaluators, gender-aware tool), using evaluators that were recruited via Euraxess (all of them external to the URV, with no conflicts of interest, and remunerated for their work)
4. development of a new-type of selection committee at institution level, where we involved the MFP PLUS management team and the Human Resources service and an expert in the specific research field, external to URV
5. providing equal opportunities: two reserved positions for researchers with special-needs (1 in each call)
6. the availability of the research costs budget each year for each candidate
7. after the selection of the candidates, they received institutional support for their travel documentation, including residence permits and visas, as well as accommodation and support for paperwork documentation
8. after the start of their contracts, a comprehensive dissemination and communication campaign was started, creating a strong societal impact . The fellows were actively involved in different outreach activities, with a strong participation in the European Researchers’ Night. For now, 6 Open Access papers stemmed from the research work done by the fellows
9. a strong package of transversal skills training courses has been provided by the MFP PLUS project, where specific courses were developed for the fellows, but offered also to the whole URV PhD Community. A survey has been conducted to find out new preferences of the fellows regarding these type of training
10. on-site and online meeting were held between the fellows and the Management Team to ensure the well-being, collaboration, strengthening the sense of belonging to the MFP PLUS community
Our strategy for the MFP produced a great impact on the region, as it took a largely regional/national programme and convert it to an internationally recognized programme, open for all researchers, where all the principles of excellence and innovative doctoral training are applied, together with best practices in working conditions.
Several projects that were selected for funding have great societal implications. The research work deals with nutrition and health, clean energy, eliminating pollution, climate change, epidemics control, gender equality, improving education, all these topics being focus areas for EU programmes. Considering the regional impact, the MFP PLUS research will contribute to the improvement of the quality of education in schools in the province of Tarragona and to bringing new knowledge for the
elaboration of clinical protocols and the development of preventive interventions for neurodevelopment disorders by prospectively monitoring a sample of the schoolchildren population (representative of the province of Tarragona).

The active collaboration with research institutes in the area, such as the “Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology” brings an extended impact for the MFP-PLUS at regional level.

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