Skip to main content

MASSTWIN – Spreading excellence and widening participation in support of mass spectrometry and related techniques in Health, the Environment, and Food Analysis

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MASSTWIN (MASSTWIN – Spreading excellence and widening participation in support of mass spectrometry and related techniques in Health, the Environment, and Food Analysis)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-12-31

The overall MASSTWIN objective was to stimulate cooperation and develop strategic partnerships between, Department of Environmental Sciences of the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI-O2) and their partners: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Fondazione Edmund Mach di San Michele all'Adige (FEM), Institut des Sciences Analytiques et de Physico-chimie pour l'Environnement et les Matériaux and the Unversite de Pau et Pays de L’Adour (IPREM/UPPA), The National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA) and the University of Antwerp (UA), by establishing a community of practice in the domain of advanced mass spectrometric and related techniques applied to three trans-disciplinary thematic pillars: Health, the Environment and Food. The key research areas in all three domains were organic contaminants, element speciation, traditional and non-traditional stable isotopes, nanoparticles and food safety, traceability and authenticity. This was achieved through a clearly defined plan of twining activities, educating young researchers and transferring knowledge between partners and to students. MASSTWIN developed an open culture that would allow free exchange of ideas, share and compare experiences on selected topics and avoid repetition of past errors and duplication of research.
During the lifetime of the project, the consortium took practical steps in training and education of researchers, while JSI staff invested extensive efforts into establishing a community of practice in the domain of advanced mass spectrometric and related techniques. MASSTWIN was designed in such a way as to promote and increase the visibility of the department so that the benefits of the project would continue into the future. Details on networking and training activities can be found in submitted deliverables and in the annual reports of the project.
During the project period, 35 exchange visits in laboratories of MASSTWIN partners took place. During the project period, 35 exchange visits in laboratories of MASSTWIN partners took place: 11 expert visits of 8 researchers from partner institutions at JSI for 121 days, and 24 visits of 17 JSI researchers in partners’ laboratories for 235 days. Three exploratory workshops and one summer school were successfully organized. Four group training course also engaged senior and early stage researchers.
In total 142 scientific papers were published in SCI journals and work was presented at 70 events with over 150 presentations. Two patents were obtained and two special issues are under the guest editing stage. Numerous other dissemination events were also organised at the national and international level.
So far 11 doctoral theses have been completed at the Department of Environmental Sciences at Jožef Stefan Postgraduate School (JSIPS) under supervision of JSI researchers, while there are 20 on-going doctoral studies at JSIPS. In addition, 4 doctoral theses of the Masstwin partners have been completed where JSI researchers were members of PhD committee, while JSI is acting as co-supervisor in one ongoing doctoral study. This is great contribution to the education process of young researchers, and collaboration between the Masstwin partners and significantly contributes to the sustainability of Masstwin project. Moreover, in collaboration with collaborating partners and University of Ljubljana and International Postgraduate School Jožef Stefan agreements were signed for postdoctoral courses where JSO-O2 researchers will be active in the future.
Beside technical skills of researchers, the full integration of JSI-O2 into the national and international research area and collaboration with national and international stakeholders was expected to be strengthened to such a level, that the JSI-O2 would achieve sustainable funding for its growth. Moreover, the department has become not only a valued team member, but a team leader in international project consortia in health, food and environmental research.
To develop human resources and assure organisational framework for generating new knowledge, we put efforts into preparation of project proposals responding to national and international calls, in collaboration with MASSTWIN partner and beyond these partnerships. As a result, the number of active projects has already increased, and several more are under evaluation or in the pipeline to be submitted this year. As a step forward, the JSI-O2 took the initiative and acted as initiator and coordinator of international project consortia rather than a project partner, and our ambition on the long run is to increase the number of international projects led by our researchers.
The education activities are built on engagement of JSI-O2 researchers as teachers and mentors of graduate and post-graduate students at the J. Stefan International Postgraduate School (IPS) and Slovenian and foreign Universities. Taking advantage of international networks of these institutions and their institutional links with industry, the department benefits from two-way exchange visits of guest professors and experts, and collaboration with industrial partners of IPS in terms of research contracts and common research projects. On the other hand, recruitment of the best students as early stage researchers in facilitated.
To assure sustainability of research infrastructure – considering the limited national resources for acquisition of new instruments – the efforts have been made to pave the way to the membership in dispersed research infrastructures, where we already have become partners in some RI projects. At the same time, increased number of contracts with industry will assure autonomous funding for keeping the department’s instrumentation up to date.
Last but not least, outreach activities taken in the framework of ERA Chair and Twinning projects, proved to be efficient not only in increasing visibility and communicating science to the general public, but also to raise more interest among students seeking their degrees in food – health – environmental science and among stakeholders for seeking advice and collaboration.
MASSTWIN project played a key role in the sustainability of the activities of the Department of Environmental sciences related to the mass spectrometry even after the initial funding has ended. The capacity building is integral to the developing and sustaining cutting edge research in the food – health – environment nexus, which is aimed to become the core activity of the Department.
The Sustainability plan is built in to the core of the project designed for the future needs of the department, and means that the MASSTWIN impact will be felt for well after the official end despite the project’s limited time-frame. Twinning with leading institutes from around Europe has delivered to the JSI-O2 valuable new knowledge and skills that are being put to good use in its many existing national and international research projects and research contracts with stakeholders, and in proving the quality of projects acquired during the MASSTWIN lifetime and those in the pipe-line. Obtaining international funding is of paramount importance for maintaining the scientific production and achieving the department’s goals of excellence in science. The ambition of the JSI-O2 to progress from the role of project partner to project initiator and project leader has already started to materialise.