Brussels, 28 May 2004
Even before the enlargement of the EU to 25 Member States on 1 May, promoting the free movement of researchers within the Union was considered a high priority. The addition of ten further countries emphasises the need for action.
While EU and national policy makers tackle issues such as the cross border recognition of qualifications and the introduction of scientific visas, other actors in Europe are launching their own initiatives aimed at promoting mobility at the grassroots level.
One such programme has recently been launched by the European liaison office of German research organisations (KoWi), with the objective of encouraging mobility among doctoral and post-doctoral researchers from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as young scientists in Germany.
MORE - mobility for young researchers from Central and Eastern Europe - has two main aims, explained the project's coordinator, Sebastian Stetter, in an interview with CORDIS News. 'First, we hope to inform young researchers, mainly within CEECs [Central and Eastern European countries] but also in Germany, of the various funding programmes that are open to them in Europe. The other main element will then be to assist them to produce a successful application,' said Mr Stetter.
The MORE initiative developed through the coming-together of two strands of established KoWi activity, namely its efforts to promote mobility to young researchers in Germany, and existing activities within Central and Eastern Europe, such as the 'Fit for Europe' project.
When asked what KoWi's motivation for launching the MORE initiative was, Mr Stetter responded: 'We realise that it's best to involve scientists in international research as early as possible. There is nothing directly 'in it' for KoWi or Germany, because while we hope to encourage young researchers from abroad to bring their talents to Germany, it is by no means a one-way street.'
On a practical level, MORE seeks to make use of the contacts that KoWi and its member organisations already have with key institutions and individuals in the CEECs. In partnership with these contacts, they will organise a series of events across the region to inform young researchers about funding opportunities offered by the EU, Germany and other countries in Europe, and promote MORE as a single point of contact for information regarding young researcher mobility.
'Previously, national research programmes were only open to home country researchers, but this situation is changing rapidly and we must make young scientists aware of the changing research landscape,' said Mr Stetter.
Having made contact with MORE, individuals can expect to receive advice on the various international programmes for which they are eligible, as well as guidance on the application and assessment process from experienced individuals. 'We hope that as many young researchers as possible will send their applications to us for advice before submitting them. An example where we can add value, for instance, is when someone has completed an application for one programme, and we can advise them that with minimal changes it could be used to apply for a second or a third position,' Mr Stetter explains.
Identifying potential challenges to achieving the aims of MORE, Mr Stetter points out that the initiative relies heavily on the willingness and enthusiasm of KoWi's partners in Germany and the CEECs. Another concern is how they will accurately measure the impact of the project, although Mr Stetter believes that a good guide will be the number of calls they receive following the publication of calls for proposals for the EU's Marie Curie programme.
While the objectives of MORE can be linked to the EU's wider research strategy, Mr Stetter is keen to point out that the initiative is very much a bottom up approach: 'At the end of the day, we are targeting researchers on an individual basis, and one individual will not build the European Research Area.' However, he admits that in an ideal scenario, individuals that spend time working abroad will return home and transfer their knowledge and experiences widely, thus magnifying the effect.
If the project proves successful, Mr Stetter believes there is a chance that its scope could be broadened to include more partners and programmes from long standing EU countries. 'If that is the case, and if there is lots of demand, maybe that would also be the time to consider the possibility of seeking EU funding,' he concluded. For the initial two year period of the project, however, Mr Stetter is convinced that he and his partners will have MORE than enough to be getting on with.
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