The Second Alliance4Life National Round Table in Vilnius: In-service Training through Mobility Schemes

On 4 December, Vilnius University held a second round table event, devoted to mobility schemes and their impact on researchers’ career development and skills. Researchers and administrative staff from Lithuanian universities were introduced to Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: Research and Innovation Staff Exchanges (RISE), Innovative Training Networks (ITN), Individual fellowships (IF), and Cofunding of Research Programs (COFUND) by Dr. C. Reynolds (Research Executive Agency). Experiences and best practices of projects were presented by PIs from Vilnius University and Kaunas University of Technology, and a discussion followed about schemes and the upcoming call for parallel labs of the Research Council of Lithuania. Additionally, the Alliance4Life project and its findings on mobility and international collaboration effects on research results and their quality were presented. At the end of the event, participants discussed effective ways to use synergies between different funding sources for increasing mobility and skill development, and shared their own examples and institutional experiences about attracting talent.

Participants noted that MSCA programs are well suited to finding and attracting foreign talent, although the talent search is not easy. Prof. Liudas Mažeika noted that it is necessary to publicize the achievements and activities of university scientists as much as possible. According to him, the institution's international visibility helps to attract foreign talent. The event participants noted that it is very important that the incoming researcher has the best possible access to the university community. Therefore, a university's multilingual internal communication should be ensured. Creating such an environment would provide universities, not only with specific foreign talent, but also with their lead partners for other projects and research. A spokesperson for the European Commission noted that the search for talent should focus not on a specific project, but on long-term cooperation. The key is to select a specific researcher to complement the university, and then systematically work on organizing both formal and informal meetings, to present the institution, its infrastructure, and research capabilities. Such targeted networking would also help to address another issue raised by the panelists, which is foreign researchers working in institutions for the duration of the project and then leaving to return to their previous jobs. Thus, not only the project, but also the environment, infrastructure, and opportunities should keep foreign talent at the university.

Another issue was discussed: how do you attract and help to grow science leaders, and transfer good practices in the education and training of young scientists? The participants of the discussion highlighted several key activities that help to ensure young scientists' competences: project exchanges, visits of foreign lecturers, and ongoing work monitoring activities in foreign countries. It was noted that when presenting projects to young researchers, several aspects need to be highlighted: mobility, wider career opportunities and experience, and additional income. Mobility schemes are unique opportunities for young scientists to visit research centers or partake in job shadowing activities in multinational companies through projects, which draws on valuable experience. 

Several important conclusions were reached during the event. Researchers’ specific personal research initiatives should be encouraged by the university through the search for partners, and it is essential that the academic community is involved in project preparation and participation. MSCA projects are good for researchers' careers, as well as for career growth. When trying to attract talent from abroad, the widest possible use of English in university internal communication should be noted. It is also important to focus on talent, not only for a specific project, but also for long-term research, and to create an attractive environment, infrastructure, and research capabilities. The international promotion of university research and its opportunities is also important, allowing foreign researchers to have a positive impression of the institution. Project exchanges, visits by foreign lecturers, and work oversight activities abroad help to nurture science leaders and transfer good practices in the education and training of young researchers. Emphasizing the wider career opportunities created by mobility and the additional revenue generated by projects should encourage young researchers to become involved in projects.

The project "Alliance for Life Sciences: Closing Research and Innovation Divide in the European Union" received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 779303.