EURAXESS representatives shared online resources and funding opportunities for those seeking to do science abroad
Contributor Ada Yee
If you’re a student seeking experiences abroad, a newly-minted PhD wanting work in industry-leading countries, or an academic looking to settle in Europe, start by typing “EURAXESS” into your Web browser. During the Naturejobs Career Expo 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts, we heard from representatives of EURAXESS, a European Commission[http://ec.europa.eu/index_en.htm] initiative designed to encourage researcher mobility and facilitate European research careers. The workshop showcased a range of funding opportunities and resources for researchers of all training levels and—although most attendees were European—all nationalities.
EURAXESS online resource community
For those just starting with their European job search, or for those navigating an overseas transition (including visa paperwork and finding a school for your kids), the session gave a guided tour of EURAXESS’s free-to-use online resource community.
Through the jobs section of the site, job seekers can access an online job portal and upload CVs for organizations’ perusal. So far, the site has collected more than 8,500 job ads, and about 8,000 organizations—including research institutions, universities, and companies—have registered to view CVs, noted Stephanie Jannin, one of EURAXESS’s North America regional representatives.
EURAXESS services also include centers dedicated to helping researchers and their families with the logistics of moving to Europe. Jannin described “a network of over 500 professionals working in over 200 offices across Europe.” Contact information for the centers is found in the services portion of EURAXESS’s site.
Finally, Jannin highlighted EURAXESS’s upcoming Science Slam competition. Entrants can indulge their creative side by giving a 3-minute performance (finalists go on to give a 10-minute live version) explaining their research to a lay audience. “How do you explain your work to your friends?” Jannin prompted the audience. “Is it easy? Do you think it’s important?” This contest might be your first step towards Europe: winners are flown to Europe to meet with an institute of their choosing.
Funding for beginner to advanced researchers
EURAXESS can connect you with information but doesn’t directly fund researchers. Instead, North America representative Viktoria Bodnarova directed the audience towards several options for grant support.
One set of options is the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCAs). Created in the 1960s and named for the famous scientist—her maiden name since added, perhaps to reflect her multi-nationality—these funding opportunities are open to applicants from any country, as long as they plan to move to Europe, away from Europe (and come back), or between European countries for their research.
Candidates with at least four years of research experience (which need not, but can include PhD studies) should apply for an Individual Fellowship (IF). For IFs, you must craft your own research proposal and find a host institution. Those with less training or those who may want to pursue graduate studies in Europe should look at the Individual Training Network (ITN). In this case, institutions post projects on the MSCA website (and often also EURAXESS or Naturejobs), where you can check them out and apply.
Finally, for researchers trying to fund their own labs, there are the European Research Council (ERC) grants. Again, these are nationality-blind; about 70% of beginner-to-middle stage ERC grants go to North American applicants. The grant requires you relocate to Europe if you’re not there already, but it’s portable between European host institutions. “The host isn’t evaluated, so you can go anywhere you want,” said Bodnorova. Each grant provides up to €2 million of funding for everything from equipment to salary. “If you ask institutions to host, 99.9% of them will say yes,” according to Bodnorova, because the grants are seen as a label of excellence
Indeed, in addition to the benefits of research abroad, the prestige afforded by ERC and MSCA funding was a theme of the workshop. Only 10-12% of MSCA applications are funded. “It’s pretty competitive,” said Nagore Ortiz-Vitoriano, who did her PhD in Spain before coming to MIT as an MSCA fellow. “Everybody was telling me it’s difficult to get.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable, she added: “You just need a good project. Go for it and trust you can do it.”
Tips for applying? Start early (think 7-8 months ahead), be organized (Ortiz-Vitoriano included a Gantt chart), outline a contingency plan, and choose a host carefully, perhaps discussing ideas with them over Skype. “Know where you want to be for a few years,” adds Ortiz-Vitoriano. “Now I have a big network that I will collaborate with when I go back to Europe.”