The Marie Curie Fellows Association (MCFA) is an international and multidisciplinary network of mobile researchers. It was founded in 1996 by the European Commission (EC) to promote the Marie Curie Actions and to provide a networking structure to Marie Curie fellows and fellows from former fellowship programmes like Training and Mobility of Researchers (FP4 and FP5).
After 3 years of EC funding the MCFA had to become self-sustaining and manage its existence from exclusively the membership fees from its members. We can look back to more than 16 years of supporting fellows in issues related to the integration in host institutions, project administration, helping with practical problems of mobility (taxation, social security benefits, etc.) and regularly offering career workshops, including how to write scientific papers or manage projects. We have helped in lots of cases when fellows have not found support anywhere else.
The MCFA is one of the main stakeholders in science policy in Europe. It has during many years been the “voice of mobile researchers”. The Association has for instance provided feedback about the evolution of the Marie Curie Fellowships as well as the creation of the Erasmus Alumni Association, and it has assisted in the creation of the European Platform for Women Scientists (EPWS). It has also actively supported the establishment of the European Research Council (ERC) and promoted the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.
A couple of years ago the EC took the initiative to start building another association for Marie Curie alumni. The MCAA (Marie Curie Alumni Association) will hold its first meeting on the 23rd of November, 2013 and has been until now in development by a group of companies hired for this purpose. At this first meeting a board will be elected and first statutes will be approved.
The MCFA has been consulted during the MCAA embrionary phase. We are glad that the EC has acknowledged the role we have played until now in supporting fellows, fostering networking and in raising awareness of MC Actions and recognition of MC Fellows. Moreover, we are also glad we have been invited to help the Marie Curie Action Unit in shaping MCAA priorities thanks to the experience we have gained in years.
Why the decision of the EC was to create another new alumni association instead of supporting the MCFA directly is a question that we cannot answer. As the MCFA has learnt in years how important is the existence of an open association for Fellows, we have welcomed the willingness of the EU Commission to offer more services since the beginnings. We have been trying to change our 17 year old statutes to open the full membership to fellows with less than one year fellowship and also from COFUND programmes, but with no success because of the complexity of Belgian law for associations. Also the voluntary-based work, that all board members are doing, depends on their personal and professional situations.
Why is a part of the MCFA board candidating to the MCAA board? We have our experience to give. Good and bad has happened in the past 16 years at the MCFA. We have learnt which are the limits of a voluntary organisation, we have had also some years ago difficult times due to strict data security issues which prevented us from contacting fellows. We have not had professional support arranging the website or filling up newsletters. But the members of the board are all aware that the most important objective of the MCFA has always been the Fellows. To support them, to train them, to network among each others, to strengthen the European Research Area, opening this area for researchers from all the world.
The MCFA administrative board intends to propose a merge with the MCAA and this would be much easier, if people are in both association boards. We would like to have the chance to make this process as smooth as possible, clarifying database rights and economical issues among both associations. All this complex process must be discussed with the EC and it will take time. In the meanwhile, the MCFA will give its best to cooperate with the MCAA and contribute to its success.