EU-LIFE: Collaborating in Crete at the annual meeting

18 January, 2023

EU-LIFE: Collaborating in Crete at the annual meeting

EU-LIFE: Collaborating in Crete at the annual meeting

EU-LIFE is an association of independent European research institutes in the life sciences. EU-LIFE’s mission is to improve scientific research by influencing European science policies by developing, executing and sharing best practices in the organisation and management of research institutes. While normally working remotely, once a year the different representatives meet for a community wide event to share their work and impact on scientific research. Jayashree Chakraborty, Grants Officer, reflects on her experience of the EU-LIFE annual meeting.

EU-LIFE has 15 members. Fourteen are from other European countries and one is from the UK which is the Babraham Institute. Each of these institutes is internationally recognised for excellent research, widely transferring knowledge and best campuses to offer world-class training to nurture talent. All the EU-LIFE institutes believe in common initiatives that scientific excellence in life sciences can only be achieved through strong adherence to principles of quality, scientific integrity, ethical responsibility, societal accountability, ecological sustainability, gender equality and cultural diversity. In the long-term EU-LIFE’s mission is to spread these values and best practices within the wider research community.

The main purpose of this annual meeting is to give an update on EU-LIFE activities to all the members, share the work carried out by the different working groups, think about the strategies and policies for the upcoming year, and foster collaboration among our alliance members. This year’s meeting was held in Heraklion (Crete, Greece) and hosted by one of the new EU-LIFE member institutes IMBB-FORTH. It was amazing to meet all the members of the EU-LIFE community first time after two years of the COVID pandemic. It was really a special occasion for all ‘EU-LIFErs’!

The different activities of the alliance are carried out by dedicated working groups, formed by experienced members from the different institutions. Each working group elects a Chair, who sits together with the Strategy group twice a year to review all activities. There are currently seven active working groups: Science Communication, Technology Transfer, Core Facilities, Gender Equality, Grants & Funding strategies, Recruitment & Training, and IT.

Babraham Institute members stood outside a modern building in the sunshine

The EU-LIFE representatives from Babraham Institute who attended were; Danielle Hoyle (Head of the Research Operation), Andrea Last (Head of HR), Michelle Barthelemy (HR Manager), Elizabeth Wynn (Equality and Diversity Manager), Ana Pereira-O'Callaghan (Head of Strategic Research Development and Graduate Studies) and Cass Flowers (Chief Information Officer). Louisa Wood (Head of Communications) and Keith Jones (Commercialisation Manager) weren’t able to attend on this occasion.

This year was the first EU-LIFE meeting for me and Ana Pereira-O'Callaghan, who joined the Institute recently as our new Head of Strategic Research Development and Graduate Studies. We are members of the Grants and Funding strategy working group. I have been working in this group for the last two and half years and gathering various EU grant related information which will help to shape the long-term vision of EU funding policy. I am also part of a small task-force where we meet quarterly, gather information about Marie Curie Post-doctoral fellowship and share best practices.

I was also selected as rapporteur to present the key points discussed in our break-out group named ‘How do we promote international recognition of our institutes? What are the key ingredients to internationalisation and where are we struggling?’

From that discussion we identified three key points:

1. EU level – to harmonize regulations for the recognition of students’ degrees to avoid losing of international talents due to lack of recognition and/or accreditation or complicated and costly recognition and/or accreditation procedures.

2. EU-LIFE level – to develop programs that would attract and internalise international graduates, postdocs and group leaders.

3. EU-LIFE community level – to incorporate cultural diversity into EU-LIFE community training and to develop a strategy to communicate that EU-LIFE is open to diverse cultures and assures an inclusive work environment.

This campaign has now been shared by EU-LIFE on social media using the hashtag #WeAreEULIFE.

Recently EU-LIFE signed the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment in Europe and is committed to be an active member of the new Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) that will implement the reform. As a result, Scientific Council which is due to make a final decision on whether any changes will be introduced to the 2024 ERC Work Programme at their plenary meeting in December 2022.    

Cass and Jayashree in front of the Greek countryside

On the last day of our meeting the organisers arranged a local sightseeing trip. We visited the Palace of Knossos and the museum. It is thought that Knossos was the first and oldest Neolithic site in Crete, situated around 7000 BCE.

Next year is the 10th anniversary of EU-LIFE. I am very much looking forward to joining the annual meeting next year, going to take place in Lisbon, Portugal. You can find out more about the 10-year anniversary on the EU-LIFE website.