The goals of the MCTS Multipartner Organisation were accomplished in accordance with the objectives set out during the project proposal and the implementation plan. The Marie Curie Training Site project, which is comprised of a network of 8 University research groups in 6 EU countries (Cambridge, London School of Economics: UK, ‘La Sapienza’, Rome: Italy; E.E.H.S.S., Paris, Aix-en-Provence: France, Helsinki, Finland; I.S.C.T.E. – Lisbon, Portugal; Basque Country, Spain;), chosen from 13 Universities delivering the European PhD on Social Representations, aimed at supplying advanced research training in the area of Social Representations and Communication, with the training provided through the Multipartner Training Sites.
Research field and multi-methodological approach
The research training provided by the multipartner Training site in Social Representations and Communication was open to a multi-methodological approach (experimental and field work) and a variety of topics related to Social Construction of a particular object and issues relevant to EC policies (e.g. politics, national and supra-national identities, economics, un-employment, new forms of job, new technologies, science, environment, health-illness, gender studies, family relationships, human rights, multiculturalism, minority groups…) and related scientific theory transformed into everyday knowledge.
Recruitment of fellows
During the negotiation of the original contract, the European Commission requested that the recruitment of fellows be made open to both applicants enrolled in the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com. as well as those enrolled in other doctoral programmes in social sciences, on a 50:50 basis. The outcome was that 66% of the overall number of fellows were candidates from outside of the European Ph.D. and 34% were candidates who were enrolled on the European Ph.D. This result not only confirms that the recruitment policy did not give special privileges to doctoral research trainees enrolled in the European Ph.D., but it is also an indication of the attraction of the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com. for research trainees from outside of the network and the Professors that recommended them at their home University.
In agreement with the approved Recruitment plan, the advertisement strategy we have followed was based on both traditional and online methods . The MCTS fellowships were advertised through prominent international journals (such as the European Journal of Social Psychology, Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, Cahiers Internationaux de Psychologie Sociale, Bulletin de Psychologie, British Journal of Social Psychology, Journal Suisse de Psychologie, Rassegna di Psicologia) and newsletters (such as EASP, IAREP, CommUNICAtion, e-newsletter EuroPACE, Notiziario La Sapienza), through directly emailing target groups, and through the medium of the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com. website (www.europhd.psi.uniroma1.it). The new European Commission Marie Curie Training Site vacancy tool also made it possible to insert the advertisement for each training site. This advertising strategy proved to be very successful, ensuring that a broad range of potential candidates were reached through the wide dispersal of information. In addition the European Ph.D. Website served to link candidates up with the partner institutions of the MCTS partnership and their representatives.
The Core Executive Committee held quarterly meetings in Paris in order to carefully select appropriate candidates for the fellowships. The minutes of these meetings were recorded and can be made available to the commission on request. Along with these meetings, the Programme Director of the European Ph.D. and the Scientific Co-ordinator held bi-monthly meetings in order to monitor the quality of the scientific M.C. fellow’s training integrated with the European Ph.D. in order to maintain the high standards which had been expected from the partnership.
Number of assigned contracts and duration
In the initial proposal, it had been planned to disperse the fellows evenly across the network in such a way that 1 fellow would be assigned to each of the 8 research groups for a 12 month period (= 96 months x 4 years =384 months). However in reality, due to the large number of applications received from outside the network, it turned out that this was not feasible due to various unforeseen factors, including: a high number of candidates’ requests for fellowships of durations of less than 12 months (due in many cases to commitments at their home Universities, or the stage they were at in the development of their research); candidates’ preferences to stay at particular host Universities, or to work with particular tutors; the applicability of particular host Universities or tutors to the research topics of the candidates that applied for the fellowship. The consequence was a higher number of selected applicants for the same total number of fellowship months (384). Although this also made the management of the contract much more complex, the benefit of the training programme managed to reach an even higher number of fellows (i.e. 47 fellows rather than 32).
Distribution of the Marie Curie Fellows across the network
Didactic Formula: Tutoring and co-tutoring, Individual and Group Supervision
The innovative individual monitoring system developed through the integration of structured individual and collective physical mobility and virtual mobility proved to be a great success. The experience of the stay abroad (physical mobility) was invaluable in terms of having the opportunity to work so closely with the leading expert in the field of Social Representations in which the doctoral research trainee was researching. The experience of receiving a different point of view and feedback from fellow doctoral research trainees of different educational and cultural backgrounds was likewise extremely valuable in terms of the development of the both the individual and the individual’s research. In addition, collective physical mobility in the form of the annual International Summer Schools and International Lab meetings organised by the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com. at the coordinating University (University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’) allowed for group supervision and even greater interaction with both doctoral research trainees and Professors working in the field of Social Representations and Communication.
The formula of tutoring and co-tutoring adopted by the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com. had already been proven to be very successful and beneficial to the doctoral research trainees within the programme. For this reason, the same formula was implemented for the tutoring of the Marie Curie fellows, and proved once again to be an excellent tutoring formula, allowing for a diversity in the input received by the felows from the different tutors and co-tutors, all of which are established leading experts in the field of Social Representations and Communication.
The freedom and flexibility allowed through virtual mobility proved to be equally successful. The tutor and fellow were able to keep in constant contact by email regardless of their location, which proved to be very effective and helpful to the doctoral research trainees. Through the European Ph.D. Website, which had been specifically adapted to suit this purpose, tutors could have constant online access to the doctoral research trainee’s work, therefore enabling them to monitor their progression at all times, both while the doctoral research trainee is at the host University and after they have returned home. Also the guarantee of no more than 2-3 doctoral research trainees at the same time to be assigned to each tutor allowed for more individual and close contact and monitoring between the doctoral research trainee and the tutor.
Structured individual physical mobility provided the fellows with the opportunity to attend lectures and conferences, in institutions of excellence, which they may otherwise have never have had the opportunity to attend, to hear invited speakers or particular experts speak, to avail of the immense databases, libraries or state of the art training and equipment which is available amongst the network of the Marie Curie Training Sites. This opportunity has been reported as unforgettable and invaluable to the fellows, and they certainly appreciated and took advantage of the opportunities afforded them. The Marie Curie Training Site scheme has certainly provided the fellows with the financial support to enable them to experience, that which they would otherwise have been financially impossible. The skills they have acquired or the data they have collected along with the feedback from leading experts in the field has unquestionably improved the quality of their research and output.
Duration and Extension of the Contract
While it was envisaged that the contract would end on October 1, 2004, an extension of one year was requested for the following reasons:
- Due to the rigorous selection standards adopted by the MCTS Partnership’s Executive Committee, the number of applicants actually accepted into the programme was in each round much lower than the total number of applicants for the fellowships, the result of which was that in March 2004, only 304 months of fellowship had been assigned of the 384 months available in total. In the final selection round (deadline 20th March 2004) it proved impossible to assign all 80 months of fellowship as only 64 months had been requested, and 36 had been assigned. At that stage, therefore, the remainder was 44 months of fellowship (+12 months which had been assigned, but not utilized, i.e. 6 months assigned to on fellow who asked for a suspension from the European Ph.D. (but later requested to re-take the place) and 6 months assigned to another fellow who later resigned) that remained available, making the total remaining months available for the next selection 56. Thus by extending the contract to October 1, 2005 the remaining months could be made available to interested selected applicants.
- Allowing an additional 12 months allowed us to maintain a high standard in selecting candidates.
- Due to applicants’ requests for periods of fellowship of periods shorter than 12 months, a higher number of fellowships than foreseen had been assigned but for fewer months. This not only left a balance of months available, but also created additional administrative work in the attempt to evenly distribute the number of fellows across the network according to the specific and varied dates requested by candidates. Therefore additional time was also necessary in order to ensure that this was done according to the requirements of the contract.
- It was noted that candidates required a certain period of time between their application date and the actual start date of the fellowship (several months, sometimes a year) in order to organise themselves for their stay abroad, (including logistics, language preparation, organisation of work to be done abroad, along with commitments at their own institution, such as teaching). Therefore, the procedure took more time than initially foreseen.
- It was also hoped that by extending the contract from October 1, 2004 to October 1, 2005, that it would be possible to assign fellowships for the academic year 2004-2005, to include the International Summer School of 2005. This proved to be a great success with huge participation of Marie Curie fellows in the 10th International Summer School organised by the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com.
- It was also hoped to create a balance between the number of Marie Curie fellows enrolled in the European Ph.D. and those from other doctoral programmes as the number of fellows from other doctoral programmes was higher at this stage, therefore an attempt was made to bring it into line with the original intention of recruiting a ratio of 50:50. In fact a higher number of European Ph.D. research trainees were assigned during this year’s extension, therefore lowering the percentage difference.
- Finally, we also hoped to use the year’s extension in order to resolve some critical issues we had come across in dealing with the partner Universities in the U.K, briefly outlined below.
Management of the Marie Curie Multipartner Organisation
The management of the whole MCTS contract worked almost perfectly in agreement with the original Implementation Plan.
A preliminary start up meeting was held during the 6th International Summer School in Rome, on 28th to 3rd June 2000, in order to implement multi-partner Marie Curie Training Site, followed by a meeting of the Executive Committee, held in Paris on 7th October 2000.
A general start-up meeting was held in Paris at La Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.on 10th March 2001 attended by representatives both from the EC DG-Research (Dr. Peter Crawley and Dr. Gaetano Petralia) and from MCTS-network (the European Ph.D. program Director Prof. S. Moscovici (E.H.E.S.S. & LEPS-Maison de la Science de l’Homme, Fr.; the MCTS coordinator: Prof. A.S. de Rosa (University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy; the MCTS partners:Prof. J-C. Abric (University of Aix en Provence, Fr), Prof. G. Duveen (University of Cambridge, U.K., Prof. J. Jesuino (ISCTE, Portugal), Prof. D. Jodelet (E.H.E.S.S., Fr., Prof. E. Lage (E.H.E.S.S., Fr) Prof. AM Pirtilla-Backman (University of Helsinki, Finland), Prof. J. Valencia (University of San Sebastian, Spain) & Dr. Zoe De Smet (scientific secretary of European Ph.D.). The general start-up meeting addressed the following points in the agenda:
- Presentation of Marie Curie Training Site by Peter Crawley (DG XII);
- Presentation of the MCTS-network, by the co-ordinator, A.S. de Rosa:
- Introduction given by each partner of his/her Training Site;
- Information about the recruitment plan;
- Presentation of the1st selection & confirmation of fellows
- Administrative arrangements for co-ordination of the sites
- Contractual matters with the fellow:
- Planning future realisation (next deadline & selection, …)
Quarterly meetings of the Core Executive Committee were held in Paris to discuss the received applications for the fellowships, and to make a final selection. The minutes of these meetings were recorded and are available to the Commission and partners.
These quarterly meetings, along with the bi-monthly meetings of the Programme Director of the European PhD and the Scientific Co-ordinator, served also to monitor the quality of the scientific M.C. fellow’s training integrated within the European Ph.D. the proceedings of the programme and to maintain the high standards of the partnership.
In agreement with the administrative and management policies:
- the co-ordinator organised the publication of advertisements for the MCTS fellowships in prominent International Journals, inserted the announcement of the MCTS Multipartner Organisation, including all the relevant information, eligibility or application procedure for the fellowships, along with the links to the partner Institution’s websites on the European Ph.D. website (www.europhd.psi.uniroma1.it), and contacted target groups by email;
- the co-ordinator organised the regular meetings of the Core Executive Committee, including all organisational correspondence and logistic details;
- the co-ordinator acted as liaison between the Marie Curie Fellows, the partners of the MCTS Multipartner organisation and the European Commission, and dealt with all correspondence and administrative issues between the co-ordinating institution, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ and both the fellow and the EC;
- the co-ordinator provided an agreement for each fellow (signed by the co-ordinator, the scientist in charge and the fellow) and regularly sent to the EU Commission. The agreement also contained the description of the research training completed by the fellow, including the didactic requirements of the European Ph.D. on S.R. & C., as well as a specific description of the doctoral research of the fellow;
- the co-ordinator proceeded with the transfer of payment to the fellow’s bank account;
- the co-ordinator guaranteed the proper implementation and realisation of the fellowship. The scientist in charge was requested to notify the co-ordinator without delay if he/she was aware of any circumstances likely to affect the performance of this contract, such as:- any event likely to prevent a project from being properly implemented or properly completed;
- In agreement with the implementation plan and with the decisions taken by the Executive Committee (of 7/10/2000 and 3/2/2001) and clearly explained to all the partners during the general start-up-meeting in Paris (10/3/2001) the following payment procedure was put into place: The grants foreseen to cover research and management costs were managed by the co-ordinator of the Marie Curie Training Site, and this sum was also partially at the disposal to cover fellows’ expenses (such as inscription fee for European Ph.D., registration fee and expenses incurred during participation in International Summer Schools, participation in other scientific events, research materials, photocopies, participation in conferences, non-standard computer software needed for the research project, additional requests upon approval of the Executive Committee…), upon request using the expenses claim form which had been created ad hoc and following the receipt of an invoice within the limit decided by the Executive Committee. This procedure was chosen since it is the co-ordinator who makes a yearly financial report, and since the co-ordination of the whole Marie Curie project has involved extra secretarial work and management costs. (Minutes of the Executive Committee of 7/10/2000)
All the training sites adhered to the original partnership agreement which was based on exchange and mutual assistance among the Institutions, where the scientist in charge committed him/herself to coordinate the hosting of the fellows at the Institution.
However, an unfortunate situation arose, concerning administration management, with the partner Universities in the U.K., namely the London School of Economics (LSE) and partly the University of Cambridge.
In fact the U.K. Institutions claimed funds for their own Institutions, although it had been agreed and inserted in the implementation plan, and clearly reiterated by Dr. Peter Crawley during the Marie Curie start-up meeting held at La Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris on 10th March 2001, that the fellow’s research costs should be paid directly by the coordinator upon presentations of the necessary documentation Unlike in the case of individual Marie Curie fellowships, where the host Institution gets part of the funds directly - under the Marie Curie Multipartner Organisation site the contract outlines that:
« The scientist in charge, XXX, on behalf of the host university XXX, commits him/herself
(1) to host each fellow for the entire duration of his/her project;
(2) to have, throughout the duration of the contract, the means, including the infrastructure, and the management of the project(s) and in particular the training through research in the scientific and technical fields concerned;
(3) to make the means mentioned in point (2) of this paragraph available to each fellow, as necessary and from the commencement date of her/his project;
(4) to ensure that each fellow enjoys, at the place(s) of implementation of his/her project, the same working conditions and standards of safety and health as afforded to local researchers; »
As declared in the third scientific report and communicated to the representative of the EC over the course of the programme. the situation was more serious for the London School of Economics, than for the Cambridge Institute. The LSE sent some of their fellows: 1 was hosted at the University of Aix-en-Provence for 6 months of the academic year 2002-2003 and another was hosted for 6 months at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, once again without the institution having requested any fees, in keeping with the terms outlined in the MCTS contract. However it does seem somewhat unfair that the LSE never accepted any fellow in their institution, in spite of the fact that they reassured a representative from the EC on this subject, by promising him to try and find a solution to the problem. For this reason the co-ordinator organized a meeting with the Scientific Responsible for LSE, on April 13, 2004, not only to solve the problem for a smoother management of this contract, but also to seriously consider if still include or exclude LSE as partner in the next application within the 6th Framework Programme for the Early Stage Training.
Due to these difficulties and the experience acquired during the five years of the very time-consuming management of the MCTS contract – the MCTS Scientific Coordinator was not encouraged to devote her time to preparing a new application for a Marie Curie Contract (Early stage training) in the highly competitive scenario of the 6th Framework program, unless it is firmly established that there is strong commitment from all the network Institutions.
Main conclusion: Academic output of the fellows, benefit of the European Ph.D. programme, and career progression within and outside the academic setting
Aside from some minor modifications during the course of the project, the Marie Curie Training Site project proved to be a great success, and on its conclusion, it is evident that the 47 fellows of a range of 16 nationalities (from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and U.K.) that participated in the project benefited greatly from the experience it provided them.
The participation of the fellows in the annual International Summer Schools and the International Lab Meetings (held three times a year) organised by the European Ph.D. on S.R. & Com. training structure, along with the annual reports presented by the fellows at these events, the numbers of presentations given at International Conferences, the development of their individual Ph.D. studies, the publications produced as a result of the fellowships are all demonstrative of the success of the programme.
This benefit is also apparent in the career progression within and outside the academic setting, both during and since their fellowship, the completion of their doctoral studies and the number of fellows that have at this stage made the transition from research trainee to experienced researcher or to academic status, mainly within and in a few cases also outside Europe. In fact a good number of the fellows that benefited from the Marie Curie Training Site Partnership Programme have become full-time or part-time researchers or teaching assistants in prominent Universities (including the University of Lyon, the University of Marseille Aix-en-Provence, University of Vienna, I.S.C.T.E. Lisbon, Eötvös Loránd University Budapest, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, University of Salerno, University, Catholic University of Milan, University of Bologna, University of Trieste, University of Helsinki, University of Cambridge, etc.) in many countries within the European Union (Austria, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, U.K.), and also outside of Europe (e.g. University of Ottawa, Canada). Others have progressed in a different direction, moving towards enterprise, applying their research skills in social representations and communication and using their background in social and organisational psychology.
Also, the fellows’ continued contact with the European Ph.D. training structure since completing their fellowships, along with their continued enthusiastic participation in the events organised by the training structure, demonstrates their interest and their continued research within the field of Social Representations. Some of them – who have acquired academic positions - are currently pro-active official representative partners of the So.Re.Com. Thematic Network (approved by the EC and coordinated by the University of Rome la Sapienza) which grew from the European Ph.D. and Marie Curie Multipartner Organisation.
Not only did the individual fellows benefit from the Marie Curie contract, but the European Ph.D. on S.R. & C. program also benefited greatly in making the compulsory physical mobility of the enrolled research trainees feasible (overcoming the limitations of the Socrates scholarship), in opening the doors to a wider target of young research trainees enrolled in other doctoral programs across Europe and initiating cooperation (in some cases for long term cooperative projects) between tutors and Marie Curie fellows.
The successful five year experience of the Marie Curie Multipartner Training Organisation also increased the visibility of the European Ph.D. on S.R. & C. programme outside European borders. Individual mobility within the network of 47 Marie Curie fellows, integrated with collective mobility of both a larger number of junior doctoral research trainees and senior experts from inside and outside the European network brought together for the annual European Ph.D. on S.R. & C. International Summer Schools allowed for the dissemination of the Marie Curie Action Programme, improving the European Research Area, to a wider scientific community in other continents, particularly South-American countries, but also North-America (Canada) and Australia.