I Attended My First MCAA General Assembly and It Was Great!

I Attended My First MCAA General Assembly and It Was Great!

I am just back from three intense days in Leuven where I attended the MCAA General Assembly together with my TreatRec colleague Yaroslav. It was a really great experience that far surpassed my expectations; let's be honest, elections of the board did not sound that exciting to me, but the GA had so much more to offer than that! First of all I met an inspiring crowd of devoted young researchers from different disciplines and, since this is the MCAA, from a vast number of countries. There were also sessions on topics spanning from protection of intellectual property to science communication to how to balance professional and personal life in a research career.

Katia Levecque talked about the prevalence of risk factors for mental health disorder among PhD students, a topic she discussed in a paper that stirred much attention last year, but I found even more interesting the approach of Gerard Govers, a professor at KU Leuven and former Director of the Doctoral School of Science and Technology there. He pointed out that research is a difficult process; failing experiments, uncertain outcomes, wrong turns and dead ends are all part of the development of an idea. Instead of fooling ourselves into thinking that it will be easy he suggested that we should accept the fact that conducting research is a daunting task and focus on how to deal with disappointment, unexpected results, competition, and difficult interpersonal relationships that all comes as a part of it.

I was also very impressed by the work of the Policy working group who aims to raise awareness on issues related to science policy. Topics they work on include Open Science, employability of the current PhD surplus, the limited amount of permanent positions in academia, and academic refugees. One of the speakers highlighted the uneven flux of researchers to and from specific countries. Just one example is that the number of early stage researchers leaving Spain is several times bigger than the number of early stage researchers that enter Spain. Being one of those, and noticing that I didn't meet a single other Swedish researcher during the meeting, while I on the other hand met several Spanish and Italians and Indians (and a surprisingly large number of Argentinians), did underline that.

Next year the MCAA General Assembly will be held in Vienna and I am already looking forward to going there and I highly recommend that you do too!