The online event 'Funding and career opportunities for young researchers' organised by the National Documentation Centre (EKT), which had about 4,000 participants from all over Greece, the majority of the EU countries, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and China, was held on 29 September 2020. The event was opened by Christos Dimas, State Secretary for Research and Technology.
The event, which focused on researchers and scientists of all levels and scientific fields who are active within Greece or abroad, featured 24 prominent speakers from the European Commission, the Research and Innovation Foundation, Cyprus, Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (ELIDEK), the State Scholarships Foundation (IKY), the General Secretariat for Research and Technology and beneficiaries of European and national programmes .
In her opening speech, Dr. Evi Sachini, Director of EKT, highlighted the organisation's support role for young scientists, making reference to its role as a National Contact Point in Horizon 2020. She referred to the enormous challenges posed by the pandemic for researchers who are facing a new obstacle in their daily lives. She noted that it is important for the research community to remain optimistic and to find new channels of communication, building on the possibilities offered by the new digital age such as the 'Knowledge and Partnership Bridges' initiative which is implemented by EKT in co-operation with the Ministry for Development and Investment, which contributes to the dissemination of knowledge capital and the networking of young researchers and professionals around the world.
In his speech officially beginning the event, Christos Dimas, State Secretary for Research and Technology, welcomed the fact that EKT had taken the initiative to organise the event. He pointed out the existing financial instruments through funds from the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and referred to a recent agreement signed between Greece and the USA on research and technology providing an appropriate institutional framework for co-operation between the two countries in order to increase the country's performance and become more competitive at the global level.
Leonidas Christopoulos, Secretary General of Digital Governance, mentioned the effort being made to resolve the problems faced by Greek researchers through digital transformation, which is a key strategy of the Ministry. He stressed that the new law on digital governance recently adopted includes provisions, such as those on open data, which facilitate the work of researchers, research organisations and start-ups.
Agni Spilioti, Director of Policy Planning Directorate, General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT), not only referred to the difficulties faced by the researcher but also the State's effort to help their work, building a new production model based on innovation and new technologies. She referred to the data collected by EKT on research and technology, reflecting the increase in related Research & Innovation expenditure in recent years, as well as the actions of GSRT offering scientists new opportunities.
Dr. Nikolaos Mastroyiannopoulos, Chief Scientist for Research and Innovation of the Republic of Cyprus and Chairman of the Research and Innovation Foundation (RIF) emphasised the long-standing co-operation between Greece and Cyprus in research and technology. He highlighted the high research level of the two countries and emphasised brain circulation, that is the mobility of knowledge and researchers, along with the efforts of brain gain.
Dr. Nektarios Nasikas, Director Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (ELIDEK) referred to the 1,000 Greek researchers who have so far benefited from the foundation as well as the recent achievement of a tax exemption from the financial support received by doctoral candidates. He not only highlighted the various ongoing actions to support teaching and members of the teaching research staff, but also to purchase research equipment. Finally, Fotis Athanasopoulos, Director-General, IKY noted the contribution of IKY to supporting young scientists and researchers in the 70 years of its operation.
Speakers from the first panel of the event presented Funding Opportunities. Eleni Konsta, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) presented the calls from the next programming period pointing out that more than 130.000 researchers and organisations have benefited during the programme, with 65,000 being funded during Horizon 2020 (2014-2020).
Dr. Mikaela Poulymenopoulou, scientific projects consultant, Physical Sciences and Engineering, European Research Council Executive Agency , presented the key points of the ERC programme and the scholarships it provides researchers. She stressed that the ERC finances researchers irrespective of their nationality, age and scientific field. However, she stressed that projects should be high risk and high performance.
Dr. Cristina Pascual, Innovation Consultant, presented EKT's action in support of young researchers and start-ups, noting that EKT provides research in Greece with comprehensive support, from informing the interested party and supporting their proposal to the organisation of events aimed at networking and producing studies on the country's research activity. Dimitris Maragos, co-ordinator of the 'Knowledge and Partnership Bridges' initiative, referred to the main objective of creating a global digital community that will network Greeks within the country and abroad and to the actions of the initiative.
Giorgia Kleanthous and Katerina Karakasidou Malla, Scientific Operations RIF, referred to the participation of Cypriot researchers in the European MSCA and ERC programmes, to the very good position of Cyprus in international scientific publications, international co-operation in the field of research, and the services provided by RIF for submitting research proposals for funding. Closing their presentation, they made a special reference to the 6 research centres of excellence created in Cyprus through the Team for Excellence.
Dr. Katerina Kouravelou, Research Projects, ELIDEK presented the strategic objectives of the organisation focusing on the Greek scientist, open calls and information on the conditions for participation. Vana Sotiropoulou, Competition Department, IKY, and Elina Mavrogiorgou, Promotion and Exploitation of Results Department, Erasmus+, IKY, talked about the current scholarships and the mobility programme that will succeed Erasmus+.
In the second part of the event, there was an open debate with beneficiaries of European and national actions, moderated by Dr. Sossana Kalyva and Alexandro Souroulagka, GSRT, who are National Representatives of the Shadow Committee MSCA and ERC respectively.
First to speak was Dr. Anna Apostolidou, Social Anthropologist and post-doc researcher at Panteio University, who presented her study and the possibilities offered by the scholarship she received from ELIDEK in the midst of a crisis. Dr. Athanasios Papaioannou, associate researcher, National Observatory of Athens,referred to the benefits of the funding received from IKY for his post-doctoral research, both on a personal and research level.
Dr. Dimitrios Christaras, researcher at the Athens Eye Hospital and beneficiary of MSCA funding, added his experience and gave useful advice to all those who want to submit a proposal, while Despina Papavramidou, doctoral candidate in the Sociology Department Panteio University, presented the benefits of her having participated in the Erasmus + programme and the difficulties sheencountered during the pandemic in the preparation of her research. Following these presentations, Professor Timotheos Papadopoulos, Psychology Department, Cyprus University and the scientific officer for the European project Neo-PRISM-C MSCA, presented the research project funded, his subsequent prominence and shared his personal experience of his way to the top. Last to speak was Dr. Themida Alissafi, immunologist researcher, Biomedical Research Foundation (BRFAA) of the Academy of Athens and beneficiary of the ERC action 'Starting Grant', underlining that the key for success in obtaining grants is the combination of researcher excellence and research proposals, and advised young researchers to remain committed to their vision and to pay attention to their co-operation.
Throughout the event, the audience were able to submit questions for speakers to answer during the Q&A session at the end of the event.
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During the event, participants could take part in interactive opinion polls on their scientific field, how they financed their studies in the past and scholarships received, and to state the country from where they were watching.
It is worth mentioning that about 24% of respondents came from the Humanities, 23% ICT sciences, 17% Natural Sciences, 16.5% Health Sciences and Medicine and 15% Social Sciences. 34% and 9% of participants financed their studies from the family environment and personal savings, respectively, 28% worked to be able to study, while 29% had received a scholarship. Of those who have received a scholarship, 13% and 7% were through IKY grants for doctoral thesis and post-graduate studies, respectively, whereas 7% were funded through the Erasmus + mobility programme. The poll collected demographics for the areas where Greeks and Cypriots attended the event. 40% were in Attica, 19% Central Macedonia, 5% Thessaly and 5% Crete, 2% Cyprus, while there were many contributions from Germany, France, the United States, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, etc.
The event was organised by the National Documentation Centre (EKT), National Contact Point for Horizon 2020 in 11 sub-programmes among which are the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and the European Research Council (ERC) programmes, and in partnership with the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT), the Research and Innovation Foundation of Cyprus and the European Commission.