18/03/2016

European Scientific Diasporas Initiative - 2016

Categories: Diaspora News


Following several discussions among a number of Science Counsellors from EU Member State (MS) Embassies to the U.S. in the course of 2014, a number of which involved representatives of national diaspora networks, it was decided to make a concerted effort to develop an initiative aimed at bringing together these different networks in a more structured way to learn from each other, exchange good practices and, overall, to cooperate in order to generate added value for the separate networks and their members.

2015 was the first full year of this initiative, which relied on the involvement and support of some MS Embassies, the EU Delegation, different national networks and EURAXESS Links North America, which helped to keep the whole project glued together and moving along. The work undertaken in 2015 mostly served to feed into a first annual meeting of the initiative, which brought together 23 speakers (the majority of them were European scientists currently based in the USA) and about 100 attendees. A report on this meeting is being prepared and will be made publicly available.

In 2016, the second year of the initiative, and to a large degree, the diaspora leaders and other parties involved wish to emulate the positive experience of 2015. To do so, the idea has been retained of focusing on one specific topic where active participation should be of value not only to already organised scientific Diasporas but also to those who have not yet launched such network. After discussions with diaspora leaders, the topic chosen for 2016 is Mentorship.

Mentorship

Definition: Mentoring is a term generally used to describe a relationship between a less experienced individual, called a mentee or protégé, and a more experienced individual known as a mentor. Traditionally, mentoring is viewed as a dyadic, face-to-face, long-term relationship between a supervisory adult and a novice student that fosters the mentee’s professional, academic, or personal development (Donaldson, Ensher, & Grant-Vallone, 2000).

Having a good mentor early on in your career can mean the difference between success and failure in any field (Lee, Dennis, & Campbell; Nature 447). This is not only the result of a research study published in Nature, but has also been remarked on by members of several Scientific Diasporas, who were part of the first annual meeting in Washington, DC, on 19 November 2015. European scientists serving as panel speakers, as well as European researchers in the audience stressed the significance of formalizing exchange of experiences and professional support in the form of mentorship programs.

Several of the national networks, including ISSNAF (Italy), ECUSA (Spain) and ASCINA (Austria), already offer mentorship programs to their members; others such as HBA (Greece) and PAPS (Portugal) report that they had started thinking about launching such programs.

Diaspora groups have faced various challenges when setting out to establish a formalized mentorship program. These include securing funds, outreach to mentors and mentees (often across multiple sectors), training paths for mentors and the mentees, applying and sharing existing tools, monitoring progress, and exchanging lessons learned as well as best practices with each other.

As the Scientific Diasporas believe synergies in this area on a European level could be beneficial for scientists, the topic of Mentorship was chosen from a pool of significant areas of interest put forward by the members and leaders of several European Scientific Diasporas.

Approach for collaboration among Diasporas:

Selecting a single topic for the 2016 European Scientific Diasporas Initiative will allow Diaspora leaders to focus their efforts on one single theme relevant to all. Since working together in sub-groups has proven successful during 2015, a breakdown of Mentorship into sub-themes for working groups could be beneficial. Each working group would be led by diaspora members, evenly distributed among all the networks interested in being actively involved. All Diasporas and Science Counselors will be invited to comment, join as observers, and take part in all conference calls and meetings to assure a joint collaborative effort.

2016 Goals for collaboration on the topic of Mentorship:

  • Scope out fully the extent and nature of the work in terms of structure, sub-themes, objectives and planning
  • Lay groundwork to serve as a basis for the 2nd annual meeting (Nov/Dec 2016)
  • Prepare a document/briefing with the identified good practices, needs, and challenges faced by the European Scientific Diasporas here in North America related to Mentorship, which could in turn be shared with the Science Counselors and the European Commission (for national and European support/acknowledgement)

Outlook and long-term goal:

  • Creation of systematic/coordinated program that fosters connections between scientists of various European Diasporas currently in North America.