At the close of 2016, the European Commission celebrated 20 years of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. 2017 sees the MSCA support their 100,000th researcher, and the Actions continue to attract high numbers of applicants from across STEM and the Humanities in Europe and beyond.
I am the European Editor for Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, and I was fortunate enough to receive one of the MSCA Fellowships, under FP7 (2012-15). As an International Outgoing Fellow, I was given three years of funding to focus entirely on my research into European History. The ‘Outgoing’ phase of my project was based in the History Faculty at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts); Phase 2 (the ‘reintegration’ part of my fellowship) saw me return to my home institution, Brunel University in London, UK.
The assistance provided by the Fellowship was two-fold. First of all, it allowed me time – at a prestigious American university – to focus entirely on my research. It also meant that I could benefit from training programmes, in my case: language lessons and management training, via the American system. Secondly, it allowed me to refocus my work in a new direction. Previously, my work had looked primarily at English-language history. A solid amount of time spent honing my language skills, with time to familiarise myself with the Spanish and Portuguese holdings in the key collections at Harvard and elsewhere, enabled me to move my career in a new direction. I now teach and write about Anglo-Iberian relations and the press – a career swerve that would have been extremely difficult without the time and support afforded by the Fellowship.
My Fellowship Project was entitled: Reshaping the Black Legend – Conflict, Coalition and the Press in Early Modern Europe. Acronym: CONCOPRESS. Further details are available here: http://cordis.europa.eu/result/rcn/192071_en.html.
What are the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions?
Since 1996, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) have provided grants to train excellent researchers at all stages of their careers – be they doctoral candidates or highly experienced researchers – while encouraging transnational, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility. The programme is named after the double Nobel Prize winner Marie Skłodowska-Curie to honour and spread the values she stood for. The c. 100,000 researchers who have benefited from the programme include five Nobel laureates and an Oscar winner – and many projects (including my own) are in the field of Arts and Humanities (or cross-sector collaboration). So don’t be put off by the name: the MSCA are very keen to support the Arts and Humanities too!
20 years of MSCA: Celebrations in Brussels
I was very proud to be chosen to represent the Arts and Humanities at the European Commission’s celebration of 20 Years of the MSCA in Brussels, on 29 November 2016. Official speakers included Martine Reicherts (Director General of Education and Culture) and Tibor Navracsics (Commissioner of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport) but MSCA recipients filled the majority of the programme – showcasing their work funded under the Actions, via a series of TED-style talks. Research speakers were able to meet the day before the event and received training from the team who trained Barack Obama in public speaking, and – as always – the training opportunity was superb. The live-streamed event was an excellent chance to network and meet with policy officials, commissioners and other researchers, and our talks are now available to watch online: http://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/news-events/events/year/2016/1129-20-years-msca_en.htm
MSCA applications – from the UK and beyond
I am a British passport holder, and am acutely aware of how fortunate I am to have been funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. As the UK awaits the triggering of Article 50, and in light of Theresa May’s decision to withdraw the UK from the Single Market, it remains unclear if UK-based researchers will benefit fully from these Actions in the future. UK-based scholars interested in these Actions should follow announcements by the UK Research Office (UKRO) for further information. The UKRO is the European office of the UK Research Councils. It delivers a subscription-based advisory service for research organisations [in the main UK HEIs] and provides National Contact Point services on behalf of the UK Government. UKRO’s mission is to maximise UK engagement in EU-funded research, innovation and higher education activities.
If you are interested in applying for funding via the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, further details are available here: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/marie-sklodowska-curie-actions
My MSCA talk and my research
My talk for the MSCA celebrations was entitled ‘Text and Image: what are they good for?’ and it enabled me to relate my historical research to present-day interactions with printed text and images. My specialisms lie in the field of printed propaganda, and my Fellowship allowed me to undertake several outreach activities – with schoolchildren and with the general public. One of the excellent features of the MSCA Fellowships is that they encourage you to think about the ‘public worth’ of our research, and how our work can reach out to and help others.
In my talk I explored the use of text and image historically, and their use during the lead up to the EU Referendum in the UK and the American election in 2016. I also referenced the outreach work embedded into my fellowship, where I have worked with schoolchildren and young adults, to tackle stereotyping in the media. Questions afterwards stimulated some vibrant discussion about how to help young people navigate real/fake news in the media. It gave me a chance – in a room full of policy makers – to emphasise how important it is to encourage Humanities research if we are to stem the tide of hate speech and propaganda in the world today.
In the current climate within Europe and beyond, it is essential that we continue to promote our work in the Arts and Humanities to a wide audience, and that we engage with both our peers and our communities, to remind our societies – and our politicians – just how vital our work is to our local and global communities, and to undertake research-led teaching that inspires the next generation of scholars.
In my next entry on this blog, I will detail more work undertaken by Humanities scholars under the aegis of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.
Dr Elizabeth Evenden-Kenyon is a Senior Lecturer at Brunel University in London. See her webpage for contact details: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/people/elizabeth-evenden (You can also follow her on Twitter: @codexhistoria)
If you are a current recipient of an MSCA fellowship and have not yet joined their vibrant alumni association, see here for details: https://www.mariecuriealumni.eu/