FIT FORTHEM joins forces with EARMA

by participating in the Exploratory Group Towards A European Universities Initiative Thematic Group

This will be a very personal blog post reflecting my individual perceptions rather than just factual information, and I apologize for that in advance. As an EU Liaison Officer at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, and as a career changer with a keen interest in professionalizing research management, I joined EARMA (European Association for Research Managers and Administrators) in 2017. As soon as in 2019 I was admitted to  the Professional Development and Recognition Committee and elected Vice Chair in 2020.

For two years I had the greatest pleasure to work with highly trained and motivated people from whom I learned a lot. The manifold opportunities to exchange with hundreds of research managers from all over Europe and the world at the EARMA conferences in 2018 and 2019 in Brussels and Bologna and in 2022 in Oslo have overwhelmed me, and my enthusiasm for international exchange was inflamed more than ever before. On top of that, the colleagues at EARMA follow the same trends and are always enthusiastic and fun to work with giving this giant organization a family atmosphere. Last but not least, at the EARMA conferences I always got the chance to meet members of the European Commission and policy officers, as well as ‘heavyweights’ in European research funding such as Sean McCarthy and his daughter Sylvia, who make brilliant contributions to the community every year.

All that I am not sharing here to advertise a membership in EARMA, but to explain why I was so much interested to get EARMA involved in FIT FORTHEM WP2 related to interculturality and professionalization in research management. The first step was to invite EARMA representatives to our workshop on ‘Research Management as a Profession’ on December 14, 2021.

Having started to work with FORTHEM in 2020 and acting as managing coordinator for FIT FORTHEM since 2021, I had to put my contacts to many EARMA colleagues  on hold due to the pandemic and travel restrictions. I only met many of them in person again at the annual EARMA conference in Oslo with more than 1000 participants in May 2022. Only there did I realize that many of them – as myself – are suddenly heavily involved in the work of the 41 European Universities Networks and their respective organizations.  It took me only an instant to identify many topics of the Oslo Conference that appear to be relevant for our future work in research and research management at FORTHEM.

Already in March 2022, on the occasion of an invitation to all Swafs-projects of the alliances and the subgroups research of FOR EU 1 and 2, I was pleased to recognize that EARMA is interested in intensifying its exchange with the alliances. At a subsequent meeting with the alliances on May 19, 2022, onsite in Brussels, we suggested establishing a thematic working group of the alliances' research managers with EARMA as an umbrella organization,. The speakers of this event included Stijn Delauré (European Commission, DG R&I, R&I Actors and Research Careers), Eleonora Zuolo (Sorbonne Université), John Donovan (Technological University Dublin), as well as Doris Alexander (Associate Director of European Engagement, Trinity College Dublin, CHARM-EU Alliance, FOR EU1 R&I subgroup).

The tasks of this soon-to-be established thematic group could be, for example, to continue stimulating the exchange with the European Commission, to jointly set topics for further professionalization in research management of the alliances, and to strengthen the position of research and the research support units within the alliances. Obviously, these are for the moment some tentative  ideas. The group is just about to be officially launched and set their priorities.

FIT FORTHEM as a project, and me as managing coordinator,  expressed our interest to be part of the core team of the group, as we are convinced that with EARMA as a collaborator and facilitator we can take further  steps towards an even better integration of research topics in the overall work of the alliances. We could be proposing  ever closer and more integrative approaches when it comes to education, research, innovation and environmental engagement at alliance levels.

Besides this, EARMA may also facilitate access to very diverse stakeholder groups at European level and give FORTHEM, as any of the other alliances, another anchor point in Brussels and another platform for joining forces in Europe. I intend to keep providing more information on the activities of this group as soon as concrete actions have been planned.

Nicole Birkle, JGU FIT FORTHEM Managing Coordinator


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