The Young Academy of Europe: 10 years supporting science advice and policy

The Young Academy of Europe, an independent network of new principal investigators across Europe, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. On this post they list key achievements from a decade of making the voice of European young scholars heard for science advice and policy.
The Young Academy of Europe: 10 years supporting science advice and policy

Creating a pan-European Young Academy

Young Academies work to support the careers of junior researchers, to get their voices heard by policy-makers, and to advocate for evidence-based science advice. Such networks existed at the national level for some time, providing a younger generation’s perspective to national-level issues (Bálint et al., 2021). Just over ten years ago, a group of newly funded grant holders at the European level (mostly recent ERC Starting Grantees) discussed their vision for the creation of a pan-European young academy, the possible routes towards establishing such a network, as well as its aims and areas of priority. These discussions culminated in the formal establishment of the Young Academy of Europe (YAE) as an independent association of leading young researchers in Europe at a constitutive meeting held in Brussels on 7-8 December 2012. That month the YAE also established a partnership with the Academia Europaea, and since 2019 we are a registered charity organisation in Germany.

Mission and membership of the YAE

The YAE is organised as a bottom-up initiative of a dynamic and innovative group of recognised European young scholars with outspoken views about science and science policy. Our mission is focused on (but not limited to) the following main aims and activities:

  • Science policy and evidence-based policy: We act as a voice for young researchers by actively reaching out to policymakers, seeking to influence science policy and contribute to the development of a European science agenda for the coming decades. The YAE endorses evidence-based policy across all European countries; our membership comprises internationally recognised scientists and scholars across all disciplines seeking to actively contribute their expertise towards this goal.
  • Networking: Efficient communication of the activities of the YAE is a key component to strengthening solidarity and networking amongst excellent young researchers in Europe, to create an information pool, share experience, give feedback, provide active support to colleagues across Europe and to future generations of leading researchers.
  • Science Communication: The YAE encourages young researchers to communicate their research to the general public in Europe, emphasising scientific and scholarly issues which affect society, quality of life and standards of living.
  • Interdisciplinary Exchange: We aim to function as a European platform fostering interdisciplinary and international scientific exchange, collaboration, and knowledge transfer among our members.
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI): We seek to raise awareness on the importance of EDI, and to widen participation across Europe and across research domains. To this end we also actively recruit members from under-represented disciplines and countries.

Researchers can apply to join the YAE within 12 years of their PhD award (with extensions for  parental leave, for example), and typically lead their own independent research group. We currently have 164 members + 109 alumni, covering most European states and affiliated countries, across all disciplines.

What are some of the YAE key achievements?

Over the past 10 years, the YAE has seen a steep growth in its impact, reach and membership. Important activities and initiatives include:

  • YAE Prize: First introduced in 2017 and renamed in 2019 to the ‘André Mischke YAE Prize for Science and Policy’ in honour of the YAE Founding Chair, André Mischke, this prize is awarded annually to early/mid-career professionals in recognition of their outstanding achievements and contributions to key areas of the YAE.
  • Horizon 2020 CALIPER grant: The YAE is a beneficiary of this EU-funded project aiming to support research performing and research funding organisations across Europe to design, implement, evaluate and expand gender equality plans and tackle gender inequalities. As part of this project, the YAE runs a series of role model interviews, and a survey in 2020 to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings highlighted the need to reform the reward and recognition system to help mitigate the further inequalities driven by the pandemic-related lockdowns (Swider-Cios et al. 2021). We recently partnered with the Academia Europaea Cardiff Knowledge Hub to jointly deliver the project.
  • Young Academies for Science Advice Structure (YASAS): YASAS currently comprises 15 young academies in Europe, and soon it will hopefully directly represent early-career academics in the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism by joining the new Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA+) project. The YAE played a key role in the initiation and set-up of YASAS over the past few years, is represented in the YASAS Board and will act as its legal entity in the new SAPEA+.
  • Task forces: 2021 saw the launch of the member-led YAE Task Forces, by which YAE members work together on a specific topic, including Transdisciplinary Research, Science Outreach, and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion.
  • Widening participation: Key recent activities include, for example, an online webinar on the implications of the cOAlition S’ Rights Retention Strategy for EU13 and Associated Countries. Furthermore, over the past two years we have also organised live mentoring events for researchers in EU13 countries intending to apply for an ERC Starting Grant. The 2020 mentoring event focussed on grant writing, and the 2021 edition (in partnership with the Academia Europaea Budapest Knowledge Hub) focussed on how research funding evaluation panels work and provided tips on what can make a proposal successful. The recordings are available on our YouTube channel.
  • Policy for science: As part of our mission to influence science policy, some of our key activities have involved a highly-influential survey highlighting the need to protect young scholars from the high workloads and stress at this career stage (Susi et al., 2019), and from the impact of the COVID-19 related research shutdowns (Husby & Modinos, 2020). We are also very active in advocating for Open Science, and the need to reform how research careers are evaluated (https://youtu.be/kKl9fmNPZfI).
  • Collaboration: We collaborate closely with the Academia Europaea and with European National Young Academies. We are also proud of our close collaboration with the Initiative for Science in Europe and the work on open science and researchers’ evaluation we do as part of this cooperation. Equally, we highly value our close interactions with other European-wide networks for young scholars at earlier career stages, namely EuroDoc and MCAA (Marie Curie Alumni Association).

Currently, the YAE is preparing for the kick-off of the new SAPEA+ project, organising a series of monthly webinars with research talks from our members to celebrate our 10th anniversary, a seminar on the roles that young scientists can play in European science advice, and participating in the European Commission’s Core Group on Reforming Research Assessment. We believe the above initiatives are a testament to the tangible impacts that young scholars can make in the wider science policy arena, and should reinforce the view that change is possible if we speak up and reach out.

This post was co-written by Gemma Modinos, King's College London, UK (Chair, YAE), Katalin Solymosi, Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary(Vice-Chair, Recruitment Committee, YAE) and Anna Kuppuswamy, University College London, UK (Vice-Chair, Selection Committee, YAE).

References

  1. Bálint E, Csuka D, Venglovecz V, Schlosser G, Lázár Z, Gselmann E, Alpár D & Solymosi K. (2021). Six reasons to launch a Young Academy. Nature 594, 599-601. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01682-9
  2. Husby A & Modinos G. (2020). Support early-career researchers for post-pandemic prospects. Nature 580, 185. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-01031-2
  3. Susi T, Shalvi S & Srinivas M. (2019). ‘I’ll work on it over the weekend’: high workload and other pressures faced by early-career researchers. Nature. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01914-z
  4. Swider-Cios E, Solymosi K & Srinivas M. (2021). Why science needs a new reward and recognition system. Nature 595, 751-753. doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01952-6

Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash