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A win-win-win situation

Trude Fonneland had never applied for an EU grant but went for it and secured herself and her research group both a new colleague and new projects.

A group lined ip for a picture in a forest
Trude Fonneland and Laura Junka-Aikio (nr 5 and 4 from the right) with their research group. Photo: Private
Portrettbilde av Rydland, Kjetil
Rydland, Kjetil
Published: 13.12.21 14:57 Updated: 26.01.22 14:45
About UiT

– At first, I thought this would be very demanding and time consuming. But it’s the simplest process I’ve been part of, Trude Fonneland says.

She’s a professor of cultural studies at The Arctic University Museum, specializing in ethnology, contemporary religion, and tourism, often in a Sami context. In 2019 her application for an EU grant through the MSCA program was approved, bringing in both a new colleague and a two-year project.

Portrait of a woman with dark hair and a floral dress
Trude Fonneland Foto: Gaute Lien

– I had never applied for an EU-grant, and I assumed the application process was really complicated. But I already had a great candidate who was lacking funds, so I thought I’d just give it a go, Fonneland says.

Internal, preperatory program

MSCA, or The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, are the EU reference programmes for doctoral and postdoctoral education. UiT The Arctic University of Norway run its own internal Arctic MSCA programme, which connects supervisors at UiT (professors or associate professors) with international postdoctoral candidates who can contribute to UiT projects. The candidates then, with the assistance of the supervisor, write the application for project funding.

Do it! You’ll get so much in return!

The application deadline for the EU programmes is in fall, but the UiT preparatory Arctic MSCA kicks off with a deadline on January 14th, 2022. The application to UiT is very brief, with just 5 points to fill out.

– It’s almost like a letter of intent, says Theresa Mikalsen. She is a Senior Advisor for External EU Funding, and runs the Arctic MSCA together with colleague Kata Bohus.

Find your dream candidate

When the UiT supervisors have been picked, the process of finding great postdoctoral candidates begins. The supervisors pick the candidates they think are a good march for them and their project. Then they all meet at a symposium at Campus Tromsø in June 2022. This is where they start defining their project and learn how to write a great application for the MSCA.

– We really want the highly competent researchers at UiT to see how useful this is, and that it’s not particularly complex or time consuming. We will back them up all the way, Mikalsen promises.

Fonneland can’t praise Mikalsen and her team enough:

– They have been an amazing support! They made the process manageable and have been great partners, she says.

Building strong academic environments

Camilla Brekke is Pro-Rector for Research and Development. She says it is a concentrated effort from UiT to bring international research talents to the world’s northernmost university:

Portrait of a woman in a yellow coat.
Camilla Brekke, Pro-rector for Research and Development, reccomends applying. Foto: UiT / David Jensen

– We need the brightest heads and diverse mindsets to advance our research, she says.

Brekke is impressed with the Arctic MSCA programme, especially with how well the participants are being supported. She underlines how important it is that UiT is proactive in its efforts towards the European Union.

– Horizon Europe, which MSCA is part of, is an extremely important arena for UiT. We are planning to get considerable grants from that programme, and to continue to build strong academic environments. I highly recommend our researchers who wish to supervise and recruit excellent post doctors to apply, Brekke says.

The world's best researchers

Marit Westergaard is a professor at the Department of Culture and Language and will soon be welcoming her fifth MSCA postdoc to Tromsø. Her research group, AcqVA (Acquisition, Variation & Attrition), has had 10 postdoctoral candidates in total. She thinks that is a large contributing factor to AcqVA having become a UiT Aurora Centre and competing to be a Norwegian Centre of Excellence next year.

– The MSCA programme is a continuous and solid process, which ensures that the participants are among the best researchers in the world. To get access to that competence can have an immense effect on a research group. And you’ll see the effects quickly – for the postdocs, the supervisors, and the quality of research, she says.

Many positive effects

Fonneland was an inexperienced EU-applicant, but not anymore. When she got her EU grant approved, the University Museum secured an excellent researcher in Finnish Laura Junka-Aikio and in addition her research project INREPOSA. But the MSCA application has had many other positive effects:

How to apply:

If you are interested in strengthening your research group with a talented postdoc, you’ll find more information about the Arctic MSCA programme, including the application form here. The application deadline is January 14th, 2022.

– We are a relatively small research group, but we now have more knowledge of supervision, more experience with internationalisation, a larger international research network, increased visibility and Junka-Aikio also got a new project approved by The Research Council of Norway, so now we’re adding one more postdoctoral candidate to our group, she says.

Fonneland adds that they are even better equipped to apply for additional EU grants. A situation with many winners, in other words.

– Do you recommend others to apply to Arctic MSCA?

– Yes, absolutely! Do it! You’ll get so much in return, Fonneland says with encouragement.

Graphics from MSCA

Rydland, Kjetil
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