EARMA digital conference 2021

A short summary

Published at 2021-04-21 by Paul Tuinenburg

Due to Covid, the yearly EARMA conference went digital this year. Between April 14 and April 20 there was a full program of keynotes, workshops, networking and social events. This year, was special. Not just because it was an online conference, but also because we are on the brink of the start of Horizon Europe. Impacter joined the conference and wrote a short blog about the main takeaway’s.

With Impacter we focus on the impact chapter in grant proposals, so naturally we were most interested in the pre-award and the impact sessions on the conference. On the first day the focus was mainly on the new Horizon framework program with a few interesting insights for our Impacter users. Especially Pillar 2 in the framework program is closely linked to EU policy regarding a wide range of topics. It is therefor crucial to know who was involved in writing the topics, because it gives you, as a submitter of a proposal, the context for the call. The work programs describe the impact the European Commission is looking for, including links to the policy documents which contains the expert groups that were involved in the development of the work program. Most interesting fact here is that the policy references in these work programs are very much inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Precisely the reason why we developed an SDG classifier in order for every user of Impacter to know to which of the SDG’s there proposal links most. Another interesting tip here was to always check for old projects that are related to the calltopic one is applying for to have a clear overview of similar projects in your field that were already funded by the European Commission in the past. An analysis that can easily be done using the ‘prior art search’ functionality in Impacter, which is already one of the most popular analyses we offer in the platform.

In the pre-award sessions many topics were discussed. The increasing importance of open science and the additional obligations relating to this. The meta research about the role of evaluators and the way they view proposals is particularly worth mentioning. Interesting outcome here was the fact that the presence of weaknesses in the proposal was a better predictor of success than the lacking of strengths! Which is again exciting for Impacter users since the tool mostly focuses on finding weaknesses. Finally worth mentioning is the struggle researchers have in the writing phase with impact as a concept. Even in such a way that grant offices are developing toolkits to support their researchers in streamlining their thinking on societal impact. Which brings us to the impact session during EARMA where we deep dived into these issues. Interestingly enough, a large survey amongst academics revealed the still unclear definition of societal impact for many academics. The good news is that a majority wants to have more societal impact, but the bad news is that many still believe working with other scientist and publishing academic papers is the best way of doing so. Especially with the maturing of the concept of impact in the last couple of years it is increasingly important to go beyond the standard promises in proposals about organizing a workshop for peers. Everyone agreed on that, and a whole range of tooling was presented on how to support academics in making more specific and clear statements about their potential societal impact.

But it was not just content in the last week. In the beer tasting we found out to have purchased the wrong Budweiser to participate in the online tasting. We bought the American Budweiser, but with the conference originally being planned for Prague it should obviously have been the Budweiser Budvar from the Czech brewery. And it couldn’t be stressed enough by the Czech beer sommeliers that the Czech Budweiser Budvar is the original Budweiser, duly noted! The pubquiz was challenging, but learned us that everyone was a winner since we all won access to a recreation workshop during the next EARMA. So see you all there!