Karen, in her own words – I am a former chemist with an interest in policy that affects researchers as well as a research background that can inform policy. Originally from Belgium, I moved to the UK five years ago to work in Cambridge as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie post-doctoral fellow. I have since transitioned to a full-time career in policy and am currently Science Policy Unit Lead at the Royal Society of Chemistry. I joined MCAA in 2016 and since 2018 have been vice-chair of the MCAA policy working group, where I’ve been able to share insights from my experience as a policy professional.
FORMER VICE-CHAIR OF THE MCAA POLICY WORKING GROUP
Karen’s association with the MCAA started in 2016, when she attended her first General Assembly in Salamanca (Spain) and became aware of the MCAA’s activities.
She then became involved with the association when she was elected vice-chair of the Policy Working Group. She was happy to contribute. “I am known by colleagues as someone who shares insights, knowledge and connections generously. I have advised on tone and language, and provided tips and tricks for effective policy writing with many members of the Policy Working Group,” she explains.
She developed a good collaboration with Fernanda Bajanca, who was the chair of the working group and who has become one of the MCAA Board’s vice-chairs. “Fernanda had really given the group great momentum, lots was happening, and my contribution was ensuring that more professional and effective outputs were consistently developed by the group. I have also provided advice on issues that I work on now or have worked on professionally, including research culture and open science,” says Karen. Our interviewee also had the opportunity to represent the MCAA and present its views on topics such as the new framework for the European Research Area.
THE VOICE OF RESEARCHERS
Karen realised the potential of the association when she attended the 2016 General Assembly. “The MCAA has grown a lot since then, and the previous board deserves much credit for the important work it has done, increasingly engaging with stakeholders, including policymakers at the EU level,” she says enthusiastically.
Now that she is an Ordinary Board Member, Karen will focus her strategy on “further building on this strong foundation, to ensure the MCAA is increasingly recognised as the voice for researchers in the policy landscape.”
COMMITMENTS AS AN ORDINARY BOARD MEMBER
Karen has already been involved in volunteer organisations and will use this experience in her activities as an ordinary board member of the MCAA. As she says: “I have a lot to offer, and I will support the MCAA in any way I can. I have previously been president and vice-president of volunteer organisations, and of course I’ve picked up a thing or two on governance of non-profit organisations during my professional life, working for large member organisations such as the Royal Society, London and Royal Society of Chemistry. I will definitely use this knowledge to contribute to improving MCAA’s governance and member engagement.”
She also suggests that the MCAA should develop its own voice in science policy, the area of informing decision-makers about relevant scientific evidence (for example on coronavirus or climate change). She will also focus on a toolkit to enable MCAA members to write effective policy documents related to their area of expertise as “part of a broader suite of tools for continued researcher development,” she concludes.
First featured in the Marie Curie Alumni Association Newsletter in April 2020