SciMy Interview: Dr. Susanne Rentzow-Vasu (Euraxess Links ASEAN)

Interviewed by Juliana Ariffin

Dr Susanne Rentzow-Vasu
Dr Susanne Rentzow-Vasu

Dr Susanne Rentzow-Vasu is the Regional Representative for the EURAXESS Links ASEAN network, a pan-European network that promotes research cooperation between Europe and Southeast Asia. She also runs her own consultancy providing political analyses and risk assessments as well as project management services to her clients. She has previously headed the Information Centre Singapore of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as its Director from 2008 to 2012.

Susanne also held the post of Senior Policy Officer with the EU Delegation to Singapore. She holds a Master’s degree in European Union Studies from the University of Newcastle (UK) and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Wales Aberystwyth (UK).

Background

What is Euraxess and what does it offer?

EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion  is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the countries participating in the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research. The initiative provides access to a complete range of information and support services for European and non-European researchers wishing to pursue research careers in Europe or working with partners in Europe.

It offers access to the job market; assists researchers in advancing their careers in any of the 40 European countries that are part of EURAXESS, and supports research organisations in their search for outstanding research talent.

EURAXESS is a truly pan-European initiative, supported by 40 participating countries across Europe. It also has representation in six regions across the globe – ASEAN, Brazil, China, India, Japan, and North America.

There are four pillars to the project; EURAXESS Jobs is an online portal that lists open research positions and fellowship opportunities across Europe and the six EURAXESS Links hubs. EURAXESS centres is a network of over 700 people across Europe that offer free and personalised assistance to researchers and their families planning to relocate to Europe. EURAXESS Rights works towards the creation of better working conditions for researchers in Europe as well as removing legal obstacles to researcher mobility. Finally, EURAXESS Links connects Europe to the research communities in six international locations.

EURAXESS Science Slam Finals 2013 in Singapore. The event is an annual science communication competition that takes place each autumn with the winner traveling to Europe.
EURAXESS Science Slam Finals 2013 in Singapore. The event is an annual science communication competition that takes place each autumn with the winner traveling to Europe.

What is the motivation behind Euraxess?

Research and innovation are global activities that require co-operation between multiple partners in order to find more effective solutions with respect to global challenges such as lack of food and water, energy security or climate change. The mobility of researchers thus plays an important role, since it enables both research institutions and their individual researchers to broaden their horizons, to share experiences and knowledge and to learn different approaches to carrying out research. It is a win-win process in which everyone involved benefits.

The European Union has long recognised the importance of international cooperation in working towards a more sustainable and competitive society and economy. Beginning in 2000, the European Commission has already taken steps in this direction by creating the European Research Area (ERA), which is founded upon the mobility of researchers. Nonetheless, the European Union remains fully aware that ensuring that researchers are free to move within Europe is not sufficient on its own, providing researchers with the opportunity to interact and learn from their counterparts in other countries needs to be viewed within a global context for all partners to obtain full advantage of the benefits arising from such exchanges. EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion is dedicated to assisting European and non-European researchers wishing to pursue research careers in Europe or working with partners in Europe.

The winners of the EURAXESS Science Slam 2014 from Brazil, China, India, Japan and the US, pictures here at the German Space Agency in Germany
The winners of the EURAXESS Science Slam 2014 from Brazil, China, India, Japan and the US, pictures here at the German Space Agency in Germany

What fields of research does Euraxess Jobs provide information and opportunities for?

The EURAXESS Jobs portal lists job opening and funding opportunities in all academic disciplines and fields of research.

Is Euraxess Jobs aimed for only researchers with postgraduate degrees and those thinking of starting one?

EURAXESS Jobs lists opportunities for both, researchers who are just starting out their careers i.e. Masters Students and those with many years of research experience. Currently, almost 10.000 public and private research organisations and companies are publishing their job and funding opportunities on the EURAXESS Job portal.

Researchers from USM Penang at the ‘Pitch my Innovation’ competition that was held as part of the EURAXESS Links ASEAN conference in Singapore in November 2014.
Researchers from USM Penang at the ‘Pitch my Innovation’ competition that was held as part of the EURAXESS Links ASEAN conference in Singapore in November 2014.

What are the benefits of researchers using Euraxess rather than independently finding positions and funding, and travelling to Europe?

The benefit is that all the information is in one place. Instead of trawling through the websites of literally hundreds of funding bodies EURAXESS Jobs brings it all together in one portal. We are constantly expanding the portal by collaborating with other job platforms that provide a free-of-charge service to researchers. For example, EURAXESS Jobs has a partnership agreement with Naturejobs and jobs.ac.uk.

Are there any criteria for being able to use Euraxess’ services? i.e. do I have to be a citizen of an Euraxess Link country to receive Euraxess’ aid and utilise the opportunities provided?

No, all EURAXESS services are open to any researcher who is keen to pursue a research career in Europe. All services are free of charge.

Dr Jibby from Biotec Thailand winning the inaugural EURAXESS Science Slam ASEAN in Singapore in 2013. She went on to secure a Franco-Thai research fellowship to conduct research at Institut Pasteur in Paris.
Dr Jibby from Biotec Thailand winning the inaugural EURAXESS Science Slam ASEAN in Singapore in 2013. She went on to secure a Franco-Thai research fellowship to conduct research at Institut Pasteur in Paris.

I don’t speak English or other common European languages very well. Will Euraxess be able to help me?

Most opportunities offered in Europe do require a good command of the English language which – luckily for my colleague Simon Grimley, who is the current regional representative based in Bangkok, and I – is really not a hurdle to the research communities across ASEAN. English would also be necessary to communicate with the staff at the EURAXESS centres in the various European countries. However, the EURAXESS Links officers are a well-trained team  with most speaking the national language of their host country, for example our colleagues in Brazil, China and Japan are fluent in Portuguese, Mandarin and Japanese respectively.

What European countries can researchers aim to go to? Does Euraxess have stronger links or ties to certain countries?

EURAXESS is a pan-European initiative that is supported by 40 European members. Of course, some European countries might have more offers than others but all are equally represented.

As a researcher who is thinking of applying or is in the process of applying for a fellowship or position in Europe, at what stage of my application and move to Europe should I start getting in touch with Euraxess? How do I do so?

My advice would be to get in touch once you have a set of precise questions that you need assistance with. For example, if you have a job offer and you would like to get help with the visa application or with finding housing or childcare in the new location. The more precise you are with your questions the easier it will be for the EURAXESS staff to assist you.

If you do not yet have a job offer or you haven’t identified a fellowship programme that suits your purpose you can of course also contact EURAXESS. Again, it is important to be as precise as possible with your request. Ideally try to specify an institution or even an individual or a research group you wish to collaborate with before contacting the respective EURAXESS centres. Queries that are too generic are difficult to answer and that leads to frustration on both sides.

How will Euraxess help me with my move to a European country?

Currently, there are over 700 people working at more than 250 EURAXESS centres in 40 European countries. They assist researchers and their families in all matters relating to their professional and daily life. This includes information on immigration and legal issues, social security, health and taxes, everyday life as well as family support. To get a better idea I would encourage you to watch this youtube [1] clip that gives a good idea of the help that you could expect.

Does Euraxess Centres provide help for researchers after their move to the country, such as if they encounter later problems in settling in or fitting in?

Yes, of course. The EURAXESS centres staff will continue to look after international researchers after they have arrived in Europe and help them to settle in their new home.

How will Euraxess Rights help me if I am facing a problem with my rights at my new place of work/study in Europe?

EURAXESS Rights is one of the four pillars of the EURAXESS initiative. It seeks to make research an attractive career and aims to ensure that the researcher employer and researcher funder relationship is conducive to successful performance.

Central to the EURAXESS Rights is the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers [2], a set of general principles and requirements which specify the roles, responsibilities and entitlements of researchers as well as of employers and/or funders of researchers. It helps ensure better employment and working conditions and better careers for researchers throughout Europe.

Research institutions and funding organisations can gain recognition for promoting better research careers through the HR Excellence in Research Acknowledgement award. This is awarded by the European Commission for having made significant progress in implementing the principles of the Charter & Code.

A researcher who experiences problems at his or her place of work should first contact the relevant office at the institution he or she works. The EURAXESS centres network will also be happy to offer advice on how to address the problem.

I’m already working or studying in Europe with funding from an European foundation/institution, or have already completed my fellowship/studies. Is there any benefit in making contact with or using Euraxess for me?

Of course! Use the job portal to plan your next career move. Or you might want to use the jobs portal to identify research talent yourself, maybe for a research group you are setting up. Register with the EURAXESS Links ASEAN community and find potential collaborators, for example, when you are looking to put together a panel for a conference or you are planning to apply for a grant that requires a consortium of partners. If you have gone back to your home country which hosts a EURAXESS Links community do make sure to make use of the networking and training opportunities that are on offer.

Can researchers get involved with Euraxess? If so, how may we do so?

EURAXESS currently has representation in six international hubs. These EURAXESS Links networks are operated by ‘Country Representatives’ who keep the community members up-to-date on research events, funding programmes, jobs and collaboration opportunities in Europe and the respective Links hub and also organise a number of events.

EURAXESS Links ASEAN is managed by two regional representatives who are based in Bangkok (Simon Grimley), Thailand and in Singapore (Susanne Rentzow-Vasu) respectively. Simon and I frequently organise conferences, networking events and traveling workshops on hot topics including writing skills for successful grant application or effective science communication. Our flagship event is the annual science communication competition EURAXESS Science Slam. In 2014, Bhamini Bhujun, a doctoral candidate at Nottingham University Malaysia Campus, won the slam. We are currently working with our local partners to set up the 2015 edition of this great event!

I really enjoyed my experience working and moving abroad with the help of Euraxess and I’d like to spread the word. How can my local university in Malaysia get more connected with Euraxess?

Drop us an email and do invite us to give a talk at your university! My colleague Simon and I are always happy to visit research institutions across ASEAN to provide information on career and funding opportunities in Europe.

To find out how you can be part of the EURAXESS Links ASEAN network, please visit our website (http://ec.europa.eu/euraxess/), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EURAXESS.LINKS.ASEAN),or contact us via email [email protected]

This article first appeared in the Scientific Malaysian Magazine Issue 11. Check out other articles in Issue 11 by downloading the PDF version for free here: Scientific Malaysian Magazine Issue 11 (PDF version)



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