Era-Link: a Growing Bridge Across the Atlantic

bridges vol. 9, April 2006 / News from Brussels
by Alessandro Damiani

ERA-Link is a network of European researchers working in the United States (ERA in this case stands for European Researchers Abroad). It was launched at the beginning of 2005 to help our expatriate scientists and scholars connect with one another and stay in touch with the scientific community in Europe.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} One year later ERA-Link is rapidly growing out of its infancy. Membership - which is free of charge - has been skyrocketing since the beginning of this year, with hundreds of new registrations pouring in every month, mainly in response to an information campaign developed by the Commission Delegation in Washington and several European Member States, including Austria. Three thousand members may be a small proportion of a constituency that is more than 100,000 strong, but it's a promising start and the trend is very encouraging. The members of the network receive periodical e-mail alerts on events, funding, mobility, and job openings in Europe. The ERA-Link web pages are regularly updated with information on science policy developments as well as on opportunities to do research with or at European institutions.

Started with a very small "seed" budget, the initiative has now been granted additional funds under the Human Resources chapter of the 6th Framework Program. According to the plans of the organizers, this should allow a steady pace of growth over the next two years. The projected developments include a newsletter for the members, upgrading the website with more information and new services and networking features, a renewed outreach campaign, a number of meetings and events across the US, and a more structured participation in career fairs.

For the longer term, the development of ERA-Link is solidly anchored in the next planning cycle of European research. The Commission proposal for FP7, in fact, provides that "the networking of researchers from Member States and associated countries abroad will also be supported with a view to keeping them actively informed about and involved in developments in the European Research Area." This should eventually enable ERA-Link to become an effective tool for conveying information, for networking, and for the career development of European researchers in the US and elsewhere. In the future, it may function as a broker for the supply and demand of knowledge, with the help of incentives to facilitate collaboration with researchers in Europe and encourage the pursuit of scientific careers in Europe.

On the horizon, there is a vision of a flourishing community of scholars, scientists, and engineers who are:
- well informed about European advances and policy developments;
- do not represent a loss, but are a potential asset for their home countries and for Europe as a whole; and
- constitute a vital bridge of circulation, exchange, and collaboration between Europe and the rest of the world.

If ERA-Link is successful, it will help the expatriate researchers broaden their career prospects and pursue their professional goals. At the same time, it will contribute to improving Europe's position in the global competition for talent.

The author, Alessandro Damiani, has been Head of the Science, Technology and Education section at the Delegation of the European Commission in Washington, DC since September 2002.

For more information:
To become a member of ERA-Link: