Sunday, 26 June 2016

Lighting a Candle


For most of June I've been travelling. I went up to Birmingham for the ARMA Conference, and then spent a week in Ghent with my team on an Erasmus+ exchange with colleagues at the University there. Finally, I was at the EARMA Conference in Lulea in Sweden last week.

And those three weeks brought home to me what a wonderful continent Europe is. From the vibrant, multi-cultural metropolis of Birmingham, to the cosmopolitan, relaxed and historic centre of Ghent, to the natural wonder of Lulea and the glittering archipelago of Stockholm: it is a diverse, open and inclusive continent, rich in history, but forward looking. 

Now you will have noticed that I included Birmingham as a natural part of Europe. Because to me it is: the UK is a part of Europe. Whilst the Channel is a geographic boundary, in all other ways the UK is strongly linked with the mainland. Economically, historically, culturally, environmentally, scientifically: on every level we are Europe. 

Which is why the Referendum result on Friday morning felt like a body blow. The messages, like telegrams, came in as I was driving back from Gatwick, from Stockholm, in the early hours, and the darkness that surrounded me felt foreboding.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Learning to Love Poor Success Rates, and the Future of European Funding

EARMA: awash with conference coffee
Conferences are strange beasts. They're slightly unreal. It might be all that conference coffee, and having large, formal meals at times when you're not used to having large, formal meals. It might be all the fractured conversations you have, or the sense of bewilderment as you try and find the Wellington Suite for the fourth parallel session of the day.

At the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators (EARMA) conference in Lulea this week the unreality was compounded by the fact that the sun never really sank below the horizon. And, whilst most of the speakers (myself included) stuck squarely to the script, some seemed to have been affected by the parallel reality of sub-Arctic Sweden.