Successful ERAfrica Annual Meetings in Bern, Switzerland, August 24-26, 2011

The picturesque Swiss city of Bern played host to the first combined meeting of the ERAFRICA Strategic Management Board (SMB) and Project Technical Committee (PTC) as well as to a parallel meeting of the project Scientific Advisory Council (SAC), all three entities tasked with assessing the progress of ERAFRICA thus far, as well as with the mapping of the project’s immediate future.

Bern, 24 – 26 August 2011

The picturesque Swiss city of Bern played host to the first combined meeting of the ERAFRICA Strategic Management Board (SMB) and Project Technical Committee (PTC) as well as to a parallel meeting of the project Scientific Advisory Council (SAC), all three entities tasked with assessing the progress of ERAFRICA thus far, as well as with the mapping of the project’s immediate future.

Organised by Elisabeth Schenker of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the three meetings were held at the SNSF headquarters not far from the old part of Bern, and proceedings unfolded with characteristic Swiss clockwork precision and smoothness. The SMB meeting occupied the whole of the first day, while the PTC and SAC meetings followed on days two and three, the entire event seeing participation from project members and advisors representing more than a dozen different countries and scientific institutions. In the quiet coolness of the meeting rooms, a welcome haven from the unusually warm summer sun, attendees were able to take stock of the first nine months of ERAFRICA operations and plan for the next phase in the project’s lifespan, all the while getting to know one another better and thus achieving a better sense of communality as part of our shared endeavour.

Appropriately coordinated by project coordinator Yves Savidan, the SMB and PTC meetings were very productive, as a series of presentations allowed the whole team to gain an appreciation of ERAFRICA activities and achievements thus far, as well as of work remaining to be done, particularly with regards to delayed and incomplete tasks. The meeting also served as a venue for reassessing the project calendar of events, with necessary adjustments made according to a more realistic timeline. As a result, the next few months of ERAFRICA operations will see the scheduled European briefing session in Brussels followed by a mini-PTC meeting in Lisbon, where preparations will be made for a joint position to be taken to Alexandria in the new year. There a meeting of interested stakeholders from all over Europe and Africa will determine the nature of ERAFRICA funded activities to follow. In addition the SMB and PTC meetings also provided an opportunity for partners involved in various individual tasks better to coordinate their efforts, particularly as far as activities around programme mapping and project communication are concerned.

Discussions were further enriched on the final day by a report-back to the group by the SAC, their parallel meeting having produced a few valuable suggestions, particularly regarding the determination of the project’s identity and the definition of a strategy for creating its own niche in order to set itself apart from similar endeavours. A lively question and answer session with our expert advisors allowed for a number of interesting views to emerge, while the entire event provided a much-needed injection of urgency and purpose into the consortium as a whole. As a result, the three days of meetings concluded in a spirit of renewed vigour and focus sure to have a very positive impact on ERAFRICA in the days and months ahead.

Added together, the frank and fruitful discussions in a lovely setting, the good fellowship around dinner tables and conversations running late into the night all resulted in a most enjoyable and productive time, with the project to reap the benefits in terms of better results and a greater significance.
Until next year.

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