Marie Curie Scholarship in Blue economy: the perspective of a successful grant-writer

While I was nearing the end of my PhD it was clear to me that it was going to be essential to make my CV more competitive and to find a fellowship that would strengthen my position as researcher in the future. To be honest, I was confused about what type of fellowship I could apply to at my stage. It was only by chance that I heard about the Marie Curie Actions fellowships. This grant embodied for me not only a  prestigious source of funding but also the opportunity to combine career advancement and quality of life: conducting independent research and thus developing an independent way of thinking combined with the opportunity to go back to my home country with an attractive salary while being close to my family.

I prepared my application with the same care and attention as someone who is preparing equipment before a deep dive. I spent almost two months (full time) defining my project, but even beyond that, the application must be carefully prepared. Many criteria look very similar but they have a different focus depending on whether they are, for instance, in the ‘implementation’ or the ‘impact’ sections. I found that part particularly difficult. One time I realized exactly what information I needed to include in the various sections of the application, the inherent nature of the project and the quality of host organization gave me a strong background from which developed an “impact” criteria adequately detailed. I also had access to a library of successful and unsuccessful applications from which learn from others’ mistakes. The preparation of the application certainly takes time, but it is a rewarding experience both scientifically and for grant writing in the future.

The scientific quality and previous experience managing others Marie Curie fellows were fundamental criteria in choosing the host institution. I received support writing the application from my supervisor Stefano Piraino; a researcher at the host department. Having Stefano in the same room while working on the application was important because helped me to share ideas and to identify things that were important to include in the application. He showed me, for instance, all the available infrastructures which the institute would provide to me, how to emphasize my skills and how to elaborate a detailed work plan; all of which are things that I think helped to convince the evaluators we were serious. This was my first experience applying for a grant for a scientific project and his help was fundamental!!

From the Marie Curie fellowship, I expect to get the opportunity to carry out my preferred research in an inspiring setting, to establish a large network of international colleagues, which will definitely enhance my professional aspirations. Moreover, the follow-up process of the fellowship, i.e. management and reporting, will allow me to learn a bit more about research funding and the process of grant developing and writing. It is a tremendous opportunity and I am glad I can have the chance to benefit from this fellowship.

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Lorena Basso
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