ITN review – Check meetings and how to prepare
On behalf of the European Commission, the Research Executive Agency (REA) administers all Marie Curie Sklodowska Actions, including Innovative Training Networks (ITN). Your ITN Project Coordinator usually is the single point of contact to the Project Officer (PO) assigned by the REA as POs have to handle multiple projects at once. They review the ITNs of which they are in charge in so-called check-meetings that take place around month 13 of the project to assess its progress. This check-meeting has replaced the former mid-term review meeting and is defined as a Milestone in the Description of Action (DoA), i.e. the Technical Annex of the EC Grant Agreement.
What is new – what stays the same?
Timing & Duration: Instead of a mid-term review meeting between month 22 and 26, the check-meeting already takes place around month 13 for a half to one full day.
Participants: Apart from the Project Officer, participation to the check-meeting is mandatory for all Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) involved in your project and the representatives from all Beneficiaries (Supervisors); welcomed are also the representatives of Partner Organisations hosting secondments for the ESRs. No longer present at the check-meeting are external scientific experts appointed by the REA. Programme: The programme of the check-meeting has also slightly changed from the former review meetings. It usually starts with a project overview by the coordinator, followed by short presentations by the ESRs on their individual projects. Furthermore, the programme includes a discussion between the Project Officer and the coordinator, as well as information on review results by the REA Project Officer. We have experienced that the programme is sometimes altered and the informative part by the PO already takes place at the beginning of the meeting. Programme points where the external experts have been involved have been dismissed, as did the Work Package presentations by the respective Work Package leaders, which results in a shorter duration of the check-meetings compared to the former mid-term reviews.
Focus: The focus of the meeting has shifted from general research progress to activities concerning the ESRs, such as recruitment, eligibility, and research and training start. The PO furthermore introduces the fellows’ rights and checks whether there have been deviations from the plan (e.g. due to delays in the recruitment process).
Feedback & Report: The Project Officer will give direct oral feedback after the meeting on the Progress Report by the consortium that has been handed in prior to the meeting and gives recommendations on the continuation of the project. The coordinator will receive the official written report within 2-4 weeks after the meeting.
Our checklist to support you
In order to prepare for the check-meeting and follow-up the Project Officers recommendations after the meeting we follow a simple but effective checklist to support you:
- Start collecting information on the project’s progress early on and continually to build your progress report.
- Organise the date and venue for the check-meeting.
- Include a preparatory day in advance of the actual check-meeting where ESRs can practise and get feedback from the consortium.
- Make sure that the Project Officer receives the Progress Report in M13 and at least two weeks before the meeting.
- Draft the agenda for the check-meeting along the guidelines.
- Help prepare the Coordinator’s project overview presentation.
- Advise ESRs on review requirements and expectations.
- Participation in the meeting by one of our staff involved in the project management and dissemination support.
- Evaluate the PO’s feedback from the check-meeting with the consortium.
ITN projects and accelopment
What started out back in 2008 during the 7th Framework Programme with the Initial Training Networks HEALING, SYSWIND, REFINE and TRAIN-ASAP as well as the NeoGel European Industrial Doctorates (EID) programme, has become a long history of supporting training networks since. Our success has not halted with the transition to Horizon 2020, in which we successfully support the Horizon 2020 European Training Networks (ETNs): ClickGene, EXCILIGHT, PEARRL, Train2Target, EuroNeurotrophin, ImmerSAFE and LightDyNAmics. Three more ITNs have just recently started: NanoCarb (ETN, 01.10.18 – 30.09.2022), STACCATO (EID, 01.01.2019 – 31.12.2022) and MUSIQ (ETN, 01.04.2019 – 31.03.2023). Our first role typically is to support the proposal writing and to execute the grant preparations with the EC. Then, during the project implementation, we work as a Partner Organisation assisting in project management tasks, coordinating the dissemination activities and/or contributing to the training activities with Transferable Skills Workshops.
More details are available on our website. Ask for any of our ITN experts Dr Jeanette Müller, Dr Johannes Ripperger or Mr Marco Cavallaro.