The end of September 2023 also marked the official end of the MOSAICS project, funded by the European Commission as the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Industrial Doctorate (EID) titled “Hearing Matters: European Industrial Doctorate to train experts in auditory implants for minimised outcome spread and maximized participation in society”. Led by its two beneficiaries Cochlear Benelux NV and the Radboud university medical center, MOSAICS brought together ten partners from seven European countries, creating a unique research synergy between academia, industry and patient associations. With the key aim of improving the quality of life of cochlear implant (CI) recipients, the results of the MOSAICS project are set to pave the way for their uptake into further research and development of product, diagnostic and care improvements for cochlear implant users.
For individuals where hearing aids do not provide functional hearing, cochlear implantation is the intervention of choice. CIs provide significant improvements in speech understanding, hearing performance, and quality of life. However, large individual differences and unexplained variability in post-implantation outcomes continue to be reported. At the core of MOSAICS’ research were four early-stage researchers (ESRs) who each conducted their individual yet complementary projects within the framework of MOSAICS and towards the obtainment of their Doctoral Degree from Radboud University. Their research has been focusing on four key domains to better understand outcome variability in adult CI performance: (1) Objective measures (ESR1 Ignacio Calderon de Palma), (2) Neurocognitive measures (ESR2 Loes Beckers), (3) Societal impact (ESR3 Nikki Philpott), and (4) Fitting (ESR4 Enrico Migliorini).
The ESRs presented the latest results of their work during a dedicated MOSAICS session at the 11th International Symposium on Objective measures in auditory implants (OMAI 2023) held in Antwerp, Belgium between the 25th and 28th September. This marked the project’s final event and the first time that junior researchers, collaborating in an EID project, had the opportunity to bring their learnings on the OMAI stage. But the closing of MOSAICS is not accompanied by the end of its research. Indeed, the MOSAICS ESRs are set to complete their PhDs during the course of the coming year, towards which they will continue their research and still have many results from their work within MOSAICS that will be shared at conferences and in peer-reviewed scientific journals over the coming months.
During the course of MOSAICS, the ESRs had the opportunity to not only focus on their research but to do so collaborating with partners across Europe that provided them with research secondments and exposure to different working environments and laboratories, interaction and exchange with patients, as well as training in technical and transferable skills. When asked three questions about their experience in the MOSAICS project, this is what the ESRs had to say:
What was your major learning from the experience as an early-career researcher in the MOSAICS EID?
ESR1 Ignacio: It’s often inadequate to approach problems from a single perspective. We should encourage more collaboration across diverse disciplines. By blending ideas from various fields, we’re more likely to discover innovative solutions.
ESR2 Loes: Of course there were many learnings, but most of all I got to experience research approaches in different research institutes and within the industry, through which I learned more about how and why different choices are made when doing research.
ESR3 Nikki: It can be easy to get lost in the “what” and “how” of your research, and forget about the “who” and “why”. MOSAICS has continuously reminded me that our research is about and for real people, in the real-world, with very real lived experience. The research we do in the lab and clinic, often behind a computer screen, is meaningless if we don’t circle it back to the people involved in our research, their communication partners and support systems who walk the journey with them, and their daily environments.
ESR4 Enrico: I have learned exactly what research entails: the organization of a clinical trial has been by far the most challenging part of the PhD, and the biggest source of learning.
What would you say was a highlight/favourite aspect for you of being part of the MOSAICS EID?
ESR1 Ignacio: Collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds toward a common goal.
ESR2 Loes: Through MOSAICS I broadened my expertise about hearing loss and had the chance to learn about the broad scope of issues that accompany it. It is a topic that I truly care about and I would love to keep working on in the future.
ESR3 Nikki: Around twice a year, we held MOSAICS Research Days where all four ESRs presented their learnings from the past 6 months and a brief look at what lay ahead. It was always a really great opportunity to have all supervisors and ESRs in one room: sharing, connecting with and supporting each other. They felt like real “research family” moments, where you left feeling grateful, challenged and inspired.
ESR4 Enrico: I enjoy the bonding that formed between us ESRs, especially as we were working on joint projects. Connecting with people was an opportunity for personal growth.
Do you think your research has benefitted from being part of an MSCA-EID, and if so in what ways?
ESR1 Ignacio: Yes, it represented my initial steps within the academic world and provided me with tools to understand the problematic from both an academic and industrial perspective.
ESR2 Loes: As this project has a diverse network, it was easier to approach people with different kinds of knowledge and insights, through which the research was evaluated from different angles, broadening my perspectives.
ESR3 Nikki: Absolutely! It’s been a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of industry and how this ultimately translates to clinical care. Seeing the corporate side of the medical device industry has been an eye-opener into how technological advancements take years to come to market, and how this trajectory involves teamwork from such a diverse group of people. From the academic standpoint, it’s been a steep but incredible learning curve seeing how much work goes into setting up clinical studies. I’ve learned so much from our research participants and I’m so grateful for their willingness to be part of our research – you really feel like you’re learning together.
ESR4 Enrico: The overlapping of academia and research has been enlightening, letting me understand the pros and cons of both environments. Having experienced both worlds, I now know more about what direction I want my career to take.
With this candid testimonial from the ESRs, we hope to have shared some insights into just how important the MOSAICS project has been in terms of collaboration and joint research and training efforts. A big thank you goes to all partners involved: Cochlear Benelux NV (Belgium) for the project coordination, industry research direction and supervision of the ESRs; Radboud university medical centre (Netherlands) for the academic and clinical research direction and supervision of the ESRs; Artinis Medical Systems BV and Trinity College Dublin for secondment hosting, research collaboration and supervision to ESR1; the Hannover Medical School for secondment hosting, research collaboration and supervision to ESR2; the Ida Institute and Amsterdam University Medical Center for secondment hosting, research collaboration and supervision to ESR3; Maastricht University for secondment hosting, research collaboration and supervision to ESR4; Euro-CIU for bringing the patient perspective to the heart of MOSAICS through open exchange with all ESRs, and providing an important platform for outreach; accelopment Schweiz AG (Switzerland) for the support with administration, communication, dissemination and exploitation, and for providing training in transferable skills to all ESRs.
The academia-industry collaboration within MOSAICS has also paved the way to news ideas waiting to take shape. While the end of this project closes a chapter, the collaborations and the team’s passion towards patient-centred care will certainly not halt, keeping research towards the improvement of the quality of life for CI users a priority for their next endeavors.
Follow the ESRs on LinkedIn (links in the infographic above) to keep up to date with their latest results, next research and career steps! Watch this space for the project’s latest publications and conference contributions, or consult the dedicated community area Minimizing Outcome Spread and Maximizing Participation in Society on the Zenodo repository.