Young Researchers Workgroup: overview 2000-2012

Young Researchers Workgroup planned activities for 2010-2012

ERA policies in the field of the career development of researchers will continue to be developed, and implemented in partnership with EU member states, according to the timing and the decisions taken under the aegis of the so called Ljubljana Process. We will seek to remain informed on the development of these policies, and we will keep the Governing Board abreast of them, in particular with a view to taking positions and starting initiatives. We will maintain our contacts with the Commission (DG Research and DG Education and Culture) on these issues, and we will take part in the forthcoming Conference “Career and Mobility of the Researcher” in the calendar of the Belgian Presidency of the EU.

We will contribute to a round table on “Shaping the future of Marie Curie actions” at a Marie Curie Conference organised by DG Education and Culture in Brussels on the 9-10 of December 2010.

A specific position of EuroScience on a piece of EU policy under development is already planned, regarding the issuing of comments to a “European Research Career structure” document prepared by a WG of the Steering Group for Human Resources and Mobility meeting at the Commission (in the context of the ERA Governance and policy work). Deadline is fixed for the 1st of February 2011.
Information on the ERA policies in this field will be provided to those members asking for it; general references will be given in the web pages of the WG.
We will also touch upon issues related to the wider scope of the WG, namely research evaluation and researchers appraisal, pursuing activities depending on situations – an invitation as speaker/discussant at a Seminar in Oxford on 9 November 2010 has been already accepted.

Contacts with other stakeholders in the field (ESF, EUA, Eurodoc, MCFA, etc.) will be maintained and further strengthened.
We will propose and promote the setting up of a forum for young researchers in the form of a social network meeting place, aimed at young researchers, people working with issues related to young researchers, and young persons interested in research, to share ideas and information (see attachment for more detailed information).

We will propose and discuss the possibility of setting up of a specific Fellowship programme for researchers, to educate and inform researchers on the process of policy making and to support policy makers with scientific expertise and analysis which will result in more evidence based policies (see attachment for detailed information).
We will seek to contribute to the Career Programme of ESOF 2012, including of its organisational phase.
We will try to involve more grass-root members in discussions/opinions via the mailing-list, and publish something on the web pages of the WG, and for the Euroscientist.

Activities 2010

During 2010 we have mostly been following the European policies in this field, namely the European Research Area’s single market for researchers, including the activities promoted by the European Commission under the scope of the “European Partnership for Researchers” and of the “Human Resources Strategy for Researchers Incorporating the Charter & Code” aiming at an effective institutional implementation (or consideration) of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for their Recruitment:

A sub-section of the European policies in this field regards the area of doctoral education, which is a specific element of ERA policies and programmes (in particular of the Research Framework Programme) but also a topic dealt with in the Bologna Process/EHEA political cooperation.

We have also been following the activities by other European stakeholders in the field. We attended the launch events by LERU (League of European Research Universities) of its position papers “Harvesting talent: strengthening research careers in Europe”, held in Brussels on 4 February 2010, “Doctoral degrees beyond 2010: Training talented researchers for society”, on 3 March 2010, and of its advice paper “Improving the social security of internationally mobile researchers: Analysis and recommendations” on 29 April 2010.

We have been following various sessions of the ESOF Career Programme in Turin, keeping contacts with young researchers. We maintained our relationships with Eurodoc and with MCFA. We also established contact with the ERC and have followed relevant activities in this field by EUA and ESF.

We gave an interview to a freelance journalist (Nic Fleming) writing an article for Research*EU on the topic of pensions arrangements for mobile researchers (beginning of September). We attended an EURAXESS event on its current initiatives and prospects, held in Brussels on 5 October 2010. With a view to our future projects, we established a loose network of people that would like to contribute to the young researchers’ forum, and tested different platform options for it.

The working group pursues several lines of activities, trying to come to specific results in terms of the understanding of the subject and the of elaborating EuroScience’s position:

  • Explore the situation of the careers of researchers across Europe, with the help of EuroScience’s members and through the collection of official data and documents
  • Special focus on the issues of mobility of researchers in Europe and the situation of young researchers
  • Liaise with the EU institutions – and notably with the European Commission – in matters regarding the European policy for human resources in research and innovation
  • Liaise with other European organisations active or interested on the same subject, like the European University Association, the European Science Foundation, Eurodoc, the Marie Curie Fellows Association
  • Elaborate EuroScience’s position on the subject, preparing documents and specific studies
  • Organize public events, promoting EuroScience’s stance on the subject

Synopsis of events, political developments, and EuroScience’s activities in the area of the Career Development of researchers

Around the year 2000, a number of political developments brought renewed attention to the situation and attractiveness of researchers’ careers across Europe.

The definition of the Lisbon Strategy by the European Council held in Lisbon in March 2000 was key for the recognition of the central role of research and innovation in a knowledge-based society. The Lisbon European Council marked also the formal adoption of the EU policy for an European Research Area, restructuring and improving the efforts made until then within the context of the Research Framework Programmes. The Barcelona European Council of March 2002 set the further goal of investing 3% of GDP in R&D by 2010. The definition of this target brought in turn to the calculation of the number of 700,000 additional researchers required to match the needs of an adequate skilled workforce for research and innovation, on the top of the ordinary turnover.

Between the years 2002 and 2003 a wider reflection took place on the situation of researchers’ careers in Europe. The debate was taken up by the European Commission through consultative bodies, and in particular one made up by representatives of Member States (the Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility) and one made up by experts (the External Advisory Group on Human Resources and Mobility), among which was sitting also the President of EuroScience Jean-Patrick Connerade. National policies like the Research Careers Initiative in the UK served as a motivation and as an example.

In the whole process the EuroScience contribution has been a proactive one since the beginning. In early 2002 a delegation of EuroScience met with Commissioner for Research P. Busquin, putting forward a number of ideas on the theme of the definition of a proper career path for researchers (see the article in ES News n. 19). This included the definition of a status of “Young European researcher” and other measures to remove obstacles to a paneuropean mobility of researchers at all stages of their career (including troubles with pension schemes). The engagement of EuroScience got fuel through a project carried out during 2002 (but prepared for some time) leading to a Conference in Bischenberg, near Strasbourg, on “New science- and technology-based professions in Europe” (see the final report and the article in ES News n. 22). The project was initiated by Claude Kordon, first President of EuroScience, and an active role was then taken by Jean-Patrick Connerade. In the course of that Conference came out, among the others, a proposal to draft a «Charter of Young European Scientists, to improve professional recognition of Young Scientists, make initial steps of their careers more eurocompatible and introduce temporary derogations to national labour rules, and implement transferability of social benefits accrued in any academic or industrial laboratory in Europe», as it is stated in the Conclusions (see the final report and the article in ES News n. 22). The project itself brought, as a spillover, to the realisation of the “Career Programme” at the first EuroScience Open Forum in 2004, later confirmed as a permanent feature of all ESOFs.

The first result of the discussion exercise led by the Commission was the drafting of a Communication, which was adopted in July 2003, entitled “Researchers in the European Research Area: One Profession, Multiple Careers”. In the same year an EU Conference on this subject was held at the European University Institute in Florence, which was the first of a series of similar events that successive EU Presidencies put in their calendar every year in the field of mobility and career development of researchers. The 2004 edition was held in The Hague under the theme of “Brain gain: the instruments”.

In parallel, the EuroScience engagement was confirmed by the co-organisation of a paneuropean Conference in Lisbon at the beginning of 2004, “Early Stage Researcher Mobility in Europe – Meeting the Challenges and Promoting Best Practice”, together with the Marie Curie Fellows Association, Eurodoc and Pi-Net, and by the first “Career Programme” at ESOF 2004 in Stockholm.

The deepening of the political discussion led by the European Commission brought to the formulation of a document of major relevance, giving new weight and new tools to this policy line in the context of the European Research Area, namely the European Charter for Researchers and the associated Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. It was cast in the form of a Recommendation, adopted by the Commission on 11 March 2005, and endorsed by the Council of Ministers in the same year. It is addressed not only to Member States, but to all those institutions where researchers are employed, to funding bodies of research activities, and to researchers themselves (see the dedicated page for additional description). The role of EuroScience was confirmed during this process through the engagement of Jean-Patrick Connerade in the External Advisory Group on Human Resources and Mobility, with a key role in the formulation of the Charter & Code.

The development of this fragment of European research policy was obviously strengthened by the active role taken up by other relevant stakeholders in the ERA, and in particular the European University Association, Eurodoc and the Marie Curie Fellows Association, with their own initiatives. Other actors were naturally the European Science Foundation and the national research councils. The parallel discussion on doctoral programmes in the context of the Bologna Process (for the creation of the European Higher Education Area) marked a reinforcement of many of the issues already touched upon within the research policy setting. However, key agents remained naturally the national governments, whose policies were only partially responding to the input and the agreements taken at European level.

With the adoption of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development of the EU, running between 2007 and 2013, the instruments to support mobility and career development of researchers have been grouped into the “People” Programme. A remarkable new achievement in this area has been the establishment of the European Research Council, with the setting up of a funding stream to support research projects led by excellent young researchers, the Starting Independent Researcher Grant Scheme.

After the EU Conferences in 2005 and 2006 devoted to the European Charter for Researchers, one held in London and the other in Vienna, specific attention was paid to the ways the various countries and institutions were meeting the challenges of the policies outlined at the EU level, and notably the implementation of the principles of the Charter & Code. In the context of the Green Paper on the European Research Area put forward by the Commission, one of the 6 axes was devoted to “realising a single labour market for researchers”. The responses by the stakeholders and the national governments have been very much in support of the idea to continue the policy already set up in this area. In particular, the report by the Expert Group, convened to reflect upon this subject, developed further on the obstacles and the unsolved problems on the table, and suggested new actions to tackle them. In parallel, a dedicated working group was charged to design a kind of “labelling mechanism” for those institutions implementing the principles of the Charter & Code, finally leading to the definition of a Human Resources Strategy to help institutions in the self-assessment of their policies of human resources and to give adequate recognition to those willing to take action (see the dedicated page).

The 2007 EU Conference on researchers’ career in Stuttgart and the 2008 edition in Rennes focused on specific elements of young researchers’ career prospects. Meanwhile, the Commission adopted a Communication on a European Partnership for Researchers as one of the follow-up initiatives of the “Green Paper” on the ERA. This particular initiative tries to build an unified framework for the actions aimed at improving careers and the mobility of researchers, and notably to better involve in a stable and operational partnership the Governments of the EU Member States. The Communication has been endorsed by the Council of Ministers in the second half of 2008.

EuroScience devoted the by now traditional amount of time for the Career Programme at ESOF 2006 and ESOF 2008, and organised specific sessions of the Scientific Programme on the European Charter for Researchers in both editions. At ESOF 2008 the invited speakers were Massimo Serpieri, official in charge of the policy development in this sector at the European Commission and Johanna Ziberi from the Swiss Rectors’ Conference. EuroScience President Enric Banda provided the viewpoint of the association and confirmed the support for the widest adoption of the principles of the Charter & Code by Governments and institutions. The General Assembly of EuroScience confirmed this position with a Memorandum.

In the context of the political developments of the European Research Area, the theme of the career development of researchers remains high in the agenda and, through its position in the national agendas varies a lot, will continue to inform new debates and new actions.

Renzo Rubele