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Lithuanian Presidency Conference: Invest in Researchers. Better training and careers using new funding opportunities

Final Report Summary - PIRESTAR (Lithuanian Presidency Conference: Invest in Researchers. Better training and careers using new funding opportunities)

Executive Summary:
The conference "Invest in researchers: better training and careers using new funding opportunities" was held in Vilnius on 14–15 November 2013 under the auspices of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The event was supported by the European Commission via FP7 work programme People and organised by the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

The event probably for the first time revealed some of the novel elements of the new Framework Programme – the 7-year Horizon 2020 – to research community. In particular, those were the possibilities of combined actions using the European Structural and Investment Funds in Horizon 2020 and the recommendations on the compliance with the Principles of Innovative Doctoral Training.

The conference built on the themes addressed and conclusions elaborated at the Irish Presidency conference "Research Careers and Mobility" held on 14–15 May 2013 in Dublin. Specifically, it aimed to implement a partnership approach, recommended there, by inviting the stakeholders driving forward the ERA agenda for an open discussion. The Vilnius conference focused on increasing the attractiveness of the researcher profession and the prospective means for achieving that in the new financial period. Ample examples of best practice were presented and discussed among the participating decision makers, fund managers, younger and senior academics and other stakeholders in research.

There were 219 registered participants at this event, with 95 coming from outside Lithuania. They were encouraged to choose and attend two workshops from a list where the following topics were discussed:
1. Implementing Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions / COFUND
2. Supporting independence of researchers
3. Generating jobs via initiatives for researchers
4. Implementing Charter and Code in funding programs
5. Seeking flexible ways of mobility and career structures
6. Using European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)
7. Enhancing lifelong professional development
8. Fostering the networks in research

Each workshop formulated a set of take-home messages, presented for all the participants before the conclusion. The International Advisory Board of the conference later worked on them to produce conclusions, recommendations and ideas for future conferences on human resources in research. These materials and selected plenary talks were distributed as a published conference highlights booklet to just about300 other stakeholder institutions across Europe – according to the abovementioned partnership approach – the representatives of which did not attend the event.

Project Context and Objectives:
“It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble... Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change.”
Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)

It is the global competitiveness that generates the need for change in the EU. The examination of the ways in which the European research system can better support jobs, the growth and societal well-being, and how European research investment can enhance competitiveness of European industry and increase the innovative capacity, constantly remains in the focus of the European policy makers and is perpetually discussed in the meetings at various levels.

In order to optimise the added value and increase the potential impact from EU funding, the recent EU policy proposals provide the legal basis for combined actions using the European Structural and Investment Funds and the new Framework Programme, the Horizon 2020. This means more funding for research and researchers in the next financing perspectives.

The particular Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union event - an international conference on human resources in research – was planned to look closely into the problems of the European human resources in research (with a special focus on young researchers) and successful responses from the Member States via the available financial sources. The specific intent was to hold a forum for discussing the measures enhancing attractiveness of becoming and being a researcher in Europe.

Up to 200 representatives from the EU and national policy bodies, research institutions of the Member States, European doctoral candidates, higher education establishments, professional associations of researchers in Europe, national academies of sciences and their international unions in the EU, and the social partners engaged in developing and managing the human resources in R&D were expected. It was suggested that they should be guaranteed disseminators exerting influence on their constituencies.

The event was planned to take place exactly six months after the Irish Presidency conference “Researcher Careers and Mobility” held on 14–15 May 2013 in Dublin. The well-developed Irish conference programme, available at http://www.iua.ie/research-innovation/rcm/conference-programme/ shows that a variety of aspects of the researchers' career have already been discussed there and conclusions have been drawn concerning the preparedness of the European research community, their employers and stakeholders to meet the future challenges.

A particular recommendation clearly articulated in Dublin was that a partnership approach should be endorsed in driving forward the ERA agenda: While the EU-level policies and initiatives can provide an impetus, the take-up and implementation require commitment and responsibility across the board from Member States, universities, industry, research funders, representative bodies and individual researchers. Therefore, it was planned to productively discuss at the conference the attractiveness of a researcher's profession with the decision makers, opinion leaders, and facilitators across the EU and even broader, so that the outcomes - resolutions, recommendations, insights - would reflect the best present-day practices and examples to be followed with high chance of their further endorsement by participants. This was seen as a means of enhancing the value of the forum itself and as justification for a wider dissemination of the results by the organisers.

Factors determining the attractiveness of a researcher's profession were in the focus of the conference planning. They were identified as (i) accessibility of proper doctoral training, (ii) availability of professional development schemes for researchers, (iii) the means for equating the remuneration for researchers’ work, and (iv) infrastructures supporting seamless work in research. Since the conference was pre-defined as a coordination and support action in the FP7 work programme People, factor (iv) was not explicitly included in its programme.

Accordingly, the outline of the programme for the conference was set as follows:

Day 1, November 14
Opening plenary session with introductory presentations and with a broad overview of the new EC initiatives regarding the funding of the research and innovation sector.

Two plenary sessions dedicated to:
A thorough analysis of the state of play in research career development and Principles of Innovative Doctoral Training (PIDT) and new data on doctoral training situation in Europe, including MORE2 study results, then-to-be-published in September 2013,
A discussion on new funding opportunities for researchers: COFUND under Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions, and the use of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in combination with other funding sources to widen participation in Horizon 2020.

Day 2, November 15
Parallel workshops dedicated to specific aspects of the HR development, three among these related to different funding measures:
implementing Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions including COFUND,
widening participation in Horizon 2020,
using the ESIF to invest in research and researchers,
as well as several – depending on the availability of lecturers and interest of the target audience – on enhancing the attractiveness of researcher profession, chosen from the following list:
supporting independence of researchers and passion for research,
enhancing lifelong professional development,
fostering networks in research,
promoting interdisciplinarity for researchers,
implementing Charter and Code in funding programs,
ensuring equality and diversity,
seeking flexible ways of mobility and career structures,
achieving innovation and job creation.

Plenary session summarizing the workshop experiences and presenting the conclusions and recommendations was planned to conclude the conference.

Pre-formulated outcomes of the event have been the following:
1) participants will learn about the possibilities to combine different funding sources, including Horizon 2020 measures to widen participation, Structural funds and MCA-COFUND to boost investment in human resources for R&D in their country;
2) participants will learn about what makes doctoral training more effective for employment through research networking and flexible mobility;
3) participants will learn how new tools and instruments for career development work in practice: on line self assessment, dual careers (life-work balance), tenure tracks, double nominations (industry–academia), HR strategy logo/accreditation.

References:
1. European Commission. 2011. Towards a European Framework for Research Careers. Brussels: European Commission.
2. European Commission. 2012a. Excellence, equality and entrepreneurialism building sustainable research careers in the European Research Area. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
3. European Commission. 2012b. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and The Committee of the Regions. A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth. COM(2012) 392 final.
4. Barbara J. Gabrys and Jane A. Langdale. 2012. How to Succeed as a Scientist: From Postdoc to Professor. Cambridge University Press.
5. Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union conference “Researcher Careers & Mobility” website. 2013. http://www.iua.ie/research-innovation/rcm/ .
Project Results:
The main outcomes of the conference are presented in a booklet of its highlights (ISBN 9789955937111). It contains the conclusions, recommendations, and ideas for the future discussion - a product of the conference International Advisory Board (IAB). Then follow the transcripts of presentations by 3 keynote speakers (Stefaan Hermans of the EC DG R&I, Fulvio Esposito, former chair of the ERA Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility, and Alessandra Luchetti of the EC DG E&C). Afterwards, the outcomes of the workshops are presented. The part summarized by the IAB - an executive report - and the workshop messages are presented below.

The IAB executive report on the conference: conclusions, recommendations and ideas for the future

I. Conclusions
1. It is beneficial for states and regions to align their strategies for development of innovation capabilities with the policies of different funding bodies, including European Structural and Investments Funds – ESIF, and take a widest possible view with regard to application of funding for researchers.
2. Strengthening the mobility of researchers is a crucial initial step for recently acceded EU Member States, progressing towards convergence.
3. Large-scale asymmetries are clearly detectable across member states in terms of adoption and practical implementation of the Charter and Code, as well as with reference to actual career structures and working conditions of researchers.
4. There is a wide gap in terms of career progression and career development for researchers once they pass the early career stage.

II. Recommendations
1. Research funding organizations including at the EU level should request and support / fund a variety of flexible mobility schemes – not just geographical, but also interdisciplinary, intersectoral, virtual by scientific output mobility, encompassing short-term, long-term, time banking, dual career positions, etc.
2. Research funding organizations, including at the EU level, should enter compulsory requirements for applicants / projects in the guidelines of their calls to specify the terms and conditions for recruitment of women researchers, especially to leading positions, with a view to improving gender balance in teams.
3. Research funding organizations, including at the EU level, should consider building and supporting research and training networks as long-term measure for enhancement of research excellence and for reduction of the gap in the Innovation Union’s performance among EU Member States.
4. To increase Europe's attractiveness for researchers, the Charter and Code principles must be integrated in a meaningful way into national funding schemes as well as the policies and practices of universities and research institutions.
5. Research funding schemes should provide opportunities for structured research career pathways, from PhD candidates to professional leadership positions, preventing the loss of talented researchers. In the short term, they should focus more on promoting consolidation of researchers’ careers.

III. Ideas for future conferences on human resources in research
1. Future conferences should be targeted at maximising the effectiveness of research funding at the EU and national level, essential in enabling translation of research into growth and jobs and in reducing current asymmetries in the European Research Area.
2. In terms of format, future conferences should focus less on describing the current agenda, and more on finding solutions to pressing problems whose existence has currently become apparent to us.
3. Future conferences should strive to answer the following question: do we have the potential for a sustainable research career path, characterised by merit-based stability and progress?
4. Future conferences should bring forward good practices that are effectual and readily implementable in various European contexts.

The International Advisory Board of the “Invest in Researchers” conference, in alphabetical order: Hans M. Borchgrevink (NordForsk), Wolfgang Eppenschwandtner (Initiative for Science in Europe), Miguel Jorge (International Consortium of Research Staff Associations), Kęstutis Kriščiūnas (European University Association), Liudvika Leišytė (Futura Scientia – Lithuanian researchers abroad), Janet Metcalfe (Vitae), Conor O'Carroll (ERA SGHRM), Aidis Stukas (Eurodoc).

Take-home messages at the workshops A1 - E1 and A2 - D2

A1. Implementing Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions / COFUND

Do not be discouraged – TRY IT YOURSELF! Use the experience of your National Contact Points. They are very helpful in implementing the program and writing the porposal. If you are not successful, try again. Improve your project, re-design it, and you will succeed. Why should you try it? Because COFUND:
- provides very positive experiences in widening regional and national participation through increased international dimension,
- provides transfer of knowledge through returning/incoming researchers,
- is a powerful tool to establish wider international collaboration,
- has leverage effects on local and international funds,
- increases and enhances career perspective for cofunded researchers thanks to the MCA label.

B1. Supporting independence of researchers

External means for supporting independence of researchers are:
- funding with freedom to manage it themselves – argument for the funding bodies,
- facilities for establishing laboratories,
- early involvement in different research administrative activities,
- social security / mobile pensions,
- programmes and centres for career kick-offs,
- openness of the decision-making bodies at all levels to young researchers’ opinions and initiatives.
Early career researchers should be responsible for:
- taking their own decisions,
- accepting responsibility,
- looking and applying for funding by themselves,
- being ready to move around (mobility),
- networking and collaborating,
- publishing,
- taking initiative – YOU CAN DO IT.

C1. Generating jobs via initiatives for researchers

There is a growing importance of entrepreneurship skills in PhD programmes.
Interdisciplinary research:
- cannot be done alone – should be done in teams,
- needs lively interaction and engagement with work group members from other disciplines.
Eligibility criteria of EU funded schemes are often too rigid for different areas of research and countries.

D1. Implementing Charter and Code in funding programmes

The Charter and Code should be implemented.
- C&C should be integrated in a meaningful way into national and international funding schemes. “Meaningful” is a key word here, since not all 40 different items of the Charter and Code are always indispensable in different countries under different funding schemes. Funding organisations could experience participation in the human resources strategy five-step process4 as a useful exercise to detect weaknesses in implementing the principles of the C&C. Funders should perceive where they may be integrated into their funding schemes. Some of the principles
apply to the funding organisations themselves. Several others may be delegated to the institutions, researchers and organisations that will eventually receive the funding. That could be done through the funding continua. Following a comment about the intended strictness level of integration, it was noted that one should avoid penalising researchers who choose to work at institutions not fully compliant with C&C.
- C&C itself needs some updating / tweaking to take into account the developments since its adoption. The EC Recommendation on the C&C itself stated in 2005 that it will be periodically reviewed. This should be an inclusive process involving all the stakeholders, just as it has been with the original document.

E1. Seeking flexible ways of mobility and career structures, Part I

Recommendations:
- increase the number of smaller grants in order to balance the focus on existing big excellent players,
- create true incentives for individuals, for researchers to move from academia to industry and vice versa,
- create incentives for organisations, both public and private, to incorporate mobile researchers and acknowledge the added value that they generate,
- raise awareness of different research career paths among students and doctoral candidates,
- increase entrepreneurial competences among researchers to enable them adapt to the non-academic sector.

A2. Using the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI)

Recommendations:
- continue to identify best practices in using the SF for research enhancement,
- bureaucracy in implementation of these funds, both at local and regional level, must be urgently improved.

B2. Enhancing lifelong professional development

Messages:
1. The focus was on early career researchers (ECRs) – because the lifelong professional development cannot be dissociated from independence, and independence to be achieved needs to be addressed within the system. The system currently poses a number of problems to many of the ECRs already in the system or trying to get involved in it with a view to getting more stable career options made available to them.
2. Ideas for changing the system which descended from the presentations and the following debate were cross-sectional. The changes come:
- from inside (identifying “championsˮ to change mentalities; recognising and using the power of ECRs);
- using leverage from various stakeholders (e.g. managers, funders);
- by shaking the system (e. g., injecting new people).
One must recognise the complementarity of levels of intervention (national / European / disciplinary).
3. An important message, coming from countries transforming their research and innovation systems or those through economic hardship, but cross-sectional to Europe: awareness of the cruelty of the system to the ECRs who are just being disposed of when unneeded. This should change: the investment in human resources should be a priority. The system needs to address it and start to implement changes accordingly.

C2. Fostering the networks in research

THE NETWORKS IN RESEARCH ARE ESSENTIAL, especially for young researchers, who can bring new ideas to the European Research Area (ERA). It is not easy, but we have the tools to build networks in research.
Why do we need networks in research? Simple answers: the networks
- increase the quality of research,
- build capacity and cooperation with business,
- attract funds,
- stimulate intellectuality,
- bring excellence in career.
Is it easy to build the networks / collaboration? Not straightforward, several incidental factors:
- value identification must be performed,
- establishing of your role must be done,
- different expectations may occur,
- cultural differences exist.
How to foster networks in research? By the agency of:
- granting access to unique research facilities,
- preparing researchers to move from one research centre to another,
- linking research and industry for better job opportunities.

D2. Seeking flexible ways of mobility and career structures, Part II

1. The benefits of mobility have a price, which is mainly perceivable in career stability:
- PhD level – not enough dual career services, limited visibility,
- post-PhD level – networking culture of a graduate school ends here. You are dependent on your advisor,
- senior level – lack of institutional knowledge, leading to more difficulties in consolidating careers,
- all levels – bureaucracy kills the joy...
2. Researchers leave their home countries for career-related reasons, like co-operation with top researchers, access to equipment or research environment. They return for personal cultural or family-related reasons. With better communication technologies, keeping in touch with their families becomes easier for researchers. How long can countries free-ride on researchers’ willingness to reconnect with their families and culture?
3. It is recommendable to implement dual career services in higher education institutions, to support stable positions for mobile researchers, create incentives for institutions themselves to value highly mobile researchers – however, focus must be set to practical implementation, not only regulation on paper (and a rewarding mechanism for doing this). Research staff associations can support mobility and facilitate peer mentoring.

Potential Impact:
The expected impact of the conference had been defined in the FP7 2013 work programme People as follows: “The main objective of the conference is to provide a suitable forum for discussing issues related to the coordination and coherence of policy initiatives and actions at EU and national levels concerning the mobility and career of researchers, thereby contributing to the realisation of the objectives of ERA. The conference will address the relevant topics from different perspectives while highlighting challenges and best practices. This conference will also encourage young people to embark on scientific careers.”

The Presidency conference sought to stimulate the achievement of socio-economic goal of more research-intensive economy in Europe. This involves making the European researchers' careers more attractive, for more individuals to choose research as their profession. Also, it is implied that they should get better preparation for their jobs in Europe as innovation providers. The statistical data of 2012 shows that while the number of researchers per 1000 workers in the labour force is 6.64 in the European Union, the same is 9.51 in the USA and 10.27 in Japan. This is generally accepted as an indicator of the capacity to innovate and create new products and markets and to get advantages from that.

A message from the European Commission was received that a combined use of Horizon 2020 and European Structural and Investment Funds would be possible. According to this, an audience of decision makers, opinion leaders and facilitators engaged in human resources in research in Member States was targeted as potential participants. The implementation of this policy had been reflected in choosing the conference title “Invest in Researchers. Better training and careers using new funding opportunities”. The conference programme was designed accordingly, with plenary presentations from the European Commission Directorates General of Research & Innovation and Education & Culture, ERA Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility, leaders in implementing the currently available European funding schemes for the benefit of human resources in research, and other.

Factors impacting on the attractiveness of research as a profession had been identified by the conference International Advisory Board (IAB) and themes had been proposed in the conference programme for discussion at workshops. The workshop conclusions were summarised and presented in a plenary session by the workshop moderators and rapporteurs. Thus, the participants actually contributed to the part of the outcomes of the conference named the “take-home messages” - the notes and recommendations for actions which should be undertaken by the European Commission and the Member States to improve the situation regarding researchers' careers in Europe and to progress towards the completion of the ERA.

For those unable to attend the event, the plenary sessions were broadcast live, and the recordings were uploaded for public access via the conference website. The presentation slides are also available there. The International Advisory Board further worked on the conclusions, recommendations and ideas for future similar events. This part makes the executive IAB report that, together with the take-home messages and selected plenary presentations, form the conference highlights booklet. This publication has been distributed to nearly 300 addresses of institutions in Europe who have not delegated their representatives to the event, so that the messages and outcomes were communicated to and taken up by a still wider pool of stakeholders and decision makers.

The public awareness of the then-forthcoming event and its implications had been raised following the prepared publicity action plan. A number of actions were carried out within July–November 2013. The Lithuanian national radio and TV broadcaster LRT had agreed to act as an informational partner for this Presidency conference. The preparation was advertised on international level by the organisers and the members of IAB. The help from colleagues at the Irish (IUA) and European (EUA) University Associations is acknowledged. At about the time of the event, the dissemination channels such as LRT, national press, web portals were used. It had been announced on the Lithuanian Presidency portal as well.

The main goals of the publicity campaign were successfully achieved:
1. More participants than expected took part in the conference (219 instead of 200 planned).
2. The active participation of young researchers and stakeholders from Lithuania demonstrated the effective communication of event importance for the national target group.
3. News and problem solutions related with researchers' careers and professional development were presented to decision makers, opinion leaders, and facilitators from 24 foreign countries during the event.

The conference discussion on implementation of Charter and Code (C&C) principles across the EU served as a stimulus for the compliance with C&C in Lithuania. The Research Council of Lithuania has already made the first steps towards the implementation of this document by including the corresponding requirements into its research evaluation procedures.
List of Websites:
http://investinresearchers2013.eu/

The conference "Invest in Researchers. Better training and careers using new funding opportunities" has been organised by the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in collaboration with the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation and the Ministy of Science and Education of the Republic of Lithuania.

Coordinating person: Dr Andrius Bernotas

The Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Gedimino Ave 3, LT-01103 Vilnius, Lithuania

Telephone +370 5 261 3817
Fax +370 5 261 8464
Conference e-mail info@investinresearchers2013.eu