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6i-DIRS: A growing attractive collaborative ecosystem for boosting impact driven research careers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - 6i-DIRS (6i-DIRS: A growing attractive collaborative ecosystem for boosting impact driven research careers)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-09-30

The 6i-DIRS is a 60-month strategic project for attracting outstanding Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to the Deusto International Research School (DIRS) of the University of Deusto (UDEUSTO) in order to generate interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral projects and dissertations, and to provide a comprehensive training opportunity to the selected ESRs, which will support and broaden their career prospects in line with the principles set out in the European Charter for Researchers, the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers and the EU Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training.

The project responds to the need to develop the profiles of researchers capable of leading high-quality research projects not only in the academic institutions, which have been the traditional outlet for PhDs but also in public and private institutions, in which knowledge and innovation are becoming key factors for success. UDEUSTO understands that the pursuit of a career as a researcher is time- and resource-consuming, and that research contracts are hardly offered to young ESRs, especially in the context of the economic crisis. In this regard, with the help of 6i-DIRS, researchers will be supported through the first three years of their academic career, providing them an opportunity to establish themselves on a more stable career path.

The project further develops the well-established synergies with regional, national and international stakeholders to ensure the production of world-class science, removing barriers to innovation and enabling collaboration between academic and non-academic actors for the delivery of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and innovation within the Europe 2020 strategy and the Basque Specialisation Strategy.

The project’s importance for society lies in creating an innovative, integrated research and training ecosystem where research areas, PhD programmes and research teams (granted a label of excellence by the Basque Government) of UDEUSTO merge and interact, providing ESRs with intersectoral and interdisciplinary research training and with transnational, cross-sectoral mobility opportunities. The 6i-DIRS researchers represent the missing link between scientific fields as they work across fields and sectors; they will be able to integrate a diversity of approaches, methodologies and concepts, and navigate between academia and non-academic environment. This will not only benefit their own career opportunities in the future, but their unique knowledge and skills will benefit the sectors, institutions and companies, in which they will find employment in the future.
As a result of the launching of two different calls (in 2020 and 2021), UDEUSTO has selected the envisaged 19 PhD candidates out of a total of 191 applicants through a comprehensive, open, transparent and merit-based evaluation and selection process. ESRs selected in the first call were recruited by the 1st of February 2021, while ESRs selected in the second call are expected to be recruited by the 1st of December.

In order to attract the candidates for the offered PhD programmes, UDEUSTO and the project coordinator and management team has ensured a wide and effective dissemination of the two calls. A strategic project website has also been developed with the aim of giving visibility to the 6i-DIRS project, ESRs and their research projects and results.

Once the selected researchers accepted the offered positions, constant guidance has been provided to them for smoothing the contractual issues, registration and enrollment at UDEUSTO, as well as for assisting them in their transferring to a different cultural, institutional and working environment. Upon their arrival ESRs have been incorporated both to their corresponding PhD programmes and to the hosting research teams contributing to the excellence of their training and career development.

In order to ensure that research projects carried out in the framework of the project are in line with the ethical requirements imposed by the principles of current national and European legislations, UDEUSTO’s Research Ethics Committee performed a rigorous ethical review on the proposed research projects of ESRs selected in the first call at the end of the academic year 2020/2021. Ethical issues were identified in the case of 4 research projects, but all were considered as meeting the required ethical criteria and were approved for further development. ESRs selected in the second call will be ethically assessed by the Committee at the end of the academic year 2021/2022.

The international and intersectoral dimension of the 6i-DIRS project is already being guaranteed as ESRs recruited in the first call have already been pursuing international mobility experience (4 out of 10) and they have been working together with external stakeholders (4 out of 10).
With the support of the COFUND programme, the 6i-DIRS project had set the goal to recruit 19 outstanding ESRs for 3-year high quality doctoral training to pursue:
- participation in collaborative endeavors on research projects, developments and innovative solutions responding to social challenges;
- strong student and staff mobility and exchanges in national and international setting; thus, enhancing the prospects of graduates to stand out beyond the academic sector;
- the involvement in cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary studies that will result in the acquisition and development of the right set of skills, enhancing human resources on the regional, national and international levels.

Grounded on a robust, dynamic and attractive ecosystem, the 6i-DIRS project is creating an innovative, international, interdisciplinary, intersectoral, impactful and inclusive research and training environment where research areas, PhD programmes and research teams merge and interact, providing junior scholars with unique opportunities. 6i-DIRS, on the one hand, fosters cooperation and co-creation among the PhD programmes and the externally evaluated excellence teams that support ESRs. On the other hand, it is backed by 46 established partners and 15 co-financing entities. This setup of the project is a comprehensive shift away from previous rigidly-designed disciplinary doctoral programmes.

The project focuses on high-quality human resources, developed with the contribution of regional, national and international actors. This way, our research and our researchers are embedded in the fabric of our local and regional communities, and even beyond, in the international arena. This allows for the cross-fertilisation of knowledge which can benefit all sectors and actors involved.

6i-DIRS also contributes to the implementation of principles set out by the EU for the human resources development in R&I. UDEUSTO has not only committed to these principles and has expressed explicit support for the Charter & Code, but it also working to obtain the Commission’s “HR Excellence in Research” badge, which would identify the university as provider and supporter of a stimulating and favourable working environment.
Wwelcome session of the first cohort of ESRs
Geographical origin of ESRs from both cohorts