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Academic Careers

Human Resources Strategy for Researchers in Europe

Around 60 European universities, research institutions, funding agencies, and umbrella organizations gathered today in Barcelona (and will continue to meet tomorrow) to discuss how they can improve the working conditions they offer to researchers. 

The closed seminar, to which Science Careers was invited, is part of a 2008 European Commission initiative aiming to help research and funding bodies implement The European Charter for Researchers and The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.
Launched in March 2005, the European Charter for Researchers defines
the basic roles, responsibilities, and entitlements researchers and
their host or funding institutions should have, with a particular focus
on fostering the career development of researchers. Launched at the same time, the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers
offers general guidelines to help institutions make the hiring of
scientists more open, fair, and transparent. So far, more than 1000
institutions in 30 countries have signed up to the so-called “Charter
& Code.” 
A 2008 EC initiative — called the “Human Resources Strategy for Researchers Incorporating the Charter & Code
— is meant to help institutions go further in adopting the
Charter & Code. Institutions are invited to analyze how well their
policies and practices comply with the Charter & Code to identify
what areas they need to improve on. Next, they must draw up an action
plan that will become their “HR Strategy for Researchers.” They
must publish this Strategy document on their Web sites together with the
main results of their policy analysis. Upon review by the European
Commission, institutions are granted an “HR Excellence in Research” logo.
Further progress in the implementation of the Charter & Code is to
be reviewed externally every 4 years at least. So far, more than 150
institutions are involved in the process. 
So, what’s in it for early-career scientists?
First,
researchers of all levels are invited to contribute to the internal
analysis of their institutions, so this is one way to get your voice
heard if you are inclined towards policy. “For training, we need the
input of researchers,” says Natacha Beicht, Human Resources Manager at
the Centre De Recherche Public de la Santé (CRP-Santé) in Luxembourg. 
A
quick, informal survey of the attendees of the Barcelona seminar, at a coffee
break, suggested that one of the main motivations for institutions is to become
more visible and attractive to the best scientists. More transparency
in HR policy and practices can help job seekers get a better feel for
the culture and working conditions of an institution. A list of the institutions that have already obtained the EC logo can be found on the European EURAXESS Rights Web page.
The
EC logo demonstrates “the effort we have made to work with these
principles,” says Beicht, whose institution won a logo in 2010. But
improving HR policy is a long road. “We are still in the process.”