On September 12, the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) organized a workshop designed to validate the findings from a study that looked into the career impacts of ERC funding. The study was commissioned to an independent research team led by the consultancy firm ICF, working with the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente. Specifically, the study explores the impact that participation in an ERC project has on researchers’ career development, and on institutions that host ERC projects. The focus was both on the Principal Investigators (PIs)/ERC grantees and on the teams of researchers, mostly Early Career Researchers (ERCs) that work for the ERC funded project. Eurodoc was invited to attend the event. Experts in areas related to researchers’ careers and the impacts of grant funding schemes, representatives from institutions that host research teams, ERC project PIs and team members, and researchers who have carried out studies on similar topics were also represented at the event.
Workshop participants were asked explicitly not to share the contents of the report. It was not final and some data collection and analysis are ongoing. However, it is possible to highlight the main discussion topics around which the discussion of the findings revolved:
- Career impacts on ERC PIs;
- Career impacts on research teams and ERC team members;
- Impacts on HR policies and practices of host institutions.
The following were among the issues workshop participants were challenged to think about while discussing these topics:
- How does being involved or leading an ERC funded project impact the careers of the PI and/or of the researchers working for their teams?
- Should ERC grants also aim at supporting researchers’ career development? If yes, how and why?
- Should hosting an ERC funded project impact on institutional HR policies and practices affecting the recruitment and development of researchers? If yes, how and why?
Throughout the discussions, Eurodoc ensured that issues pertaining to the career impacts of the research teams, in particular of the ECRs recruited to work for the ERC funded projects, were addressed. There was consensus that an ERC grant has a positive impact on the career of the PI. However, the same could not be said about the ECRs recruited to work for the ERC funded projects. Currently, no one really knows who or how many they are, and what happened to them or their careers afterwards. Such acknowledgement led discussions into some of the issues Eurodoc has been tackling for years, including the need to ensure compliance to the Charter and Code principles, which is a mandatory contractual clause of all H2020 funded projects.
To learn more:
- ERC and its funding schemes;
- video on steps you should take when preparing an application to an ERC grant;
- HRS4R — Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (how the EC seeks to ensure that concrete steps are put in place by institutions to implement the Charter and Code and enhance working conditions for researchers across Europe).
Filomena Parada, Eurodoc Advisory Board Member