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Ceremonial handover of the ISE Manifesto for young research careers to European commissioner Mariya Gabriel

Ceremonial handover of the ISE Manifesto for young research careers to European commissioner Mariya Gabriel

On January 10th, Eurodoc Vice president Sebastian Dahle participated in the Handover ceremony of the "Manifesto for Early career researchers" to European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. At the event, the Commissioner emphasised the importance of supporting early-career researchers and revealed further details on the European partnership for young researchers announced last year. 

Driven by Prof. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, former president of the European Research Council (ERC), and the team of the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE), researchers from all over Europe came together last year at the 4th Gago conference on science policy, to address pressing issues that early-career researchers (ECRs) are facing today. The precarious employment for many researchers at the beginning and even middle stages of their careers was recognized and called out for many years already. Still, for many ECRs, the COVID pandemic worsened these problems to an unprecedented degree. During the conference, the participants synthesised the most pressing concerns into the manifesto, which calls particularly for four major points:

  • Europe-wide monitoring of young researchers’ situation, 
  • Improving research careers and working conditions in Research Performing Organisations (RPOs), Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) and in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), 
  • Enhancing research careers in the third sector, including NGOs and governmental organisations, and
  • Involving national funding agencies in cooperation with the European Commission.

The manifesto's message was well received at the European Commission and by Commissioner Gabriel, who had made young researchers and their careers a priority topic. To acknowledge the importance of the manifesto's contents and highlight future actions, the handover ceremony was organized for Tuesday, January 10th, 2023.

After a welcoming speech by Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, four high-level promoters gave their introductory statements. 

Prof. Martin Andler, president of the Initiative for Science in Europe, spoke about the reasons that Researchers' Organisations are mobilised about the early-career researcher's situation. 

Prof. Jean Pierre Bourguignon, former president of ERC, presented the essential need for a survey to enable informed decisions, as in times of uncertainty and upheaval, strong support for early career researchers is essential. Prof. Manuel Heitor, director of the Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research in Lisbon, advocated for action by the Member States in partnership with the European Commission to improve the situation for young scientists. Finally, 

Prof. Antoine Petit, President-Director General of the CNRS, spoke about the essential role of research organisations in supporting research careers enabling the expression of talents to achieve excellence.

ERC president Prof. Maria Leptin was represented by Ms. Sabine Simmross, who highlighted the importance of an enabling and nurturing environment. 

During the four interventions by spokespeople of associations representing early-career researchers, our Vice president Sebastian Dahle highlighted the numerous problems young researchers face. The need for systemic solutions holds true, particularly for academic freedom, which needs to be ensured for all researchers, including in the earliest stages, for precarious conditions, which need to be abolished, and for the empowerment of ECRs to pursue sustainable careers. Beyond the manifesto's immediate measures, early-career researchers are eager to help the Commissioner in helping us, such as through the exciting new European partnership for young researchers. Finally, thanking the Commissioner for her work, our Vice president pointed out the further need for support for our Ukrainian peers and invited Commissioner Gabriel to Eurodoc's annual conference in June this year under the main title of "A sustainable academia."

The interventions further included Dr. Alexandra Dubini from the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA), who advocates for the Commission to fund more of the institutes that actually make an effort to retain talent and stabilize their staff, to advertise best practices for hiring and stabilizing scientist, and to finally increase the number of European institutions and Universities dedicated to research. Prof. Agnieszka Wykowska from the Association of ERC Grantees (AERG), acknowledged ERC Starting grants as an excellent model for promoting young researcher careers while calling for further support to increase the budget, extend the Widening participation of underrepresented countries and for broader involvement of researchers in science policy-making, such as ERA Forum. Bruno Pessoa Carvalho from the European Economic Association (EEA) focused on the two critical challenges for junior researchers internationally, which are funding access, particularly for small projects and junior researchers, and finding a job despite few vacancies, a concentration of temporary conditions and harmonized accreditations. Particularly attention was drawn to the diminishing attractiveness of academia to young researchers and the access to the profession becoming less democratic, whereas time is drawn away from actual research, and precarity is impairing mental health in academia.

In her introductory speech and the reaction after the interventions, Commissioner Gabriel underlined the importance of science as a career of values and knowledge. She spoke about giving a new impetus through the Partnership for young researchers careers, which is set out to co-design adequate instruments. These shall include coordinated measures for obstacles, such as Research assessment and the Diversity of career paths, among others. Within 6-12 months, a strategic plan will be developed for the partnership's co-creation agenda, which includes exploring possibilities for a pilot call to coordinate actors. 

Oleksandr Berezko, President of Eurodoc: “Eurodoc gladly notices that European Commission prioritises supporting early career researchers as the future of the European and worldwide research systems relies on them.

Sebastian Dahle, Vice President of Eurodoc: "We are excited about the upcoming actions for early-career researchers that Commissioner Gabriel announced during this milestone event!

Further reading

Photo credit: Mariya Gabriel's Twitter