Eurodoc conference & AGM 2010 Vienna

The 9th International Annual Conference of Eurodoc, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Young Researchers took place in Vienna, Austria from March 11-15, 2010. Organised by this two-days-conference focused on “Stocktaking and prospects: Doctoral Training and Research – The Link between EHEA and ERA”. Through well planned plenaries and workshops this academic event provided a framework for young European researchers to meet with stakeholders from different fields and to engage in fruitful discussions on the construction of the European Research and Higher Education Areas (ERA and EHEA.)

What marked the event was also the presentation of the results of the first ever Europe-wide survey on conditions for doctoral candidates. Eurodoc started this major undertaking in 2008 to counteract the shortage on real comparable data on crucial topics like motives for pursuing a doctorate, academic environment, gender bias, career paths, funding, training and supervision, transferable skills and mobility. The focus was presenting what has been achieved and also working on what can be improved.

The first day of the conference, started with the opening session with welcome addresses from Stephan Kurz representing the local organising committee, Prof. Peter Skalicky, Rector of Vienna University of Technology and Nikola Macharová, Eurodoc President 2009/2010.

Plenary Session 1 was dedicated to the topic “5 Years Experience With Doctoral Programmes in the Bologna Process”. Key stakeholders from the academia as well as policy makers gave their input and attempted to comment on the following questions: How are doctoral candidates considered in the context of the Bologna Process? To which extend can first and second cycle instruments and methods be applied to the third cycle? What have the achievements been? What are the remaining “hot issues”? How can we develop a vision for the future?

Five workshops on topics ranging from working conditions and career paths to recruitment and training for doctoral candidates took place, also dealing with specific themes like the Open Access debate. The outcomes and recommendations of these workshops are reported below.

In Workshop 1, “Mobility and Working Conditions,” discussion focused on four issues mainly: Improving visibility and acceptance of the Charter & Code, Marie Curie Programmes as a good example, news on European Researchers´ Pension Schemes and the need to focus more on working conditions – need for stronger pressure on governmental institutions to provide sustainable conditions. Recommendations given involved the following: Stronger effort at a national level is needed in order to provide broader acceptance of Charter & Code, mobility is highly recommended, but it cannot become an obligation for researchers before it becomes an obligation for institutions, establishment of a European fund to enable researchers being mobile and institutions which accepted and implement Charter & Code should have incentives for getting funding from EU resources.

In Workshop 2, “Training, Supervision and Scientific Work,” Eurodoc survey outcomes on training and supervision were discussed and a reference to what was found by the surveys project team to be surprising was made: the publication rates and time doctoral candidates spend for their research. The changing context of supervision that is seen as a new institutional responsibility was referred to and a call for a need to focus on the supervisor in an attempt to improve supervision as well as the need for a creation of a Supervision Culture were made. Referring to the Taught Courses & Transferrable Skills it was noted that taught courses have a supporting function in Doctoral Education and it was stated that transferrable skills awareness is a key to success. Last but not least, it was underscored that future European research requires project-based international and interdisciplinary collaboration, whereas the five major needs in training areas were noted to be the following: multicultural, interdisciplinary, network, creativity and exchange of ideas. As a recommendation the quality of doctoral candidates, training and supervision was underlined.

In Workshop 3, “Transparent and Efficient Recruitment of Young Researchers and Mobility,” a discussion was generated on the following topics: Ways that help mobile researchers stay in contact with their home country, types of support countries should provide to incoming researchers, basic information on the recruitment process which should be given to candidates, ways to ensure transparency and the promotion of mobility. Recommendations that were given involved the following: Joint research projects with their home country could help researchers to stay in contact, the creation of a directory of all research groups so as to immediately see where the possibilities in a country in your specific discipline are, the promotion of associations/networks/portals for incoming and outgoing researchers as well as the provision of services such as the grants of brainpower Austria to make mobility more attractive. Further recommendation were the following: Making Europe-wide publication of positions and open calls mandatory (usage of common means such as Euraxess, enforcing transparency on recruitment procedures, evaluating applications open to calls in a fair way, basing evaluation not only on only grade/marks espacially for mobile researchers, providing equal opportunities should be fostered in terms of getting projects/ fundings etc.

In Workshop 4, “Open Science – Science 2.0,” it was firstly stated that the World Wide Web started out as a project to facilitate scientific research and communication, and in the nearly two decades since its inception, it has revolutionized many aspects of our society with a broad range of web-based tools and services that now allow for multiple forms of direct interactions between providers and users of information. Although scientific research is, at its core, a collaborative endeavour, only few researchers have started to explore new possibilities. Research would greatly benefit from such direct interactions between participants and from opening up to the wider community. It was recommended that young researchers will thus have to play a leading role in this transition from the paper-based era to web-based research. Science policy that addresses young researchers should support open collaborative environments for all elements of the scientific process, recognize the role of web-based collaboration in the design of research awards and competitions, and promote a diversification of the metrics and other ways used to assess the impact of a single researcher’s work.

In Workshop 5, “Research Cooperation with Countries Outside of the EU,” the participants discussed the following issues: state of art of proposals selection, showcase for private public partnership and research, the survey of researchers´ situation, the low appeal of research jobs and the limited international cooperation. In the recommendations session the need for further cooperation with Eurodoc was underlined.

In Plenary Session 2, Nikola Macharová, Eurodoc President for the period 2009/2010, introduced the audience to Eurodoc aims, structure, main activities and achievements and then gave out the main outcomes of the Ministerial Summit. A further report on the Ministerial Summit was given by Sverre Lundemo who represented Eurodoc throughout the day at the event. Sverre Lundemo noted that amongst other issues, topics pointed out at the Ministerial Summit were: life long learning issues, labour market issues -co-operation and competition.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to discussion on how to achieve greater coherence in research policy in Europe to exploit the research potential of countries and regions which received less attention so far, including countries outside the EU. Key educational policy makers from all over Europe gave their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities they see.

Plenary Session 3 hosted the topic “Working Conditions and Gender Aspects of the Survey” where insights of Eurodoc survey related to gender aspects were presented and discussed with the active participation of Eurodoc Gender Equality Workgroup.

Plenary Session 4, “Two Speed Europe?”, aimed at revealing how to achieve a better coherence in research policy in Europe to exploit the research potential of countries and regions which received less attention so far, including countries outside the EU.

In Plenary Session 5, the closing session, the outcomes and of the workshops were presented by the workshop’s rapporteurs and conclusions from the whole conference were drawn. Recommendations were noted and final words were stated.

The well organised conference that took place in the heart of Vienna city, the main building of Vienna University of Technology, hosted as well a fair with stands and posters allowing institutions, projects and companies to present their activities and products to the audience of young researchers and policy makers.

It also consisted of an ecstatic cultural programme, as it all started with a traditional Viennese Ball at Hofburg Imperial Palace, which was an invitation by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research and ended with a Reception at the Institute Francais and a tour to the city of Vienna.

The Austrian organising committee accepting congratulations for a successful event, passed the conference organising responsibility to the Lithuanian committee that will host Eurodoc International Annual Conference 2011 in Vilnius next year.

The days that followed Eurodoc International Annual Conference 2010, Eurodoc Internal Annual General Meeting took place, where doctoral candidates and young researcher’s issues were further discussed and a new board and secretariat for the period 2010/2011 was appointed.

by Elena Xeni, March 2010

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