A joint declaration on sustainable researcher careers was today published by two large organizations representing researchers. The declaration by the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) and the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (Eurodoc) offers concrete recommendations to empower researchers and secure a globally competitive European Research Area and Higher Education sector.
The number of researchers being trained is growing rapidly in Europe and globally, far outpacing the resources being added in most regions. As a result, researchers are confronted with increasingly precarious conditions, which is disproportionately affecting early-career researchers. The MCAA and Eurodoc are concerned about the current situation and call for action for sustainable researcher career models in Europe and across the globe. This call for action concerns every organisation that trains and employs researchers in and outside of academia, as well as research funding agencies and individual researchers.
Most researchers’ careers will take them outside of academia, and this should be central to how institutions structure researcher training, including for master students and doctoral candidates. Eurodoc President Eva Hnátková: “As the vast majority of early-career researchers will find careers outside academia, institutions have to provide them with and guide them to opportunities for a career development appropriate for non-academic labor markets. The new generation of researchers has to be protected within a positive and supportive research environment.”
This need for change has never been more pressing. Dr Auréa Cophignon, vice-president of Eurodoc and who coordinated the contribution for Eurodoc: “It is crucial that the academic system evolve faster to guarantee the sustainable employability of early-career researchers. This joint declaration provides key recommendations for genuine accountability of institutes, funding bodies, and governments within a new and dynamic ecosystem for higher education, research and innovation.”
Research itself is also suffering due to these systemic issues. Dr Gábor Kismihók, lead author of the declaration and leader of the MCAA Career Development Policy Task Force: “Being a researcher has become a high-risk job with precarious conditions and poor mental health too often being the norm. We must move towards better employment conditions, career prospects, and a healthier overall research culture and environment. Only then can we effectively use much of the talent that is today being wasted to tackle the big challenges of tomorrow.”
The recommendations provided in this declaration were developed at a symposium organized by the MCAA in February this year, where hundreds of researchers and experts discussed key issues and factors influencing sustainable researcher careers. Dr Matthew DiFranco, Chair of the MCAA: “To build sustainable researcher careers, we need a clear shift away from temporary contracts and a rigid hierarchy towards stable, long-term positions, and not just for tenured professors. Getting to sustainable research careers will require modernization of the organizational structure in many research institutions, legal reforms to ensure researchers have the same rights as employees in other sectors, as well as a refocus of funding away from short-term grants. In addition, effective organisational support in transferable skills training, extended networking and mobility programmes are needed. Some institutions are already adopting such reforms and could be used as exemplars for lagging performers. Implementing such reforms is essential for the well-being of individual researchers and a failure to act could see Europe losing its leadership role in research and researcher training.”
What you can do
If your organisation is willing to support this declaration, or you have questions, remarks, please contact the Policy Working Group: firstname.lastname@example.org