Busquin calls for improved working environment for researchers in Europe

December 19, 2002

Brussels, 18 Dec 2002

EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has announced his intention to urge fellow Commissioners, in June 2003, to adopt a communication on the career of researchers in Europe.

Speaking at a conference about careers of researchers in Europe on 16 December, Mr Busquin highlighted the need to address the position of researchers in Europe in order to pave the way for a true European Research Area (ERA).

He reiterated that the new emphasis on human resources and mobility in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) was in direct response to growing recognition about the role of researchers in society particularly in terms of job creation, competitiveness and making the EU more enticing for research talent both within and outside Europe.

'This evolution', said Mr Busquin, 'is necessary as it is human resources that sustain, to a large extent, [....] ambitious political objectives [....], in particular, making the ERA knowledge economy the most competitive and the most dynamic in the world between now and 2010'. FP6 has, for the first time, allocated nearly 10 per cent (1.6 million euro) of its budget to human resources and mobility activities.

However, Mr Busquin identified several major obstacles that stand in the way of free mobility for researchers in Europe. In particular, Mr Busquin pointed to the lack of recognition of qualifications and of relevant social and economic information which, he felt, explained the depletion in numbers of researchers in Europe: In Germany and the Netherlands, 40 percent of young graduates abandon their careers in research in Europe during the crucial phase from acquiring their doctorate to starting their first job assignment. They either go towards a more lucrative work sector or else they prefer to do their research outside of Europe.

Faced with this situation, the European Commission, in cooperation with Member States and candidate countries, has taken a number of urgent initiatives in order to improve the working environment for researchers in Europe, claimed Mr Busquin. An Internet portal is due to be launched which will host information about legislation, financial opportunities, and working holidays for researchers: A European network of mobility centres will also be set up in the first part of 2003 to provide personalised support for researchers and their families.

'[...]researchers are by definition, a category of the population that are naturally mobile. However, the conditions for this are not sufficiently united to make this a reality',' said Mr Busquin. The Commissioner commented on a work paper that was the focal point of discussions at the conference on 16 December, and highlighted the following as significant in ensuring mobility and a more favourable workplace for researchers:

-competitive salaries;
-continued financial support throughout the career of a researcher;
-continued opportunities to follow training at all career levels;
-removal of all references to age limits in fellowships and training programmes;
-harmonisation of entry conditions for non European researchers;
-recognition of mobility in a fiscal and social context (pension schemes);
-the continued work of the Marie Curie Actions;
-improved cooperation between academic and industrial sectors in order to improve inter-sector mobility.

While some countries in the EU (Ireland and to some extent Finland) have made improvements in creating access points between academic world and the industry sector, Mr Busquin warned that the current lack of inter-sector mobility could block the objective agreed at the European Council in Lisbon 2000, of devoting three per cent of the EU's GDP to research in 2010 (two thirds of the investment coming from the private sector).

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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