Commission Communication: Researchers in the European Research Area: One Profession, Multiple Careers (link)

July 23, 2003

Brussels, 22 Jul 2003

Full Text


Human resources are to a large extent the key of research efforts, excellence and performances. The number of researchers, as well as their mobility, are two important aspects of this issue. A third one, directly linked, less often addressed, and never at European level, is the question of the researcher profession and researchers careers.

This question is crucial, because this aspect of the research system has a deep impact on the way research works. It is especially the case in Europe, because the way, in which research careers are structured and organised in Europe, does not allow Europe to fully exploit its potential in this field.

The present Communication is deeply embedded in the implementation of the European Research Area and of its requirement to develop and enhance the human resource potential of European research. It aims to analyse the different elements which characterise the profession and defines the various factors which condition the development of researchers' careers at European level, namely: the role and nature of research training, the differences in recruitment methods, the contractual and budgetary dimension, and, finally, the evaluation mechanisms and the progress perspectives within the career.

The Communication reveals structural weaknesses as well as marked differences concerning each of these elements, according to the sectors in which researchers operate or the geographical, legal, administrative and cultural environments in which they work.

These differences and the lack of openness of researchers careers in Europe, prevent the development of proper career perspectives at European level as well as the emergence of a real employment market for researchers in Europe, whether considered from a geographical, sectoral, or gender perspective. These differences also have significant repercussions on the attractiveness of young people for careers in R&D, as well as on the overall public recognition of researchers.

All these considerations are at odds with the priorities defined on several occasions by the Heads of State and Governments concerning the emergence of the knowledge economy, the implementation of the European Research Area and the "3 % objective".

At the same time, the Communication draws attention to a number of examples of good practice at national level and demonstrates that initiatives are being launched in several countries in order to alleviate the effects of the above-mentioned differences.

In this respect, this Communication proposes a series of practical initiatives in order to foster dialogue between the different stakeholders at European level, namely the European Community, the national governments and the scientific communities.

Likewise, this Communication proposes to deepen, wherever necessary the analysis of the causes and effects of the above-mentioned differences. It also aims to launch on a voluntary basis, a series of specific actions aimed at providing a better overall co-

ordination of efforts in favour of the recognition of the researcher's profession, as well as to establish a real European labour market based on the potential capacities of all actors, independently of their geographical location, the sector their are working in or their gender and it recognises the need for an overall view of Human Resources for R&D throughout the careers as well as for a set of sufficiently detailed, reliable and harmonised indicators for measuring it1.


In January 2000, the Commission adopted a Communication proposing the creation of a European Research Area (ERA)2 which emphasised, inter alia, the need to introduce a European dimension into careers in R&D, and appealed for more abundant and more mobile human resources. The latter concern became the subject of the Communication "A mobility strategy for the ERA" 3, which aims at establishing the dynamics required to set up and develop a favourable environment for mobile researchers throughout their careers.

A series of concrete actions4 mark the implementation of this strategy such as the development of the Researcher's Mobility Portal5, the setting up of the European Network of Mobility Centres as well as legislative initiatives in the areas of conditions of admission of third country researchers.

The subsequent Spring European Councils (Lisbon 2000, Stockholm 2001, Barcelona 2002 and Brussels in 2003) have endorsed the ERA and set a series of objectives inviting the Commission and the Member States to take due account of the possible shortage of human resources in R&D as well as of the importance of enhancing the training and mobility of researchers. The issue of human resources in R&D was also raised in the context of the 3% objective6, particularly in the Communication "More Research for Europe ­ towards 3% of GDP"7 which underlined the fact that Member States and the research community need to be aware of the risk that a lack of sufficient human resources in R&D constitutes a bottleneck to the attainment of the 3% objective. This is further developed in the recently adopted Communication "Investing in research: an action plan for Europe"8.


Brussels, 18.7.2003 COM(2003) 436 final

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