The Human Resources Strategy for Researchers ( HRS4R )
The "HR Strategy for Researchers" supports research institutions and funding organisations in the implementation of the Charter & Code in their policies and practices. The concrete implementation of the Charter & Code by research institutions will render them more attractive to researchers looking for a new employer or for a host for their research project. Funding organisations implementing the Charter & Code principles will contribute to the attractiveness of their national research systems and to the attractiveness of the European Research Area more generally. The logo "HR Excellence in Research" will identify the institutions and organisations as providers and supporters of a stimulating and favourable working environment.
Since the adoption of the Commission Recommendation on the Charter & Code in 2005, over 1 200 institutions from 35 countries in Europe and abroad (and European/international organisations) have expressed their explicit support for the Charter & Code and 102 have obtained the Commission's "HR Excellence in Research" badge.
What is the "Human Resources Strategy for Researchers"?
The "Human Resources Strategy for Researchers" is a tool that helps employers and funders to put the principles of the Charter & Code into practice. It has the following features:
- It is implemented by individual research institutions and funding organisations on a voluntary basis;
- It is based on an internal self-assessment and respects the autonomy of the institutions;
- It is as simple and light in terms of administration as is possible, avoiding cumbersome procedures and recognising the variety of situations across institutions and national research systems;
- It is not a prerequisite for participating in the EU Research Framework Programme;
- It is a transparent approach that provides easily accessible public information on the actions of participating institutions and organisations to implement the Charter & Code principles.
How does it work?
The "Human Resources Strategy for Researchers" is articulated in five main steps:
- An internal analysis by the participating research institution or funding organisation, involving all key players, to compare policies and practices against the Charter & Code principles;
- On the basis of the results of this analysis, the participating institution or organisation develops its own HR strategy for researchers which should include a concrete action plan. This document is made public;
- The analysis and action plan are then reviewed and acknowledged by the European Commission. The acknowledgement implies the right to use the 'HR Excellence in Research' logo;
- Progress in the implementation of the strategy and action plan is subjected to a self-assessment after 2 years;
- An external evaluation is carried out at least every 4 years.
The HR strategy's five steps in more detail
Step 1 - The research institution or funding organisation carries out an internal analysis according to a standard template grouping all the 40 Charter & Code principles in 4 areas ('Ethical and professional aspects', 'Recruitment', 'Working conditions & social security' and 'Training').
The internal analysis is an assessment of rules and practices in place vis-a-vis the Charter & Code principles. In order to be transparent, the analysis must involve all key players concerned (i.e. Rector, HR managers, researchers, etc.).
Where other HR initiatives of a similar nature are already in place, the "HR Strategy for Researchers" could be easily embedded in them. Thus, tools other than the suggested standard template for the internal analysis may be used, provided that the same type of information is gathered (relevant legislation, current practices, actions required by when and by whom etc).
The use of indicator systems and staff opinion surveys is recommended, as they are important supporting tools to implement the HR strategy according to institutional and national rules and practices.
Step 2 - The research institution or funding organisation publishes its "Human Resources Strategy for Researchers" on its website and on the European EURAXESS Rights webpage. It should summarise the main results of the internal analysis and present the actions proposed to ensure and/or improve alignment with the Charter & Code principles.
The HR Strategy should include clear engagement to carry out internal (within the institution/organisation) and external (at regional or national level) awareness-raising actions on the Charter & Code principles. Only the main results of the internal analysis have to be published, while internal/confidential information is obviously not included.
Step 3 - Provided that the above steps are formally respected, the European Commission "acknowledges" that the participating research institution or funding organisation has adopted a Human Resources Strategy for Researchers.
The acknowledgment by the EC is based on a rapid formal check of the respect for the procedure. This check focuses on whether the publication of the HR Strategy is based on an internal analysis and the involvement of relevant actors.
Once the European Commission has acknowledged the efforts, the research institution or funder will be rewarded with the 'HR Excellence in Research' logo, which can be placed on its website. With this logo, participating research institutions will benefit from increased visibility as employers committed to the principles of the Charter & Code. This will help them to attract the best researchers from around the globe. Participating research funders will be able to use the logo to promote their respective national research system and the European Research Area as a whole as an attractive place for researchers from all over the world to develop their careers.
Step 4 - The research institution or funding organisation implements its HR strategy and conducts a self-assessment within the framework of its existing internal quality assurance mechanisms. This self-assessment should be undertaken regularly, at a minimum every second year.
Based on the self-assessment, the HR Strategy for Researchers is updated as necessary and published on the website or the participating research institution or funding organisation and on the European EURAXESS Rights Webpage.
In order to avoid cumbersome procedures, the self-assessment should be simple. If the standard template was used for the internal analysis (Step 1), it may be used for these purposes as well. No additional reports are required.
Step 5 - External evaluation: at least every 4 years, the research institution or funding organisation drafts a short report, showing the progress made towards the objectives of its HR Strategy for Researchers and its compliance with the principles of the Charter & Code.
The report is evaluated either by a panel of external reviewers or through national quality assurance mechanisms, such as National Evaluation Agencies, peer reviews, etc. The evaluation should at least focus on the coherence between the HR Strategy and the actions carried out.
If the evaluation is positive, the European Commission's acknowledgment is confirmed. If there are reservations from the evaluators regarding actual progress, recommendations for improvements within a reasonable timeframe are made. If, at the end of the period granted for improvements it emerges that no adequate actions to implement the recommendations have been undertaken, the acknowledgment by the European Commission is withdrawn.
The choice between the national quality assurance mechanisms, external reviewers or any other appropriate mechanism is made either at institutional or national/regional level.
Whatever the solution, the following evaluation criteria should apply:
- Impartiality and independence of the evaluation
- Confidentiality, as only the final decision on the EC acknowledgment of the HR Strategy is made public.
- Regularity (at least every 4 years).
What does the 'HR Excellence in Research' logo stand for?
Research institutions can use the logo to help promote themselves to prospective research talent as providers of a stimulating and favourable work environment. The logo also conveys to researchers their commitment to fair and transparent recruitment and appraisal procedures. Funding organisations can use the logo to increase their visibility as organisations actively promoting their national research system and/or the European Research Area more generally as an attractive destination for researchers from all over the world.
Which organisations have already expressed an interest in the HR Strategy for Researchers?
The list of institutions and organisations that have already declared their intention to use the HR Strategy for Researchers to align their policies and practices to the principles of the Charter & Code can be found here.
List of institutions and organisations having received the Commission acknowledgement for their progress in the context of the HR Strategy (by country)
The list can be viewed here
What about similar initiatives already in place?
Where such initiatives/mechanisms are undertaken at national/regional level (as for example, the "UK mechanism for demonstrating sector-wide and institutional alignment with the European Charter and Code") , these mechanisms may be considered as equivalent to the "HR Strategy for Researchers", provided that they serve the same purposes with respect to the Charter & Code and that the key requirements are met. In addition to the formal endorsement of the Charter & Code principles, these initiatives should include an internal analysis vis-a-vis the Charter & Code, the results of which (including the actions to be taken) should be made public. Their implementation is to be self-assessed with an external evaluation at least every four years.