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 award "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 40 countries in Europe and abroad (and European/international organisations) have expressed their explicit support for the Charter & Code and 232 have obtained the Commission's "HR Excellence in Research" badge.
What is the "Human Resources Strategy for Researchers"?
The 'Human Resources Strategy for Researchers' (HRS4R) is a tool that helps employers and funders implement the principles of the Charter & Code in their institutions. 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 institution;
- 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.
What organisations can implement the HRS4R Strategy for Researchers?
The HRS4R can be implemented by individual organisations employing or funding researchers, such as universities, research institutions, or research funding organisations. Umbrella organisations recruiting of funding researchers can submit one unique HR application if there is one HR department covering all. Should there be more than one HR department with different policies for each, there should be multiple and separate HR award submissions. Relevant umbrella organisations that do not recruit nor fund researchers cannot implement the HRS4R on behalf of their member organisations, but can play an important role in facilitating the coordination of institutional efforts at national or regional level (e.g. analysis of legal framework for all institutions governed by it, etc.).
Is there a difference in the HRS4R process addressed to funding organisations compared to universities or research organisations?
The HRS4R process for funding bodies requires a slight reinterpretation as funders are usually not directly acting as employers of researchers. The aim is to integrate the Charter & Code principles in their own funding criteria, requiring host institutions to apply them. Funding bodies should carry out the internal gap analysis within this scope. Funding bodies often play an active role in national policy processes and should also consider this dimension when carrying out their gap analysis and drawing up their action plan.
In order to participate in the HRS4R process, is it mandatory to endorse the Charter & Code first?
Organisations that want to participate in the HR Strategy process are expected to already have endorsed the Charter & Code. Ideally, the time lapse between Charter & Code endorsement and HRS4R implementation should be no longer than one (1) year.
From an organisation's point of view, what is the benefit in taking part in the HRS4R process?
The HRS4R is a tool aimed at helping organisations to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of the actions that they should undertake to provide an attractive and supportive environment to researchers. In addition, organisations taking part in the process will become part of a network of like-minded organisations from across Europe, providing opportunities for the exchange of experiences and the sharing of good practice with other organisations also implementing the HRS4R.
From a researcher's point of view, what are the five reasons to choose an employer or funder implementing the HRS4R?
S/he can expect that:
- Rights as a professional are recognised and enhanced
- Mobility experience is valued
- Work-life balance is respected
- Recruitment will follow a transparent process
- They join a truly pan-European network consisting of research organisations and researchers
Does participation in the HRS4R process entail a lot of extra work or extra costs for the organisation?
The HRS4R is an implementation process put into action on a voluntary basis and is as simple as possible, avoiding cumbersome procedures and respecting the variety of situations across institutions. It should be integrated into already existing institutional strategies and activities, exploiting synergies and improving already existing processes. Although a certain amount of extra work is required at the beginning, this should be compensated by efficiency gains once the process is implemented.
What are the key success factors for the implementation of the HRS4R?
There are several factors leading to a successful implementation of the HRS4R.
The most relevant ones are:
- Full support from the institutional leadership;
- Allocation of dedicated resources, especially during the initial phases;
- Communication with all the actors involved;
- Securing the buy-in from all departments involved (e.g. by setting up an institutional cross-cutting working group);
- Ensuring the integration of the views of the researchers employed, hosted or funded by the organisation (e.g. by using appropriate tools such as staff surveys, workshops, or focus groups);
- Exchanges with other organisations also involved in the HRS4R processes to learn from their experience
How does the HRS4R process work?
The HRS4R is articulated in five main steps summarised below:
Step 1 - The organisation carries out an internal gap analysis, for which the Commission provides a standard template (whose use is not mandatory) grouping all the 40 Charter & Code principles in four areas ('Ethical and professional aspects', 'Recruitment', 'Working conditions & social security' and 'Training').
Step 2 - The research institution or funding organisation publishes its 'Human Resources Strategy for Researchers' as well as clear information about it on its website in a publicly accessible place and in EN, and provides the link to the European Commission for posting on the EURAXESS website. The document(s) published should summarise the main results of the internal gap analysis and present the actions proposed to ensure and/or improve alignment with the Charter & Code principles. The action plan must include clearly assigned responsibilities for the different actions as well as a reasonably concrete timeline for their completion.
Step 3 - Provided that the above steps are formally respected, the European Commission 'acknowledges' that the participating organisation has adopted a Human Resources Strategy for Researchers. This acknowledgement gives the organisation the right to use the 'HR Excellence in Research' award.
Step 4 - The 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 least every second year after the HR award.
Step 5 - External evaluation: at least every four years after the HR award, the 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 organisation will undergo an external evaluation by peer reviewers, either on site or remotely.
The HRS4R five steps in more detail (to know more, click on Steps)
Step 1 - The research institution or funding organisation carries out an internal analysis (i.e. Gap 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 in an easily-accessible place and in English also. 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.
- What is the 'Internal Gap Analysis'? The internal gap analysis (or restricted SWOT analysis) is an assessment of rules and practices in place vis-à-vis the Charter & Code principles. In order to be transparent, the analysis must involve all key institutional stakeholders concerned, with special attention to researchers (e.g. Rector/CEO, HR managers, researchers, etc.). In institutions where other HR initiatives of a similar nature are already in place, the 'HR Strategy for Researchers' could easily be embedded. 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.
- There is a template for the Gap Analysis on the EURAXESS website: is it mandatory and should all its sections be filled in? Do details about local/national legislation related to the different items of the Charter & Code need to be provided? It is not mandatory to use the template provided on the EURAXESS website. 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.). There is no need to provide all the details about the local/national legislation related to the different items of the Charter & Code, but to point out the relevant national legislation impacting the organisation's ability to align its policies and practices with the Charter & Code. In particular, all limitations/barriers to the implementation of the HRS4R should be highlighted.
- What are the most important points to keep in mind when carrying out the Gap Analysis?
The most important points when carrying out the gap analysis are (non-exhaustively):
- All institutional stakeholders should be involved (in particular the group of researchers employed/funded);
- Focus should be put on institutional practices and policies;
- The analysis should focus on both importance (how serious is the issue?) and groups affected (how many people are affected?), keeping in mind significant minorities. This should help to prioritise the issues at stake;
- The analysis of the legal framework should focus on issues for which the national legislation could impede the implementation of the Charter & Code principles or already fully covers some aspects;
- Some principles may not apply to an organisation; sometimes it may be necessary to reinterpret some aspects in view of the specificities of the organisation concerned;
- What are the most important points when developing the Institutional HR Strategy and Action Plan?
The Institutional HR Strategy and Action Plan should entail the following:
- A summary of the key outcomes of the gap analysis (strengths & weaknesses);
- A short explanation of the approach and methodology applied (who was involved, how have stakeholders been consulted?);
- An elaboration of the responsibilities (lead department/function) and target dates for the actions proposed (at least by year's quarter/semester);
- Both short term items ('low hanging fruit') and longer term strategic items (timeframe 4-5 years) should be covered;
- The approach to the monitoring should be described (setting up of a Steering Group / a Monitoring Group, internal reporting requirements, etc.);
- Specific indicators (both for implementation of the actions put forward and for achievement of desired results)
- The action plan should be coherent in all points with the outcomes of the gap-analysis and should include a sound timeline for the implementation of the actions at short, medium and long term.
Step 3 - Provided that the above steps are formally respected and both Gap Analysis and Action Plan sent within set cut-off dates1, 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 run by external assessors. 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' award, which can be placed on its website and is displayed next to all job and funding adverts published at the EURAXESS web-site. With this award, 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.
- Does the organisation applying for the Commission's 'acknowledgement' ('HR Excellence in Research' award) have to publish the full Gap Analysis? Only the main results of the internal analysis have to be published, while internal/confidential information does obviously not have to be disclosed. Apart from a summary of the main outcomes of the internal analysis and a description of the approach to the gap analysis taken by the organisation (methodology for the analysis, stakeholders consulted etc.) as well as the Action Plan detailing the actions proposed and the timeline of their implementation, the HR Strategy document(s) published should also include the clear commitment to carry out internal (within the institution/organisation) and external (at regional or national level) awareness-raising actions on the Charter & Code principles.
- Where can we see examples of the documents produced by other organisations that have already received the Commission 'acknowledgement'? The country list of institutions and organisations that have already been acknowledged can be found on here. The names of the organisations listed are linked to the section of their website where the Action Plan is published.
- Is there a help-desk providing information and guidance? Besides detailed information provided on the EURAXESS portal the EURAXESS Rights Team is reachable at:RTD-CHARTER@ec.europa.eu
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 after the HR award.
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 web-site. In order to avoid cumbersome procedures, the self-assessment should be simple. If the standard template was used for the internal Gap Analysis (Step 1), it may be used for these purposes as well. No additional reports are required.
Step 5 - External evaluation: at least every four years after the HR award, 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 four years).
What does the 'HR Excellence in Research' award have to do with the HR Strategy for Researchers? What does an organisation have to do to obtain the right to use the award?
Participating organisations are awarded with the 'HR Excellence in Research' badge once they have attained Step 3 of the HR Strategy implementation process and have received the acknowledgement by the European Commission. Once an organisation has been granted the right to use the 'HR Excellence in Research' award, it can be placed on the organisation's website, on PR and information material, job advertisements at the EURAXESS portal, etc. With this award, participating research institutions will benefit from increased visibility as employers committed to implementing 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 award 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.
What does the 'HR Excellence in Research' award stand for?
The 'HR Excellence in Research' award acknowledges progress in aligning research institutions' HR policies with the principles set out in the Charter and Code. As a result, acknowledged institutions can promote themselves as providers of stimulating and favourable working environments, where researchers can expect fair and transparent recruitment practices and appraisal procedures. The HR excellence award does not measure the quality of the research institutions' HR policies. Funding organisations can use the award 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. The right to use the badge is awarded to organisations that have made a demonstrated effort to align their policies and practices with the principles underlying the Charter & Code, and that are thus striving to move towards HR excellence in research. It is thus not a label of excellence already achieved.
If the application for the acknowledgement and the 'HR Excellence in Research' award is rejected, can documents be resubmitted? Do applicants receive any feedback on strengths and weaknesses of their submission?
Yes, organisations can resubmit their request for acknowledgement to the EC once they have improved the documents produced based on the feedback received from the EC. Requests for acknowledgement are considered by a panel of three external assessors who provide comments to the applicant organisation. These are transmitted by the EURAXESS Rights team within DG Research and Innovation in charge of the "HR Strategy for Researchers incorporating the Charter and Code".
Who actually decides whether an organisation receives the Commission's 'acknowledgement'" and the 'HR Excellence in Research' award?
Once the institutional HR Strategy and Action Plan have been published and sent to the EC, a panel of three external assessors checks the compliance of the documents provided with the requirements of the HR Strategy process. The EC awards the badge if the assessment is positive.
What is Article 32 of the Horizon 2020 Model Grant Agreement and what does it foresee?
The H2020 Annotated Model Grant Agreement (General MGA: August 2014) devotes Art. 32 to 'Recruitment and Working Conditions for Researchers'. This article is not an evaluation criterion; therefore it does not help institutions when applying for H2020 funding. However, as specified under Chapter 6, following a check, audit, extension of audit findings, review or OLAF investigation, the H2020 grant beneficiary may be requested to provide evidence that Art. 32 has been duly applied. Within this frame, the HR logo may be considered a proof â though not the only one - of the implementation of the C&C principles.
SPECIAL CASE — SIMILAR INITIATIVES
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-à-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.
What is the Concordat process which is used in the UK?
The UK process is carried out within the framework of the UK Concordat and is run by Vitae - an international programme led and managed by CRAC, a not-for-profit registered UK charity dedicated to active career learning and development. The UK Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers is an agreement between funders and employers of research staff to improve the employment and support for researchers and research careers in UK higher education. It sets out clear standards that research staff can expect from the institution that employs them, as well as their responsibilities as researchers. Vitae leads on the management and implementation of the Concordat. The Concordat Strategy Group oversees strategy and implementation.
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