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Better prospects for researchers - 28/05/2008

Scientist conducts microbiological research on cherries in Zaragoza, Spain

Planned partnership between EU countries should make Europe a more attractive place for researchers.

Europe may produce more science and engineering graduates than either the US or Japan, but it doesn't manage to keep them. Its meagre share of graduate researchers in the workplace is a cause for concern, especially as Europe is trying to develop its knowledge-based economy.   

The main problems are that:

  • in many EU countries, there is little public-sector recruitment through competitive examination
  • young researchers mostly rely on short-term contracts
  • climbing the career ladder is based more on seniority than performance
  • traditional, academic training is poor preparation for the needs of the modern economy.

To redress this, the EU proposes working in partnership with member governments to encourage more open recruitment; greater social security and pension cover for researchers abroad, better employment and working conditions and increased access to training.

The EU’s research commissioner, Mr Potočnik, spoke of his vision for a "fifth freedom" in Europe – knowledge – to allow students, scientists and academics to take advantage of the European job market rather than having to look elsewhere or switch career.

Today's policy document is one of five initiatives following on from the 2007 public consultation "The European research area: new perspectives " which showed that creating an attractive Europe-wide job market for researchers should be a top priority. More than 80% of respondents said they supported the idea of a partnership between the EU and its member governments to guarantee coordinated, efficient and coherent use of legal and financial tools and resources.

European research area – facts and figures

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