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Further steps are needed to attract and retain research talents in Europe

02 November 2023

As EU Member States are expected to conclude negotiations on the European Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on a European framework to attract and retain research, innovation and entrepreneurial talents in Europe, the Coimbra Group joins other leading university associations – AURORA, EUA, The Guild and YERUN  – in welcoming the attention given by the Commission to research careers with this legislative package scheduled to be adopted by the EU27 Research Ministers in early December 2023.

Together we welcome the general objectives of the Commission proposal, which includes a European Competence Framework for Researchers (ResearchComp), an updated Charter for Researchers (annexed to the Council Recommendation), and an Observatory on Research Careers (ReICO).

While we recognise that this proposal is moving things forward, our associations want to emphasise however that the adoption of the Council Recommendations will be a first step in a series of more active commitments that Member States would need to embark upon to fulfil the objective of improving research careers in Europe.

Our joint statement encompasses four key issues:

  • Sustainable research careers hinge on the presence of enabling framework conditions for institutions and the stability granted by long-term core funding.
  • Flexible and multiple career pathways should be envisioned with a holistic and long-term perspective.
  • Universities should be empowered to offer stable and more predictable research careers.
  • The evidence base for monitoring research careers should be developed in an open and sustainable manner.

Given the voluntary nature of the Council Recommendation, we caution against the risk of further divergence in career pathway and talent retainment strategies between countries already having mechanisms in place versus countries not implementing the recommendations. Striking a balance between encouraging progress and ensuring equitable opportunities for researchers remains a crucial challenge in our pursuit of fostering a European Research Area.

The attractiveness of research careers depends also on the protection of academic core values (e.g. academic freedom, institutional autonomy) and the availability of high-quality research and innovation support offices in universities (enabling the researchers to focus on their research).

The Charter for Researchers, the ResearchComp framework, the human resource strategy for researchers (HRS4R) label and the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment are incentives that should remain voluntary and inspirational.

It is important that while Member States are discussing and adopting these Council Recommendations, they reflect on the need for proactive measures and accountability in ensuring appropriate resources and efforts are dedicated to the implementation of these recommendations.

Coimbra Group committed last year to the implementation of eight European Research Area (ERA) Actions under the ERA Policy Agenda 2022-2024, among them the so-called Action 4 on Research Careers. Since then, and with the support of the European Commission’s DG RTD, Coimbra Group has been acting as co-sponsor of ERA Policy Action 4 jointly with Portugal.