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World-class research needs world-class researchers. Ambitious standards on working conditions and career development can help the CIVIS Alliance attract and retain the best research talent, ultimately increasing the impact and social benefit of the research and innovation (R&I) that our member universities deliver. To support this, Module 4 of the RIS4CIVIS project is developing sustainable common approaches to recruitment, mobility, training and working conditions for researchers.

Objectives and challenges for human capital in research and innovation

In particular, Module 4 will concentrate efforts on the following aims:

  • Optimising the HR Strategy for Researchers at all CIVIS universities;
  • Encouraging researcher mobility in the CIVIS Alliance
  • Establishing a transferable skills programme or training catalogue for the whole Alliance
  • Developing standardised strategies and practices for researchers’ career development

These objectives are intertwined, but together they can help us improve the overall research environment. We also want to break down barriers between CIVIS member universities, with researchers not only belonging to one institution. That means, for example, that they should be able to attend a course taking place in another other CIVIS university or access jointly organised programs and resources on career support and mobility. What is more, all researchers will benefit when CIVIS universities exchange good practice in areas like working conditions, gender equality, welcome desks, sustainability, etc.

As we started work, several obstacles arose which required flexibility and creative solutions:

  • Different organisational policies and systems not only at university level but also at national level – make it difficult to harmonise the recruitment and working conditions of researchers across the CIVIS Alliance. We will prioritise transfer of knowledge and practices first. Universities can then choose among those practices/ideas/initiatives which best fit their own institutional or national organisation.

  • We foresee difficulties in standardising our practises because some domains, such as career development support for researchers, are not developed to the same level in all universities. Thus, any standardising process can only be based on recommendations. The concrete application and next steps will be a decision for the universities themselves.
  • Universities have divergent institutional strategies and scope for compromise. Each CIVIS member university has its own priorities regarding human resources in research, which depend on their history and current context. This makes it challenging to find common objectives, but mobility and training have proven to be the topics where collaboration is easiest. In these areas, the main difficulties lie in the benchmarking of the courses and mobility possibilities and then the organisation of the programmes themselves (communication, content, participant recruitment, etc). In the long run, creating training programmes solely by opening already existing courses to researchers at other CIVIS member universities is not sustainable and this is not our main objective. However, this approach can be a first step to offer new opportunities to researchers while achieving collaboration and knowledge sharing between trainers, lecturers and other collaborators.

Our actions to strengthen human capital

We are experimenting with strategies and activities to achieve the objective above through three case studies. These will be implemented and evaluated to bring immediate benefits to participants in the pilot phase and inspiration for the CIVIS Alliance’s future joint R&I strategy.

RIS4CAREERS, the career development program for CIVIS researchers

This pilot career support programme for researchers at CIVIS member universities aims to support participants in their reflections about their career development. We will provide access to training resources and support from mentors both inside and outside academia. This international 6-month program will mainly focus on offering new perspectives on market insertion, entrepreneurship, communication and skills for third/fourth year PhD candidates and early-career post-docs.

Training programmes on Science Communication, Career Development, Entrepreneurship, etc

Transferable skills are key for career development, especially with the ever-changing job market and the reduced positions within academia. Acquiring competences that go beyond research skills increases the opportunities for researchers to adapt better and faster to different fields.

Thematic meetings for exchange of good practices on working conditions

Broad meetings on topics such as HRS4R, Welcome Desks, career development, gender, sustainability, etc, help to identify specific technical issues where there is desire for further discussion and scope for CIVIS member universities to cooperate and share practice. Follow-up meetings stemming from the initial discussion will define a framework for collaboration and identify key people at CIVIS member universities who could support the development of joint work in the domain.

RIS4CIVIS Podcast - Strengthening Human Capital

We will delve on the build of common standards for human resources, specifically focusing on training, career development and working conditions for researchers. We are thrilled to host Leaticia Martinez Garcia, leader on this project within RIS4CIVIS and Madeleine Heger, a Phd student specialized in Agroecology at ULB. Madeline actively engaged in a blended-intensive science communication program orchestrated by Leaticia. This initiative is an integral component of the RIS4CIVIS project.

Briefing note

RIS4CIVIS modules leaders have addressed briefing notes to advocate decision-makers on relevant guidelines based on their experiences and main findings. Briefing notes give decision-makers knowledge and provide recommendations on key actions areas such as Open science, Human Capital, Infrastructure, Civil Society or Industry.