EU: Improving researchers' careers

The European Commission is to launch an initiative by July to help European Union researchers promote their careers by moving between the EU's 27 member states. The action follows public consultation on a commission Green Paper issued in April last year and titled The European Research Area: New perspectives.

Responses to the paper identified careers and mobility as one of the top challenges to be tackled in coming years, along with "sharing knowledge" and "developing world-class research infrastructures" if the EU's ambitious EUR54 billion (US$83.8 billion) Seventh Framework Programme 2007-2013 on research grants is to achieve its full potential.

Brussels said that while there was little demand for binding legislation to clear away red tape preventing researchers moving from country to country, there was significant support for voluntary guidelines setting up a pan-European system of common rules allowing researchers to move between posts in different member states.

Other initiatives expected to be launched by the commission in the next few months will cover the management of intellectual property by public research organisations, and international science and technology cooperation.

Announcing the consultation results, EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik said that structural weaknesses prevented Europe from exploiting the full potential of its overall research capability. This required further action either at national or European levels, or both, Potočnik said. "EU research ministers agree that Europe now needs to develop a common vision and a better political governance of ERA," he said.

Potočnik said that "virtually all of the responses" emphasised the role of industry in EU research and its links to wider innovation and education policy. He acknowledged, however, that industry regretted that the green paper had focused more on challenges to public research systems and not enough on the central roles of private R&D within the European Research Area and of the linkages between research and innovation.