10 Years ‘European Charter for Researchers’ (Part 1/3 - History of the Charter)

(May 21st, 2015) In 2005, the European Commission published the ‘European Charter for Researchers’. One of its main aims was to define scientific research as a recognised profession with a clear professional career structure. In March, it celebrated its 10th anniversary, but has it achieved its aims?

Defining research as a profession

The European Charter for Researchers was formulated in response to a growing acceptance that there were problems when it came to defining European policy on research. What is research? How does it differ between science, social science and the humanities? Or between the public and the private sector?  The need for the Charter was explained at an EU meeting in 2005 - “Currently there is fragmentation between disciplines, countries, sectors and perceptions of when an individual becomes a researcher. There is a general lack of recognition of research as a profession, reflected in its status and working conditions. There is a strictly one-dimensional view or appreciation of what it is to be a researcher, so assessment and evaluation focuses on research outputs rather than reflecting all aspects of the job. Recognition of the researchers as professionals also means acknowledging the fact that the role is varied.”

European Researchers in a European Research Area

In Janurary 2000, the European Commission (EC) proposed the establishment of the European Research Area (ERA). This was to act as “the linchpin” for future action consolidating and giving structure to a European research policy. This was linked in March 2000 to the European Council agreement in Lisbon - the Lisbon Strategy - that aimed to make the European Union (EU) “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”. These ambitious goals were to have been achieved by 2010. To do this, it was calculated that European investment in research would have to rise to 3% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 2010. Furthermore, the EC estimated there would be an urgent need for an additional 700,000 researchers.

However, at the time, it was also accepted that if enough researchers were to be found something needed to be done to make research more attractive as a career. The employment situation for researchers across Europe had to be standardised and improved. In 2001, the EC presented ‘A Mobility Strategy for the ERA’ suggesting specific actions to improve the mobility of researchers with the intention of achieving a higher level of training and a better transfer of knowledge within the EU.

Further suggestions for achieving these goals were presented in 2003, with ‘Researchers in the European Research Area: one profession, multiple careers’. This highlighted mobility in the wider context of research careers, and also suggested a series of measures to build up a genuine European labour market for researchers. 

It called for the development of a Researchers’ Charter as a framework for the career management of human resources in R&D. The Charter was drafted in consultation with groups including EURODOC (the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers), Euroscience, the European University Association, the European Industrial Research Management Association and the trade unions, EUROCADRE, and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE).

On 11th March 2005, the European Commission adopted the European Charter for Researchers together with the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (often referred to as “the Charter and the Code”) stating that these two documents were key elements in the EU’s policy to make research an attractive career by creating the conditions necessary to attract and to retain researchers, and through making job selection procedures fairer and more transparent. (The full-text of the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers can be downloaded as a .pdf in 22 European languages).


In part 2, to be published next week, Jeremy Garwood examines the Charter's intentions.

Jeremy Garwood

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Last Changes: 06.30.2015