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Research Europe, 19 June 2014 news 5

Global funders principles fail

to address career problems
Prominent research funders worldwide have adopted
eight principles to support the next generation of
researchers, but researcher groups have criticised their
lack of action on more immediate career concerns.
The principles were finalised at a Global Research
Council meeting that took place in Beijing from 26 to 28
May. The document emphasises diversity, interdiscipli-
narity, transferable skills, career development, outreach
activities, research integrity, mobility and encouraging
young students to participate in research. It is intended
as a reference document for funding agencies world-
wide, to raise awareness about research training issues
and to encourage funders to share best practice.
Its actually quite powerful to have such a collective
of agencies saying the same thing at the same time,
says Amanda Crowfoot, director of Science Europe, an
interest group for funders and research organisations,
who attended the GRC meeting.
Peter Tindemans, secretary-general of the grass-
roots scientists organisation EuroScience, agrees that
it is important for funders around the world to consider
such principles, but says he is concerned that they are
not really addressing the real and serious problem
of the imbalance between permanent and temporary
research positions. They dont seem to accept respon-
sibility that the funding agencies have to do something
about that.
Theyve had all these sorts of principles before,
adds John Peacock, president of Eurodoc, the European
Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers.
It doesnt give us any concrete actions.
Crowfoot, however, notes that the principles are
intended to be used globally. Things that we may in
Europe have been doing for quite a long time may be
newer in some other countries where theyre still devel-
oping their research systems, she says.
Jennifer Rohn, chairwoman of the lobby group
Science is Vital, describes the principles as lots of great
ideas but no practical suggestions. She would like to
see funders give younger researchers more autonomy,
such as by opening up more grant schemes for early
career stages, to give them greater independence.
Giving younger people more ability to set their own fate
would help, I think, she says.
by Penny Sarchet
Spanish council short-staffed for Horizon 2020
Three vice-presidents at Spains research council, the
CSIC, have stepped down in protest at staff shortages that
are putting the countrys success in Horizon 2020 at risk.
The CSIC funds and produces about 20 per cent of
Spains research and oversees most of its participation
in Horizon 2020. It used to employ 12 people to manage
more than 750 EU research contracts, but this number
was cut down to eight this year, an inside source told
Research Europe.
The reductions have come at a time when EU Frame-
work programmes have increasingly become a lifeline
for science in recession-hit Spain. Between 2007 and
2011, the country received more than 1.3 billion from
Framework 7. Spains annual budget for public research,
meanwhile, has been hovering at about 5.5bn.
The CSICs three vice-presidents of scientific and tech-
nical research stepped down simultaneously on 29 May
in protest at the staff shortage. The staffing needs for
the management of European programmes are pressing,
says Jos Ramn Naranjo Orovio, who was associate vice-
president of scientific programming. We did not have
adequate support to solve the problem of recruitment,
therefore we left.
A spokeswoman from the CSIC, however, said that the
vice-presidents resigned for personal reasons.
Because of the staff reductions, the council employs
just one person to manage the legal aspects of 750 con-
tracts. Comparison with other countries is difficult as
there are different systems for Horizon 2020 partici-
pation, but the UKs University of York, for example,
employs two people to oversee the legal aspects of just
40 such contracts. Naranjo describes the workload of the
CSIC office as brutal.
The CSIC is not the only institution to suffer from this
problem; universities are also finding it difficult to hire
enough people to manage their Horizon 2020 participa-
tion, says ngel Pazos, executive secretary for R&D at
Crue, the Spanish rectors association. But universities
have been able to hire temporary staff, which is not pos-
sible at the CSIC for bureaucratic reasons. According to
Naranjo, the resignation of the vice-presidents is intend-
ed to draw attention to this issue of red tape getting in
the way, which he says can be quite easily addressed.
We only have to streamline the process, he says.
by Cristina Gallardo