Paving the way for healthy and empowering working environments: A joint action of institutes, early career researchers (ECRs


A joint action of institutes, early career researchers (ECRs) and funders

Mathias Schroijen and Giulia Malaguarnera

To strengthen our knowledge-based economy, it is crucial to evaluate and constantly improve our innovation performance. In a recent comparative analysis, the European Commission (EC) looked at four key measures [1], namely: framework conditions, reliable investments, innovation activities and impact.

Framework conditions include the creation of a sufficiently high number of doctorate holders as ‘innovation ambassadors’, the attractiveness of research systems and the creation of environments that actively support and drive innovation. Current debates within the research communities are stressing the need to effectively prepare doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows not only for an academic career, but also as leaders in more innovation-centred career paths. In order to create and sustain such career development, universities need to reach out to non-academic sectors and potential funders, ranging from typical scientific funding agencies to more general and philanthropic initiatives.This chapter aims to present an integrative model of how institutes, early career researchers (ECRs) and funders can optimally work together with a specific focus on encouraging ECRs to become agents of their own career development, and providing guidelines to funders on which initiatives should be further reinforced.

In the following paragraphs, we will first focus on the current state of the art of doctoral training in the European area and the differences that exist among the various member states as reported by ECRs. Then, we will focus on the role that ECRs themselves can play in shaping and strengthening the institutional career development and training programmes through various bottom-up initiatives. After that, we will outline how doctoral training and career development services can be implemented sustainably through reliable long-term collaborative funding models that include actors from academia, industry and the wider society, thereby focusing also on the unique opportunities created by the current evolutions in Open Science. We will conclude with an integrative model of how various actors can work together in creating empowering working conditions and collaborative endeavours that boost innovation performance.

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