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HR Excellence in Research

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HR Excellence in Research Award

HR Excellence in Research logo

On 6 December 2017, the European Commission awarded the Jagiellonian University with the prestigious HR Excellence in Research Award.

The award is given to institutions that provide excellent working conditions for researchers, demonstrate transparent recruitment procedures and implement the recommendations of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.  

The award is one of the actions undertaken by the European Commission in the framework of the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) with a view to creating an attractive and open labour market for researchers in the European Union. 

HRS4R acknowledged institutions commit themselves to respect the principles of the Charter and the Code, they continuously improve their practices and are subject to regular evaluation by experts appointed by the EC.

On November 21-22, HRS4R Info Day 2023, a conference on scientific careers, was held in Brussels. The meeting was organised by the European Commission and was attended by speakers from EU countries - including Ireland, Belgium, Germany - and participants from European universities and research centres.

The meeting discussed the current situation and prospects for the development of the European Charter for Researchers and the HRS4R strategy. On 13 July 2023 the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council recommendation on a European Framework for Research Careers, which includes a new European Charter for Researchers and launched the ResearchComp (European Framework for Researchers' Competencies) website. Additional initiatives are also being undertaken, including the development of a career observatory for science and research.

The European Charter for Researchers is a set of principles underpinning the development of attractive scientific careers to promote excellence in research and innovation across Europe. The Charter has undergone a major revision and is currently under discussion at the Council level. It is scheduled for adoption in December 2023.

In addition, the 4 pillars of the European Charter for Researchers (expanded to include new areas) were redefined at the conference:

  1. Ethics, Integrity, Gender and Open Science
  2. Researchers Assessment, Recruitment and Progression
  3. Working Conditions and Practices
  4. Research Careers and Talent Development

In the area of Ethics, Integrity, Gender and Open Science, the primary responsibility for research integrity should lie with the researchers themselves. Researchers should be supported to create and adhere to policies, procedures, and guidelines, as well as training and mentoring based on sharing best practices. Attention was also paid to the need to define rules for evaluating researchers to promote the quality and openness of research, including research that verifies previously published results. The importance of the CoARA coalition as a forum to develop guidelines for such evaluations was stressed.

As for Open Science - Scientists should engage in all aspects of open science and be supported by their employers and funders in this regard. They should share their results in an open way, e.g. through open data repositories, open access publications, open software, models, and algorithms. They should strive to implement open science methodology, which is considered an approach that increases the reproducibility and thus the reliability of published results. It was emphasised that the term "open science" is understood very broadly and is equated by a significant number of researchers with open access publications. Attention was drawn to the need for training to clarify the broader meaning of open science and the importance of solutions introduced at the national level to ensure funding of activities.

In terms of Researchers Assessment, Recruitment and Progression, the evaluation of researchers should promote the quality of research conducted, while taking into account the diversity of research careers and the importance of mobility (both geographic and intersectoral). This requires recognising diverse forms of sharing research results and taking into account a variety of research activities and practices, including interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration and impact on the social environment.

In terms of Working Conditions and Practices, it is particularly important to increase employment stability and the development of career paths that allow (when qualitative criteria are met) for achieving stable employment (tenure track). Employers and/or funders should take strong measures to counter precarity and promote security and predictability of employment rules, including limiting the maximum total duration of fixed-term contracts. In doing so, the implications of introducing the recommended maximum threshold of one third of fixed-term contracts in an employer's personnel policies were discussed, especially in the context of the Spanish experience. It was emphasised that in cases where permanent, long-term, or recurring research tasks are carried out, indefinite contracts should be used. The importance of systemic solutions, adopted at the level of member countries, was again noted.

Another topic presented at the conference was about starting the process of applying for and implementing the HR logo. Research and innovation are the answer to most of the societal challenges in Europe. The lack of career stability undermines the attractiveness of scientific careers in Europe and contributes to a decrease in the competitiveness of European science. Given the key role of scientists in shaping Europe's future, the European Commission is accelerating its efforts, through its new European Research Area policy, to make scientific careers truly attractive, rewarding, and stable. Sustainable working conditions (stable salaries and pension schemes), opportunities to develop new skills and flexible professional development, and modernisation of research management are among the topics the Commission is discussing and developing with member states and stakeholders.

The essence of the importance of HRS4R was also discussed - the process itself is the framework for the institution's strategy, it is supposed to be a catalyst for change, a support for international processes, an instrument to strengthen institutional culture, it is supposed to simplify recruitment, develop good practices, and bring HR policy to the forefront of institutional policy making. Researchers should be at the centre of the process of change to affect favourable conditions for the development of scientific careers, career support activities, and working conditions, levelling the playing field. With the award of HR Excellence in Research, the credibility (publication of the award on the EURAXESS website) of an institution increases. Its visibility and prestige are increased at the national and international levels. The awarding of the distinction is intended to increase attractiveness and mobility in order to attract and retain talented scientists and high-level professionals, which is a prerequisite for the functioning of research teams and the pursuit of scientific excellence.

The meeting also discussed the issue of the transformation of the European Charter for Researchers and the new HRS4R. The revision of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers should not violate the records of the documentation of institutions that have approved the principles of the existing Charter and Code for Researchers. It should be recognised that they continue to support the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers in its new version. This should apply, in particular, to institutions that have entered the HRS4R process, the first stage of which is the approval of the Charter and Code. Institutions that have already begun work on an internal review in the context of the HRS4R stage will continue to refer to the 2005 Charter and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers until the end of the ongoing stage. After successfully completing this stage, the institution will work on the next stage of HRS4R as part of the already new Charter.

The conference also discussed the process of applying for HRS4R, its various stages (Gap Analysis, development of the OTMR Policy) and the process of renewing the award. The renewal phase is based primarily on the development of a report, which should include the following.

  1. Current information about the organisation
  2. Identify strengths and weaknesses of current practice;
  • changes in priorities in the short and medium term;
  • a change in the circumstances in which the institution operates and which has influenced its HR strategy;
  • strategic decisions made that may affect the action plan.
  1. Actions
  • initial phase action report versus new action plan;
  • comments on the implementation of the OTM-R rules (progress).
  1. Implementation
  • general organisation for monitoring and supervising progress;
  • involvement of scientists and key stakeholders in the implementation process;
  • preparation of an internal review and on-site visit of European Commission experts;
  • commentary on the alignment of institutional policies;
  • quality assurance process.
  1. Additional information/comment.

The experts pointed out the main errors of the evaluated documents:

  • language errors resulting from translation of documents by automatic translators;
  • explaining the development of the HR logo in the unit's operations strategy;
  • lack of evidence of actual involvement of researchers in the process of implementing the principles of the Charter and the Code;
  • incorrectly selected indicators (action plan focused on activities and not on effects);
  • weak link between the actions taken and the initial Gap Analysis;
  • low quality and lack of website updates;
  • additional values: additional conclusions, graphs illustrating quantitative data, Gantt charts.

The visit of the European Commission experts includes the selection of three experts, setting the agenda for the meeting including interviews with the steering committee, researchers, and preparation of the expert evaluation report.

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The HRS4R Info Day 2022 conference was held in Brussels on October 28, 2022, and was attended by the Chairwoman of the Working Group on the Implementation of the European Charter for Researchers, the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers and the Policy of Open, Transparent and Merit-based Recruitment at JU, Małgorzata Grzelewska - Deputy Chancellor for General Affairs.

The meeting was organized by the European Commission and was attended by speakers from EU countries - including Ireland, France and participants from European universities and research centres. The conference was aimed at universities, research institutions and research funders that invest in the talents, skills and career development of researchers by implementing the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. The conference presented EC policies related to skills and talent management in an open science environment, closely linked to the European Researcher Career Framework. The need to adapt the Science Career Framework to the challenges of digital development, pandemics and the war in Ukraine, among others, was emphasised. There is a mismatch between the skills of the workforce and the needs of the market in the industrial and business sectors, particularly for skilled jobs. It is important to create the right working conditions to attract and retain talented researchers so that Europe remains an attractive place for businesses and highly skilled workers. The challenges researchers face are often precarious working conditions based on temporary contracts, which have a negative impact on the attractiveness of a research career and on mental health. The skills imparted to doctoral students are too often focused on careers in academia, while researchers need to pursue career opportunities in the broader labour market, including outside academia or by starting their own company, which requires the right competencies.  Higher education institutions and industry must work together to anticipate needs and develop the European Research Area.  Providing researchers with attractive career development and stable working conditions should be done through:

  • developing a comprehensive European framework for research careers;
  • exchanging best practices in skills and mutual learning to promote cross-sector mobility and
    a more sustainable circulation of talent;
  • supporting measures to make research careers more attractive in academia and beyond (e.g. Science Careers Observatory, ERA Talent Platform).

The conference also discussed the creation of a talent platform and enabling open knowledge sharing and the reuse of research results including through the development of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). It is also necessary to reform the system of evaluation of scientific research, scientists and institutions in order to improve the quality of their work and research results.

An important part of the meeting was devoted to future development, with a particular focus on changes to the Charter and Code. The first draft of the revised Code was presented for discussion. Significant changes planned by the European Commission in documents directly related to the implementation of the HR Strategy for Researchers were discussed. The provisions of the Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers will redefine (expanded to include new areas) the 4 pillars of the Charter for Researchers and formulate 18 general principles defining the roles, responsibilities and powers of researchers and institutions that employ researchers. Among other things, the changes will emphasise the importance of researcher mobility (geographic, intersectoral, within-institution mobility). The newly defined pillars of the Charter and the Code will include the issues of Open Science, Research Careers and Talent Development, topics that are part of the ongoing discussions at the European level on the reform of the system of evaluation of researchers.  The document released by the European Commission, entitled European Framework for Research Careers, proposes expanding the definition of "researcher" to include new groups of people involved in research (researcher, research management, research support) and presents a catalogue of positions within these groups. The European Competence Framework for Researchers describes a proposed model of seven transversal competencies that researchers should develop over the course of their research careers.

For more information see:

HRS4R recognition:

  • confirms transparent recruitment rules and working conditions that enhance the career development of researchers,
  • adds value to the institutions when they apply for the EU funds under international calls for proposals, including Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe,  
  • adds value to the institutions when they apply for funds in calls announced by the National Science Centre and the National Centre for Research and Development, as well as in competitions and programmes of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (now the Ministry of Education and Science),
  • entitles to post offers on the European researcher recruitment platform – EURAXESS.

The process of applying for the HR Excellence in Research Award was initiated by the Declaration of Support for the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, signed by the Rector of the Jagiellonian University and sent to the European Commission in April 2015, as well as the commitment to implement the HRS4R Strategy and the OTM-R policy of open and transparent recruitment processes.

During an internal analysis stage in 2016, an anonymous survey was conducted among JU academics. Its results were used to develop an action plan for the coming years, the purpose of which is to ensure transparent recruitment procedures as well as career development opportunities for academics at every stage of their career.

The timeline of the application process for the HR Excellence in Research Award is presented below.

Key dates in the HRS4R process:

  • September 2023 – Acceptance of the Interim Review Report for assessment by EC experts (awaiting the monitoring visit of experts)
  • August 2023 – Submission of the Interim Review Report for assessment by EC experts
  • May 2023 – Survey among JU employees
  • 2023 - Next assessment of the HRS4R strategy implementation process
  • 2021 – Establishing The Steering Committee, The Working Group and The Coordinator for the HR Excellence in Research Affairs
  • August 2020 - Recommendations of experts regarding the improvement of activities
  • February 2020 - Internal Review (expert assessment) of the 
  • 2018 – Establishing JU Team for the implementation of the HRS4R strategy
  • December 2017 – HR Excellence in Research Award
  • September 2017 - The HR Strategy for the Jagiellonian University Researchers, Action Plan 2017-2019
  • 2016 – Survey among JU employees (Gap Analysis)
  • 2015 - Declaration of the Jagiellonian University Authorities in support of the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers
  • 2006 - Decision of the CRASP Chairman on support for Charter and Code and recommendation for the Charter to be signed by the rectors of Polish universities
  • 2005 - Publication by the European Commission of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers
  • 2000 - Adoption of the concept of establishing the European Research Area at the Lisbon European Council summit