Towards a sustainable research career with progression based on merit

Summary of the 3rd ANICT National Symposium

The 3rd Nacional Symposium of ANICT – ANICT2012 – took place on June the auditorium of the Rectory of the University of Coimbra.

The event comprised two parts:  in the morning, four specialized workshops were organized, devoted to Entrepreneurship, Science Communication, ERC Grants and Enlarging Social Sciences.

In the afternoon, the event had a programme dedicated to the debate on science policies and employment of researchers in Portugal. After the opening speech delivered by João Rodrigues (ANICT vice-president), the first session of the symposium was dedicated to an Assessment of the Ciência Programme.

Pedro Caridade, ANICT member, presenting the overview of positive and negative aspects of his Ciencia 2007 position

This session comprised talks from 3 Investigadores Auxiliares that showed their positive and negative experiences in the Ciência 2007&2008 programme. The talks were followed by a presentation delivered by Nuno Cerca (ANICT vice-president) containing the results of a recent survey that is currently being undertaken by ANICT to Investigadores, to understand both the results achieved in terms of scientific productivity, and profiling of the researchers residing in Portugal. Later Frank Wagner provided the results of a survey aimed to address the reasons why several Ciência 2007 researchers already left the country, in what is the start of a new wave of “brain-drain” in Portugal, with detrimental consequences for the national scientific system. Finally, the ANICT “Plano para a Excelência” was presented by João Lopes. This document comprises 14 concrete proposals to improve the scientific and academic system in Portugal, and was publicly presented for the first time.

Frank Wagner, ANICT board member, presenting the results of the “Ciência Brain Drain survey”

The second session of the symposium was a round table aiming to discuss the future of researchers in Portugal and was composed by: Portuguese Secretary of State for Science, Leonor Parreira; Vice-president of FCT, Paulo Pereira; Rector of the University of Coimbra, João Gabriel Silva; European Commission representative in the area of “European Research Area – Skills”, Dagmar Meyer; and ANICT president, Miguel Jorge. The panel discussion was lively, intense at times, but always productive.

The coffee break before the round table

The “Plano para a Excelência” presented by ANICT was recognized by Leonor Parreira as a useful, well structured and organized document. The fact that ANICT was trying to present constructive solutions for many of the problems that can be currently identified in Portuguese Science, rather than just complaining about the state of things, was emphasized. It was possible to gather in the same meeting members from all science stakeholders, namely representatives of the European Commission, Portuguese government, FCT, Universities and an audience of about 100 researchers, which resulted in a very productive meeting.

Composition of the round-table

The discussions lead to the clarification of several issues which can be summarized as follows:

1. FCT stated that it will open in total about 1000 “Investigador FCT” vacancies until 2014. Those will always be 5 year agreements, similar to the 2012 call. It is expected that in 2013 200-300 new positions will be opened. The intention is to assist researchers in being integrated into their hosting institutions until 2020. Out of the 1000 vacancies to be opened, the majority is directed to junior researchers. It was explicitly mentioned that it is expected that there are more “Investigador Auxiliar” than “Investigador Principal”, and even less “Investigador Coordenador”.

2. One of the main topics of discussion was the academic career structure, namely, how to best integrate research and teaching career. Such a possibility seemed to be a potential positive step towards new forms of dialogue between universities, FCT, MCE, and ANICT. There is a clear intention on the part of the Government to review the Research Career Statute (Estatuto da Carreira de Investigação Científica) to allow a better integration and intertwining between the scientific and the teaching careers, and this should happen soon.

The audience was energetic in questioning the panel members

3. FCT is planning to lower the management overload in the projects, giving more autonomy, and thus more responsibility, to the PI.

4. Leonor Parreira said that the integration of people with PhDs in the fabric of society is a recurrent issue all over the world, not just in Portugal. Leonor Parreira raised the issue of changing how PhD programs are planned. As not all PhD holders might want to follow an academic career, there should be an effort to include new skill sets into PhD programmes, so as to enable PhD holders to work in industry and other service providers.

Some different point of views by the panel members stimulated interesting discussions

5. When Leonor Parreira said that the renewal of the contracts of “Investigadores Auxiliares” of the Ciência Programme has to be decided by their host institutions, João Gabriel Silva showed that the institutions, in particular the University of Coimbra, just do not have the money for keeping the Investigadores. Moreover, he stated that, if he had the possibility of hiring someone, he would hire a Professor and not an Investigador, as education is the part of the University that allows for its long-term life.

ANICT 2012 symposium was closed by Miguel Jorge with the announcement of the ANICT 2012 MSc fellowships.


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