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Lagging European R&D systems advised to share knowledge


Earma 2021: Researchers and support offices in underperforming countries must be more creative, event hears

Organisations and actors in countries that underperform in the EU R&D programme need to support each other to boost their participation, the annual conference of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators has heard.

“A growing number of us understand that we simply need to be more engaged and active and creative to cope with some of the less favourable conditions that we have here,” Jakub Zeman, a research manager at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, said in an Earma session on 16 April, referring to researchers and support staff generally in eastern Europe.

Zeman, who helps researchers secure prestigious EU research grants such as those under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions scheme, said universities in countries such as his were at a disadvantage relative to their western European colleagues.

“The fact is that we’re handicapped in the salaries we can offer to incoming researchers and [with regard to] the visibility and fame of our institutions, and the truth is that the overall quality of research is a little bit lower than it is in the west,” he said.

Zeman said part of the problem was a lack of staff and resources in research support offices, and suggested mutual support could make a great difference. Research support staff need to pass along their knowledge beyond their own offices, he added.

“The next step is transferring know-how from a few people to more research school staff and faculties,” according to Zeman.

He said his own team was taking such an approach: “We will decentralise the support and set up a bigger group sharing knowledge and experience—the motto is that consulting is not an art but a skill; anyone can be reasonably good at that.”

He expressed confidence that a broader support base could offer eastern researchers a big boost in the long run, and was optimistic about the prospects of Czech researchers in the EU’s 2021-27 R&D framework programme, Horizon Europe.

“Our research gets stronger each year and in each framework programme,” he said.

Research Professional News is the official media partner for Earma 2021. Follow more of our coverage on Twitter @ResProfNews and @ResearchEurope, #EARMADigital.