2022 Apr/12

Research for Society

Raising talents @EU-CONEXUS

Developing young talent in the world of research is a key factor for the future development of society. The EU faces challenges of a high demand for skilled, motivated, and responsible workforce as a fundamental factor for competitive improvement and growth. This development is to be achieved through cooperation between three key players: stakeholders, universities, and students.

A team of researchers working on the project Research for Society provided best practices and proposals for improvement in a guidebook Good Practices on Talent Management, Research and Internationalisation Accelerators with the aim of making our partner universities more solid, attractive, and prestigious worldwide.

“We propose a greater dialogue, for example, through facilitating active participation of employers in the design of graduate degrees or using active methodologies, such as learning based on the solution of real business problems”

Marta Taléns, Coordinator of the EU-CONEXUS Research for Society project at the Catholic University of Valencia (UCV), Spain.

However, in reality, there is still a significant gap between employers and university graduates. European projects, such as GETM3 (www.getm3.eu) or Talent 4.0 (www.t4lent.eu), seek to offer solutions to break down these barriers. Research is still considered to be a poor cousin with scarce funding, which makes us lag far behind other territories that devote a much higher percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP) to this sector. The low investment causes the flight of the best talents to universities in other countries, breaking the entire value chain of the investment made, in terms of time and money, in young talents. By way of example, spending on universities is 0.95 % of GDP across the European Higher Education Area and 1.1% in the European Union, a far cry from the 2.5% in the United States.

To have a better understanding of researcher’s start and career progression as well as the challenges presently faced by both budding and experienced researchers, please see an interview with a PhD student at the UCV Antonio Vidal and his advisor Pablo Vidal, senior researcher at the UCV.

ANTONIO VIDAL:

What motivates you to follow a researcher’s career? Which good practices have helped or are helping you start a researcher’s career?

What motivates me to pursue a researcher’s career is the interest generated by creating rigorous knowledge. In my opinion, in current times, there is a large body of research strategies that represent the way to have a well-informed, fair, and prosperous society.

There are some good practices that have helped or are helping me in my education as a researcher. First of all, teaching. Teachers-researchers have the commitment and responsibility to train people, based on the aforementioned criteria.

Second, participation in research projects. Research projects (national and international) are essential to share lines of work and research objects. The internationalization of research enables us to provide global solutions to local problems.

Third, mentoring or supervision is another fundamental aspect. In my case, a good relationship with the advisor of my thesis has helped me to set short-, medium-, and long-term objectives to have the most comprehensive doctoral education.  

Finally, another aspect that helps me a lot is the link between my research and the social reality of public administrations and companies. As I said at the beginning, our work must be supported by a strong conviction that we serve society.  

What kind of specific support have you received in your institution? What barriers are you facing or have to overcome to follow your research career?

One of the biggest barriers researchers face (at least in our country) is funding. In my case, I have completed my doctorate without funding, which has been an almost impossible task.

I received a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Ministry of Universities; I have been able to dedicate myself fully to my research career, which translates into a greater dedication resulting in the achievement of a great number of scientific merits. Along with this, I have also received some internal funding from my university (UCV) for participation in conferences, etc. All this allowed me to cover a larger field of work that improved my education and professionalism in the field of research.

PABLO VIDAL:

What measures are essential for facilitating a researcher’s start and career progression? What tips would you give them?  

I would define a researcher’s career as an obstacle course: knowing the different requirements, the processes of constructing a doctoral thesis or publishing research findings in an impact journal, deciding on a research stay in a prestigious centre abroad or designing a successful competitive research project are complex tasks that we generally face initially without much prior training. 

In this sense, having the appropriate support from the research team, the department, or the university is the key to the successful growth in a young researcher’s career. 

Probably the best advice would be insisting on the importance of teamwork. A research career can be best done in a cooperative way, but not alone or in competition with others. The growth and improvement of my colleagues will directly affect my own growth. 

Why is so important to harmonise those practices (talent retention, mobility, internationalisation, access to funding, etc.) within the Alliance?

One of the key elements of the EU-CONEXUS alliance is to strengthen and accelerate joint research. Working together, we are better and move forward faster. We can also benefit from each other’s strengths as well as collaborate by sharing each other’s strengths. 

The size of the alliance and the prestige of its partners allows for a change of scale in research conducting, facilitating the presentation of joint projects, the consolidation of shared research teams, or supporting much-needed international mobility among the consortium’s young researchers. 

Please find the Guidebook here