Eurodoc Conference 2024 Addresses Disparities in European Research

The Eurodoc Conference, titled “Towards a United European Research Area: The Ljubljana Process and Beyond,” took place on June 4th and 5th, 2024, in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Organized by Eurodoc, SECURE partner organization, and the Young Academy of Slovenia, with support from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation of Slovenia, the University of Ljubljana, and the Central Technical Library, the event brought together experts to discuss critical developments and persistent imbalances in Europe’s academic systems over the past 20 years. Project SECURE attended the conference to promote the project activities and outputs to researchers in Slovenia and beyond. The conference featured a mix of panel sessions and keynote addresses, focusing on issues such as the uneven brain circulation within the EU and the broader disparities between member states.

During a panel on Research Excellence, Maria Leptin from the European Research Council (ERC) spoke about the significant changes the ERC Scientific Council has made to research assessment processes. Leptin emphasized that these adjustments were made to better reflect the qualitative nature of ERC’s evaluations and focus on the proposed research project rather than prescriptive profiles. “The changes aim to allow applicants to provide a more holistic account of their research careers and contributions,” Leptin stated. She assured that the sole criterion for evaluation remains scientific excellence, with panels assessing the ambition and feasibility of the research project, as well as the intellectual capacity and creativity of the applicant. The panel also featured Lidia Borrell-Damian from Science Europe, Miro Pušnik from the Central Technical Library, Jure Mravlje from the Young Academy of Slovenia, and Pil Maria Saugmann from Eurodoc.

In a panel on Sustainable Research Careers, moderated by Gledson Emidio from Eurodoc, Martin Adler from the Initiative for Science in Europe discussed the disparities in doctoral experiences across Europe and the challenges of transitioning between academic and non-academic careers. He noted that countries like Sweden offer much more stable situations for doctoral candidates compared to others. Adler expressed skepticism about the European Union’s emphasis on transferable skills within PhD programs, emphasizing that the main competence should be research. “The central competence that you require is doing research, and as you do research, you acquire all sorts of other skills,” Adler stated. He also stressed the importance of autonomy for early career researchers in organizing their work to develop essential skills. The panel also featured contributions from Dean Korošak of the University of Maribor, Nicolo Dengo from Eurodoc, and Ana Slavec from the University of Primorska and Mlada akademija.

A special session highlighted the state of Ukrainian academia, with the participation of Ukrainian researchers, underscoring the event’s commitment to comprehensive and inclusive discussions on European research challenges.