“Knowledge transfer lies at the heart of tomorrow’s knowledge society. To ensure that knowledge is shared, academia, trade and industry and working life must work together effectively. Researcher training must be closely linked to the needs of working life. We must also create conditions that make life as a researcher an attractive career option,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council.
Quality, capacity and attractiveness
The policy clarifies the Research Council’s role in researcher recruitment. At the same time, it emphasises that the primary responsibility for recruitment and career pathways lies with the research institutions.
The policy has been drawn up in close consultation with the university and university college sector, and sets out three primary objectives for the Research Council’s role: to enhance quality in the researcher qualifying phase, ensure capacity in the qualifying phase, and make research an attractive career option.
A research career is one of many potential career paths for talented students. To enable promising students to launch their researcher education early, the Research Council will support measures that connect students with research activities at the institutions. The Council will also employ the application type Young Research Talents in more of its programmes. This type of grant gives highly promising young researchers a chance to develop their own research groups within a few years of completing their doctoral degrees.
Mobility between institutions, sectors and countries can strengthen an independent research career.
The Research Council will help to increase interaction with other segments of working life by strengthening and further developing the Industrial Ph.D. scheme and the Public Sector Ph.D. scheme. Many of the other research fellowships funded by the Research Council are also directly linked to collaborative projects with trade and industry and the public sector. Together these activities highlight the kind of career opportunities available to researchers outside of academia.
Another priority measure is to further develop the national graduate-level researcher training schools in order to enhance the quality and relevance of researcher education for working life outside of academia.
Greater international mobility
International experience can give many young researchers new perspectives and expand their academic independence.
“International experience and international networks can be critically important for the development of young researchers. This is why mobility is a key factor in a research career. We are now introducing new measures to encourage more international mobility among young researchers,” says Mr Hallén.
Post-doctoral researchers with funding from the Research Council may be offered a 3–12 month extension of their fellowship period in connection with a research stay abroad. In addition, Research Council-funded doctoral and post-doctoral research fellows may apply for overseas research grants. The Council will also create a better framework for women and men with caregiving responsibility and their partners to conduct research stays abroad.
More strategic use of the post-doctoral position
The number of post-doctoral researchers at the research institutions has risen dramatically in recent years. According to an analysis by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU), only one-fourth of these post-doctoral researchers will have obtained a permanent academic position after five to six years.
“A post-doctoral fellowship should primarily help the fellowship-holders to qualify for a top scientific career. Consequently, there should be a reasonable correlation between the number that go down the post-doctoral path and the number that can be employed in permanent academic positions. More strategic use of the post-doctoral position will make future research careers more predictable and attractive. We will therefore start a dialogue with the institutions on the need for post-doctoral positions,” says Mr Hallén.
In future, the Research Council will require that the contract between the fellowship-holder and the degree-conferring institution includes a development plan and plans for academic mentoring