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Data for several countries show an increase in unemployment among early career researchers as the market fails to absorb increasing numbers of doctorate holders. Researchers need to prepare for the increased career competitiveness inside and outside academia by acquiring a diverse set of transferable skills, i.e. skills and competences are those that are not only tied to a specific area but are general and can be used in a number of areas.
In September I represented Eurodoc in a panel discussion about Who is responsible for transferable skills and how can RRI and Open Science help at the EuroScience Open Forum 2020 in Trieste.
As a starting point for the discussion, the moderator, Brian Cahill, a member of the EuroScience governing board, showed the Open Science Career Assessment Matrix, which is presented in the European commission working group on Rewards under Open Science, and the Eurodoc report on Transferable Skills and Competences.
The first speaker was Teresa Fernández Zafra, product manager at Gradientech AB, who is also a member of the EuroScience governing board. She presented her experience of acquiring various skills during her doctoral studies. Through her work in a student magazine and in the organization of scientific events, she acquired soft skills that are still useful for her work today today: project management, working with people, obtaining financial resources, etc.
Next to present was Katie Wheat, head of department at Vitae, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the professional development of researchers, who focused mainly on the aspect of responsible research and innovation. The results of a study they conducted show that researchers personally feel highly responsible for integrity but the aspect of collective responsibility is missing. Thus, actors at different levels should work together to change the research culture.
This was followed by my presentation, in which I described how the data management skills acquired during my doctoral training helped me on my career path, also when I changed the research field. To the title question, I answered that transferable skills should be a shared responsibility between researchers and institutions, as both benefit from it.
A similar point was made by Ivo Grigorov, coordinator of the project office at the Danish Technical University, who noted that doctoral schools are too slow to adapt to changes in the research environment and do not offer appropriate education for students. As a result, many students lack transferable skills. Most of them focus only on publishing, which is not enough for a successful career.
The last speaker was Manuel Gomez Herrero, MSCA Program Officer at the European Commission, who presented how open science is becoming increasingly involved in the evaluation criteria of European projects. It is planned that this will go beyond open access and include responsible data management in accordance with FAIR principles. In addition, scientific communication and citizen involvement are also gaining in importance.
This was followed by a discussion with many interesting questions and ideas from the audience, revolving around examples of good practice, research ethics, educational resources, and in particular about how to change the research culture. In fact, the session topic is very current and in light of the cuts in science budgets, it will be all the more important for doctoral students to acquire as many transferable skills as possible during their training.
As open science is also an important part of this process, raising awareness on this topic is one of the key activities of both Eurodoc. To this end, Eurodoc established a group of open science ambassadors in 2019. Moreover, in the term 2020/2021 the Eurodoc Open Science Work Group that I co-coordinate is collaborating with the Eurodoc skills officer to prepare a short report on open science skills.
Written by Ana Slavec, co-coordinator of the Eurodoc Open Science Work Group and postdoctoral researcher at the Renewable Materials and Healthy Environments Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence.
This article is part of a Special Issue about ESOF 2020 – held in Trieste, Italy from 2 to 6 September 2020.