Giving PhD candidates professional status should banish feelings of "belonging to a pariah class" http://t.co/z0mIrEfE
Zaza Nadja Lee Hansen and Sverre Lundemo, Eurodoc, March 2012
While being recognised as an employee rather than a short-term contractor will not solve all the issues doctoral candidates face today, it will be a step along the way. And it should hopefully banish feelings of "belonging to a pariah class", as one PhD candidate put it. It would also force institutions to adopt more transparent hiring procedures by ensuring that they adhere to the proper system, rather than hiring familiar faces on a casual basis.
So how can PhD candidates in Europe get the professional recognition they deserve? We at Eurodoc (the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers) recognise that national scientific systems are different across Europe; there are needs specific to each country and each system is regulated according to particular legislation. Still, collective efforts should be made to improve working conditions at the earliest stage of a research career when a person's influence, establishment and power within the scientific community are still low.
We propose implementing the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of PhDs. The Charter and Code, as it is known, is a set of principles for researchers, employers and funders setting out best practice regarding researchers' working conditions, career development and mobility. Part of this is the recommendation that PhD candidates are given employee status.
We urge all research institutions as well as national and regional authorities to look at what they need to do to implement the Charter and Code. As of 2012, over 100 employers and funders throughout Europe are already participating in this process and examples of best practice abound. Young researchers in Eurodoc's national and observer organisations stand ready to assist national institutions prepared to participate in this process.
All these efforts should help bring about a much needed cultural change, which we hope will one day culminate in a change of national labour legislation across Europe, making it legally binding for PhDs to be treated as employees.
Ensuring that doctoral candidates find their research environment welcoming and rewarding is instrumental in achieving the EU's target of one million researchers by 2020. Eurodoc urges all European institutions to promote the full recognition of those who have taken the first step to becoming invaluable contributors to the scientific community.
What are your thoughts? PhD candidates, would being an employee rather than a student make a difference to your working life? Employers, what would this mean for you? Is the goal of having one million European PhDs by 2020 feasible, or even desirable?