mardi 6 novembre 2007
par  Denis Départements

une lettre le l’ABIC (association des jeunes chercheurs, boursiers), au commissaire européen, dénoncant une situation qui s’est progressivement dégradée au portugal pour les jeunes chercheurs, et qui menace de se généraliser (cf LRU, effet ANR et autres en France).

Dear Janez Potocnik - European Commissioner for Science & Research & Jan Figel - European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth

The Associação dos Bolseiros de Investigação Científica (ABIC)1 - the Portuguese Association
of Grant-hold Researchers - wanted to take the opportunity of your presence in Portugal, during the
"Conference on the Modernisation of Universities in Europe”, to present our brief analysis of the
situation of Science and Technology (S&T) in Portugal, particularly the situation faced by young
researchers and technicians, and call your attention to the lack of implementation of the
recommendations of the European Commission enshrined in the European Charter for Researchers
and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

Investment in Research and Development (R&D) has been publicly recognized as being of vital
importance for the economic, social and cultural development of Portugal. As a result, since the
early 1990s, there has been a significant increase in the training of human resources and funding of
research projects, made possible in part through European Union (EU) funds. However, the number
of researchers and PhDs per capita is still lacking : Portugal has a deficit of 10,000 researchers and
17,500 technicians, relative to the EU (25) average (numbers for 2003). Despite some improvement,
public expenditure per researcher is also relatively low : the expenditure per researcher (in full-time
equivalents) in Portugal is inferior to a third of the EU (25) average (numbers for 2003).

The expansion in human resources has not been accompanied by the necessary structural
measures to foster their professional insertion, to stimulate R&D in private enterprises, or
consolidate R&D in the public research centers. Most research positions are in public universities
and state laboratories, with a relatively small proportion of S&T jobs in public or private
companies. The public budget in S&T, the main source of funding for R&D, is short of 1% of the
GDP ; their are relatively few sources for alternative funding sources Apart from a few scattered
measures of low structural impact, Portugal has yet to implement a science employment strategy
that is consistent with the proclaimed objectives of economic development sustained on R&D.

Although it is the main employer in S&T, tor years now, there has been a freeze on hires in
public research facilities and universities. To a great extent, the human resource needs in S&T of
these institutions has been been satisfied by the recruitment of young researchers via scholarships

(bolsas, in Portuguese), largely financed directly or indirectly - via the budgets of research grants -
by the national Science and Technology Foundation (FCT). The recruitment of researchers via
scholarships has become so central that these often guarantee permanent needs of the research

Individual scholarships are given not only to researchers pursuing a PhD, but also those serving
as lab technicians, managers research projects, and post-doctoral researchers and other researchers
A number of them are for short periods, as low as 6-9 months, often without a clear training
component. Many young researchers manage to continue practicing S&T only through consecutive
scholarships, for 10 years, sometimes longer, without every having prospect of legitimate
employment or labor contract that guarantees professional recognition and social benefits as other

The present national Grant-holder Statute does not consider these researchers and technicians as
workers. As a result they do not have access to the general Social Security System, but rather may
1 ABIC was established in 2003 and represents early stage and experienced researchers, including researchers in
doctoral programs, post-doctoral researchers, other researchers, lab technicians, and science managers that are
grant-holders. ABIC is a member of EURODOC. « bolsa » is the portuguese term for individual grant, scholarship, or
stipend ; « bolseiro » is the holder of a bolsa.
opt for a special regime named Voluntary Social Security that is very limited in nature, for instance
it provides low support in the case of sickness, low pension fund contribution, and does not allow
for unemployment subsidy. This statute also hinders the recognition of these young researchers and
technicians as professionals : they are frequently regarded as students that perform research, rather
than as professional workers in continuous training.

We find this situation to be in direct contradiction with the European Charter for Researchers,
including the following points :

- “All researchers engaged in a research career should be recognised as professionals and
be treated accordingly” ;

- “Employers and/or funders should ensure that the performance of researchers is not
undermined by instability of employment contracts, and should therefore commit themselves
as far as possible to improving the stability of employment conditions for researchers” ;

- “Employers and/or funders of researchers should ensure that researchers enjoy fair and
attractive conditions of funding and/or salaries with adequate and equitable social security
provisions (including sickness and parental benefits, pension rights and unemployment

- “Employers and/or funders of researchers should draw up, preferably within the
framework of their human resources management, a specific career development strategy for
researchers at all stages of their career, regardless of their contractual situation, including for
researchers on fixed-term contracts.”
Rather than “improve [the] attractiveness” of a career in S&T, the present conditions of
precariousness and insecurity, and lack of career and employment prospects faced by grant-holders
hinders the pursuit of this career in Portugal and fosters the option for immigration, or “brain
drain”. This is not only detrimental to grant-holders, but to Portugal.

ABIC finds an urgent reform is necessary, which should be based on the following principles :

- the incorporation of the European Charter for Researchers in the national legislation ;

- guarantee that all human resources in R&D have their quality as workers recognized,
with associated social benefits ;

- put a stop to and reverse the trend towards a decrease in attractiveness of scientific
carriers ;

- allow an adequate articulation with other legislation that frames and regulates the activity
of the generality of science workers ;

In mid-March of 2007, ABIC presented its proposal for a new legislative framework based on
the principle, as stated by the European Charter for Researchers, that researchers, even at the
beginning of their careers, should be treated as a professionals. Given that they develop scientific
work, they should be considered workers and have this condition recognized through the signing of
labor contracts rather than individuals grants.
ABIC understands that recognizing their status as workers in science is the coherent manner in
which to improve their social and economic conditions and their future prospects in a science
career. The adoption of labor contracts underlines the indisputable labor component of R&D,
without ignoring the training component, inherent to scientific activity. It would put an end to the
excessive reliance on scholarships limits, allow access to more adequate social benefit, and reduce
the precariousness faced by young researchers and technician. It would also put an end to the
misuse of scholarships to fulfill the needs of research centers, forcing them to appropriately hire
technicians and researchers. greatly improve the attractiveness of a career in S&T. For these reasons
it would greatly improve the attractiveness of a career in S&T in Portugal.

We would appreciate comments on our analysis of the situation in Portugal and welcome future
exchange of opinions and information.

Sincerely yours


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