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The chapter analyses the importance for the EU policy, the building of internal market and for society of researchers and how in the performance of their activity these professionals must comply with a series of obligations.
We can affirm that, since its creation, the European Union has always been at the forefront of innovation. The first treaties (the Treaty of Paris, by which the ECSC was established, and the Treaty of Rome, which created the EURATOM) included a strategy associated with research within their respective community policies. Currently, Article 179 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) establishes two main objectives to be achieved within the framework of research policy; on the one hand, the strengthening of technological development and, on the other hand, the promotion of international competitiveness for European projects. Implementing and achieving the outlined objectives is carried out by effecting programmes and action plans that bring about more specific objectives and goals. Accordingly, in 2000 the European Research Area (ERA) was created, which can be defined as a knowledge space where both national and European research integrates based on the circulation, exchange and financing of research projects.
It is clear that innovation and research policies, alongside common field objectives, is the key to technological developments that enable these policies to dynamically respond to society’s challenges, impacting the world as a whole. However, research is not an impersonal science, and it is not a mere concept to be developed; its practical uses are expressed through the work carried out by researchers (Molina Del Pozo 2017).
2 The Role of the Researcher
The definition of a researcher can be found in the Council Resolution of November 10, 2003: “[…] professionals who work in the conception or creation of knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems of a novel nature and in the management of corresponding projects”. In this sense, the importance of developing new technologies and conducting scientific research seems to be clear; however, their participation within society is much more extensive.
First of all, we have to identify researchers within society; subjects can be both public and private. In addition, they can be individual people or foundations, associations or entities. It is important to note that all subjects, regardless of the research project or its level (national or European), must respect the provisions set forth in the European Charter for Researchers and in the Code of Conduct.
When referring to researchers, we begin from the incontrovertible idea that they are highly qualified professionals. In the formation of research projects, researchers draw upon their extensive knowledge base and attempt to develop a new idea. Recognising that researching is a type of “work”, we can also see that researchers are effectively employees during the course of their project. It is important to note that research has its own “labour market” and, as in any other sector, it is possible to assess its impact on society, not only from the point of view of the contributions of successful research projects, but also during the project itself.
Within the European Union, the Commission is responsible for promoting job opportunities in the research market; it manages projects, giving researchers a portal to contact likeminded professionals in the hope of collaborating for a project. The Commission offers financial support through the Horizon 2020 Program, as well as granting scholarships; its most paradigmatic examples are Sklodowska-Curie Actions. Since 2005, the Commission has held the “European Night of the Researchers”, involving more than 340 European cities. The meeting aims to bring the work of researchers closer to citizens in order to make them aware of the importance of research in society.
3 Types or Researchers
The needs of society are unquestionably varied and are continuously evolving. Researchers, therefore, must have a clear idea of what they intend to achieve in their project and, depending on the scope of their research and objective, will have to observe a series of strict formalities.
Likewise, it is also important to consider the differences between scientific and technological research. Science makes reference to the creation of new knowledge and aims to “responder y entender la naturaleza y la sociedad”(“respond and understand nature and society”) (Tamayo 2007). Technology, on the other hand, studies processes in order to provide solutions for the different and varied problems that arise in society as a whole. Therefore, we can conclude that a scientific researcher will outline a hypothesis responding to “what” to do, while a technological will focus on “how” to do it. The method used by researchers during their project will depend on the type of research they are undertaking, which may be as varied as the objectives that they intend to achieve. In light of previous considerations, it is necessary to highlight that scientific investigations will essentially focus on data collection, observing social phenomena and its variations or will develop theories based on existing principles. To contrast, technological research will focus on the application of theories. The two types of research represent the pillars of innovation; thanks to their existence, society has drastically evolved over the past two centuries.
In particular, human experimentation is an essential and enormously vast field as research. Indeed, these investigations usually investigate biomedical solutions, disease treatments and cures and introduce new developments in the pharmaceutical industry. In our opinion, the requirements that these professionals must observe seem to be particularly strict, so much so that they must base their research on three inescapable ethical principles: autonomy, beneficence and justice. With regard to autonomy, it refers to the ability of human beings to deliberate and make themselves autonomously and voluntarily available for research. The principle of beneficence—or of non-maleficence—is the maximisation of benefits and the minimisation of damage and requires that the benefits achieved overcome the risks. As for justice, although it is a broad term, it must be understood in this context as the obligation to treat each person according to what is considered to be morally correct.
All previous considerations lead us to the conclusion that the researcher has an absolute freedom to move and to manage and orient their study in any direction; however, it should be specified that, although it is true that the researcher must prioritise their attention on the identification and analysis of the research objectives, they must not lose sight of the system of ethical and legal standards that have been set forth and govern the behavioural standards of society.
4 The Mobility of Researchers
It is widely acknowledged that a large number of researchers tend to move in order to develop their activities and studies; this mobility in researchers promotes the exchange of knowledge and experiences in researchers across the globe.
Additionally, it is evident that within the European Union researcher cooperation, whether public or private, is fostered. Special attention is devoted to complying with EU principles and, in particular, to equal opportunities and non-discrimination. Therefore, it seems logical that researchers take advantage of the opportunities arising in this field, either in training or employment in a member state, and benefit from whatever financial support they are able to obtain within the European Union, whether that be economic aid or scholarships.
As mentioned above, the Marie Curie actions are one of the best and most complete opportunities for researchers in the specific field. The scholarships included within this action “are addressed to researchers of all the levels of experience, independently of their nationality and covering all fields of scientific and technological investigation”.
The European Union recognises research is of vital importance to society and ensures researchers are able to move both within and outside its territory. These displacements are expected greatly advantage both the European Union itself and for all its member states.
In relation to researchers, mobility allows them to acquire experience in a different environment, with the opportunity to freely access systems or technologies that are not yet sufficiently developed in their respective home countries, contributing to the researcher’s personal growth.
The main advantage of mobility opportunity for researchers in the European Union is the promotion and enhancement of the existence of the ERA. From the member states’ point of view, the aforementioned displacements reduce the existing problem of the so-called “brain drain”, and assist in achieving the territorial distribution of experienced researchers, and avoiding a concentration of researchers in a single country. This phenomenon may be caused by a country taking advantage of the research. To contrast, it would be possible to increase the population of these professionals in less advantaged countries with fewer resources. Among the entities devoting their activities to research or promoting the turnout of researchers, universities are among the main institutions supporting the mobility of researchers, both through their teaching staff and by encouraging and fostering, through numerous actions and programmes, the mobility of students who may later become professional researchers in other centres.
5 Researchers from Third Countries
In the previous section, we referred to the mobility of European researchers within the ERA; in this section, we provide an overview of researchers from third (non-European) countries who move to a member states to work on a research project.
The European Union undoubtedly receives research personnel from third countries and it intends, increasingly, to establish itself as an attractive space for research and innovation in order to improve its overall competitiveness and to achieve one of the ERA’s key objectives: the creation of an open labour market “for researchers from the Union and from third countries”.
In order to facilitate this exchange, the European Union has—through directives such as Directive (EU) 2016/8015—the entry and residence conditions of third country nationals for research purposes.
The measures adopted in the aforementioned directive allow researchers and, where appropriate, of members of their family, to reside in the European Union for periods of more than 90 days, reducing the procedures for the exercise of their profession. For example, if a researcher moves to a member states and is received by a research entity, they will not need to apply for a work permit as long as they have a hosting agreement. These measures also allows a researcher residing in a member state to enter and remain in other member states if they are required to for research purposes; these are called “seconds”.
One of the most important actions that the EU undertakes is carrying out and financing international exchanges of research personnel. This is called Research and Innovation Personnel Exchange, and it allows contacts between academic bodies, such as universities and research centres, as well as non-academic organisations, such as companies, around the world. These are short-term exchange projects, funded for between 1 month and 4 years, which require the participation of at least three partners belonging to three different countries (under the condition that two of them, at least, are citizens of the European Union). The selection procedure uses open and transparent calls so that all associations that fulfil the registration requirements are able to submit their application.
6 The Responsibility of Researchers Towards Society
The importance of research and, therefore, of researchers is crucial for society as a whole but in the performance of their activity these professionals must comply with a series of obligations. These obligations and responsibilities, which are set forth in the European Charter for Researchers, are varied. This paper prioritises two outstanding duties of researchers towards society: the rendering of accounts and the dissemination of results.
Although a researcher can be employed to perform a job, their duties are not only towards their employer; the researcher works for society as a whole, acting as an intermediary between reality and citizens and carrying out authentic social commitments. The researcher must, therefore, work diligently, using reliable sources and respecting the moral and ethical principles of society.
In the dissemination of results, also known as scientific dissemination, the scope of responsibility is easier. If knowledge does not involve scientific dissemination, it would not be able to solve societal problems; consequently, it is absolutely necessary that research results are publicly available, either for free or through commercial channels. This contributes to the knowledge of citizens and enables other researchers to use existing research to further their own. The results of research are, therefore, extremely valuable to society.
Today, more people are showing an interest in a career in research, it is true that the dissemination of results from studies carried out both in the European Union and internationally encourages many young people to pursue a promising alternative to the usual job opportunities existing in our society.
- Molina Del Pozo, C. F. (2017). La responsabilidad del investigador en la Unión Europea, Rights and Science, Juri-dileyc. Retrieved December 7, 2017, from https://global.juri-dileyc.com/la-responsabilidad-del-investigador-en-la-union-europea/