In the frame of the H2020 project SIM4NEXUS, ACTeon took the time to investigate the potential impacts and significance a European research project can have on its young professional staff. Young professionals make up many disciplines in a project and present an important group to take part in the project execution and research process. The learning aspect of European research projects, especially for young staff, is not to be underestimated and needs to be acknowledged as an additional goal of these projects. But who are the young professionals working in these projects? And how does it affect their career development?
A sneak peek at the SIM4NEXUS report reveals promising results and potential limitations to consider:
Young professionals do not represent a homogeneous group but rather a diversity of profiles, including: PhD students, post-docs, engineers or other MSc graduates. Some were hired by universities and public research institutes on a fixed term contract, while others were hired by private companies with permanent contracts. More than half did not work full-time on the project.
Young staff supervision in search of the right balance
In some cases, there was a challenge for the supervisors and young professionals to define the right degree of guidance: on the one hand, supervisors could have the feeling that their young staff required strong guidance, with a very precise definition of tasks and close monitoring. On the other hand, it was crucial to allow them additional time to explore, make their mistakes and learn from them.
Young staff turn-over through the project posed several issues for management, as partners had to invest time to train new staff to get acquainted with a complex project and understand its logic. This held especially true for younger staff, who did not have much experience. Some young professionals moreover mentioned that arriving “late” into the project did not allow them to really implement their ideas, since many decisions had already been made. Guidance and guiding needs thus varied, and it is thus essential to ensure that a listening mechanism for young professionals’ needs is put in place and to adapt management accordingly.
Horizon2020 as an opportunity for career development
In addition to the chance to work internationally, multiculturally and to travel, young professionals consider that their experience has been a starting gate to keep on working on EU-funded projects, in the same organisation, or do a PhD. Particularly the opportunity to work with many partners across Europe, and to be in direct contact with senior researchers has been noted.
Working on a European research project moreover presented an opportunity to develop soft skills, notably in result analysis, teamwork, project management, foreign languages, written and oral communication. Some aspects yet proved challenging for young staff and should not be underrated:
- Understanding and learning to navigate such a large project
- Breaking through a traditional frame of reference to handle a variety of perspectives in an interdisciplinary and international context
- Developing a critical view on the work being done in the project, especially with regard to developed models
In the long-run, H2020 opens up opportunities to reinforce people’s capability, push further knowledge dissemination and create tomorrow’s expert pools. More consideration to the position of young professionals is nevertheless necessary for the programme to reach its full potential.
For more information, please contact:
Maité Fournier – firstname.lastname@example.org
Manon Berge – email@example.com