Changes in 2005 could help EU Postdocs

Postdocs in Canada and Europe are a lot like their compatriots in the United States.

Feb 14, 2005
Theresa Tamkins
<p>Best Non-US Institutions</p>

Postdocs in Canada and Europe are a lot like their compatriots in the United States. Institutions that provide relevant books, journals, and supplies, along with the training and experience to launch a successful career in science, earn top marks from postdocs.

"This is one of the best equipped centers in plant science that I've seen in Europe," says Frank Klimmek, at Umea Plant Science Center in Sweden, which ranked number one on our list of the Best Places to Work for Postdocs. "There's a very pleasant atmosphere, it's competitive but not unfair, and it offers a charming way of life," says Klimmek. Cardiff University in Wales, 12th on our list, is centrally located in a "vibrant and rapidly growing city," says Jeff Davies. "It's a great place to work and live."

As in the United States, tenured or permanent staff positions are in short supply for postdocs in Europe. Unfortunately, there are not as many industry jobs in Europe as in the United States, says Henri van Luenen, research manager at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, which ranked third on our list. "There are many more companies in the US and thus more possibilities outside the academia for a scientific career," he says.

Another problem is a bureaucracy that hinders a researcher's ability to move about the European Union. "The only negative thing about doing a postdoc in Spain [is] the bureaucratic barriers to mobility," says Marc Lemonnier, of the Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas in Madrid, which ranked 15th on our list. "These include the need for an official recognition of foreign diplomas, even within the EU."

A number of changes are afoot that should make life easier for European postdocs in general, says Christine Heller del Riego of Euro-Science, a grassroots organization that aims to be the voice of science in Europe. At a conference in February 2004, the European Commission announced two important steps towards creating a "true European employment market for young researchers," she says. Those include the European researchers' charter, and the code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers; these draft initiatives will set "best practice" standards and outline employment rights and benefits for scientists. The aim is to increase international mobility, support the career development of young researchers, and make the European Union more attractive to scientists throughout the world.

"These initiatives should stimulate the national academic markets in the EU to increase transparency in recruitment and promotion policies, adequately recognizing the importance of excellence and mobility," says Heller del Riego. "The abuse of postdoc researchers originates from their lack of recognition and place in the system. This would not occur in a seamless [European Research Area]."

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