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Charter and Code



Research at UMB

Cooperation with UMB

Action Plan for the Charter and Code

Lena Marie Kjøbli

"The European Charter for Researchers" and "The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers"


1. What are the Charter and Code?
2. The EU Commission’s five-step procedure for implementing the Charter and Code
3. Work on the Charter and Code at UMB
4. Internal analysis and action plan
    4.1.
The process
    4.2. Focus areas and improvement measures
          
4.2.1 The researchers’ ethical and academic responsibilities
           4.2.2 Recruitment
          
4.2.3 Attractive working conditions
           4.2.4 Access to research training and career development

1. What are the Charter and Code?

The European Commission has adopted “The European Charter for Researchers” and “The Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers” (hereinafter referred to as “the Charter and Code”). These two documents form the core of the EU’s policy to make research into an attractive career and they are an important part of the European Union’s strategy for stimulating economic growth and increased employment.

The Charter and Code specify the European Commission’s recommendations relating to the responsibilities and obligations of researchers, employers and funders, with focus on recruitment, working conditions, researcher mobility and career planning.

Pursuant to the Charter and Code, all researchers shall have the same rights and obligations, irrespective of where in the EU they work. EU Member States and associated countries in Europe, including Norway, are working to improve the working conditions for researchers. Part of this work involves the implementation of the general principles for good practice enshrined in the Charter and Code documents.

In a letter dated 4 February 2011, the Research Council of Norway urged universities and university colleges to sign and to put into practice the Charter and Code. The institutions associate themselves with the Charter and Code with the intention of adhering to the principles, but do not need to satisfy all elements at the time they become a signatory.

As of 1 October 2012, 17 Norwegian research institutions had signed the Charter and Code, including the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). Four institutions have implemented the first three steps of the process and have been awarded the EU’s Human Resources (HR) Excellence in Research logo.

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2. The EU Commission’s five-step procedure for implementing the Charter and Code

The EU Commission has the following five-step process for adopting the Charter and Code principles:
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3. Work on the Charter and Code at UMB
In the spring of 2011, the Director of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) initiated a project with a view to implementing the Charter and Code.

The steering group was Dr. Ragnhild Solheim, Director of Research, and Per Anders Authen, Director of Personnel and Organisation. The working group comprised Lars Ola Nilsson, Research Department (EU RTD adviser, M.Sc. Monica Holte w.e.f. mid-September), Administrative leader Anja Nieuwenhuis, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Senior adviser Elizabeth de Jong, Personnel and Organisation Department and project coordinator Dr. Lena Marie Kjøbli, Personnel and Organisation Department.

The working group has carried out an internal analysis to compare the university’s own practice with the Charter and Code principles. The analysis made generally for the higher education system in Norway regarding the principles of Charter and Code (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian) was also used for guidance. Based on the analysis, the working group prepared an action plan.

As part of the process the Charter and Code principles have been discussed and reviewed at levels found appropriate within the university’s ordinary structure involving relevant key stakeholders. For some of the topics, like IPR and career development, separate working groups have been established. The suggested action plan was reviewed by the Management Group and the Employees’ Representative Group.

The Management Group is a committee for the discussion of matters relating to the university’s departments and its operation and development. It comprises the rectorate, the eight heads of department, head of student democracy and the University Director. The head of departments have all previously worked as researchers.

The action plan was further reviewed by the Employees’ Representative Group, which consists of representatives from the various trade unions and the University Director. This is a forum where the unions can discuss and present their views on relevant matters of importance for the university employees. Input from the Management Group and the Employees’ Representative Group were reported back to the working group and incorporated in the action plan.

The action plan led to good discussions and the analysis and action plan has been an awareness-raising tool for improvement, follow-up and quality assurance in the field of HR. To follow up the action plan, UMB has decided to appoint a group of four researchers at different career stages. The group will meet semi-annually with representatives from the department of Personnel and Administration and the Research department to discuss the progress of the action plan. The first meeting will be held in winter 2012/2013.

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4. Internal analysis and action plan

4.1. The process

The 40 principles in the Charter and Code relate to four main areas:
UMB’s internal analysis was sorted into four main areas and all of the 40 principles were assessed. The internal analysis shows that the University has initiated and in part implemented activities that underpin several of the principles in the Charter and Code. In most areas, UMB’s HR policy satisfies the Charter and Code’s requirements.

Many of the current regulations that apply to universities and university colleges/the public sector, and UMB’s internal procedures and guidelines, also satisfy the various requirements. The Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions has carried out a national assessment In general, it is believed that implementation by Norwegian universities and university colleges will not present a problem, with the exception of access to career advice, which will call for considerable work.

The national and internal variance analyses have nevertheless brought to light some problems and challenges that must receive special attention in the coming years. These are summed up below.

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4.2. Focus areas and improvement measures

UMB has used the standard template published on the European Commission Euraxcess website for the internal analysis (http://ec.europa.eu/euraxess/pdf/hrs4r/template_HR_Strategy.doc). Based on the focus areas, the steering group compiled a set of prioritised improvement measures in order to implement the principles in the Charter and Code. The improvement measures are specified below.  The actions will be assessed in the spring of 2014.

In the standard template for internal analysis the 40 principles in the Charter and Code are numbered and the numbers in parentheses in the following refer to these template numbers.

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4.2.1 The researchers’ ethical and academic responsibilities Ethics (cf. principles 1, 2, 3, and 6)

Over the last few years, governmental organisations, including universities, have received a great deal of attention regarding ethical issues. Ethical problems linked to research have also attracted a lot of attention (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian)

The University has drawn up its own code of ethics, whistle blowing procedures, Intellectual Property Rights policy (IPR), and a policy for storage of primary data. The Code of Ethics expresses a range of values in the form of principles and recommendations, on a general and on a concrete level The Code shall be enlightening and provide guidance for ethical reflection. Nevertheless, increasing the awareness and understanding of this among researchers presents a challenge.

Improvement measures:
Contractual and legal obligations (cf. principles 4, 5, 6and 34)

In Norway the necessary legislation is in place, and researchers are believed to be familiar with the legal basics. Also, most of the necessary contracts exist, at least for the largest funders such as the EU, the Research Council of Norway and large commercial enterprises (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian).

UMB has a code of ethics that regulates academic responsibilities, as well as a separate policy governing IPR. The implementation of these in the coming years will be important. Increasing the scope of dissemination is a clear goal in the strategy for 2010–2013. Greater dissemination will also be stressed in steering dialogues with each institute.

UMB has some challenges linked to project management and the monitoring of research projects. The University lacks a standardised system for monitoring research projects from the application stage and through to the final report.

Improvement measures:
Social relevance, dissemination and innovation (cf. principles 3, 8, 9, 31 and 32)

The University's social responsibility is reflected in the document “Strategy 2010–2013” which states among other things that the University will conduct high-quality research that benefits society, it will further develop its commitment to society through communication and dissemination of information and it will become an attractive partner for both private and public sectors and for society at large.

In recent years, UMB has made a major effort to strengthen the competence of researchers and students in the fields of innovation and Intellectual Property Rights. For several years, the University has run relevant open courses for students and researchers as part of the master programme “Entrepreneurship and Innovation”. With the project “Development of study programmes within IPR”, established in 2011, UMB has taken this one step further and developed a programme for PhD candidates. In this way, UMB reaches out to all its upcoming researchers with basic information and knowledge enhancement.

Open electronic archives (Open Access) are an important tool for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge. UMB has commenced work on putting in place an open electronic archive for research-based publications and doctoral dissertations. UMB researchers regularly publish in well-renowned international Open Access journals with peer reviews. An open electronic archive, called Brage-UMB, has been established for scientific publications, master’s theses and doctoral dissertations.

Improvement measures:
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4.2.2 Recruitment

Researcher mobility (cf. principles 17, 18, 19 and 29)
Increased internationalisation is a prerequisite if we are to realise a knowledge-based economy in Europe, which is the very foundation for the Charter and Code. UMB recognizes the value of mobility and internationalisation in both the “Strategy 2010–2013” and the “Strategic Action Plan for Internationalization 2011 – 2014”.

UMB has arrangements covering sabbatical leave, and the guidelines are reviewed and updated regularly. They were last updated in January 2012. UMB has until now had limited personnel to manage mobility in the research staff, and needs to strengthen its reception system for visiting researchers and international researchers. In 2010, the University prepared a separate web page for the reception of visiting researchers and new employees as a tool to facilitate the reception of visiting researchers.

As a step toward making UMB a more attractive partner for international organisations, and to increase international researcher mobility, all important information shall be available on UMB’s websites in English as well as Norwegian. This measure has been given priority in the University’s international strategy.

Improvement measures:
Recruitment (cf. principles 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 27)
UMB has a consistent set of rules governing the recruitment field. UMB’s Strategy 2010–2013 focuses on several Charter and Code-related areas of human resources, management and organisation. An important area of the strategy is the recruitment of academic staff at a high international level. The University has introduced a new HR portal where the recruitment process has been made much clearer. To ensure good recruitment of women to permanent academic posts, an action plan has been adopted with measures such as “seek and find committees” when announcing permanent posts, start-up packages for newly employed women and promotion scholarships for female associate professors.

Norwegian universities face a challenge in respect of the time spent on and the efficiency of the recruitment process. Career development is usually not mentioned in the announcement of the vacant position (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian).

Improvement measures:
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4.2.3 Attractive working conditions

Employment contract, salary and rewards (cf. principles 11, 22, 25 and 26)
Norway has a consistent set of rules governing the employment contract, salary and rewards. The Charter and Code require the employers to introduce evaluation/appraisal systems for assessing the academic performance of all researchers. Such appraisals should be carried out on a regular basis and in a transparent manner by an independent (and, in the case of senior researchers, preferably international) committee.

Norwegian universities and UMB does not have any committee evaluation/appraisal system as described in the Charter and Code (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian). It is possible to apply for promotion to Professor or Associate Professor. Researchers among others can apply for a pay rise based on performance. Furthermore, UMB has guidelines for the use of supplementary pay (B supplements). UMB has arranged for all researchers to have annual performance appraisals with their superiors. The university has set as an objective that all employees shall have at least one annual planning interview. Implementation of this work is given priority in 2012.

For UMB and other Norwegian universities, having a relatively large number of temporary employees represents a challenge. The Norwegian government has a goal to reduce the number of temporary employees at Norwegian Universities. UMB have made a guideline for temporary staff.

Improvement measures:
Non-discrimination and gender equality (cf. principles 10, 20, 24 and 27)
Norway has legislation and regulations that regulate this area, ensuring flexible work arrangements tailored to the individual’s work capacity and phase in life, such as maternity leave and senior days (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian). UMB is an inclusive workplace (IW) company.  The agreement contributes to a more inclusive workplace to the benefit of the individual employees together with reducing sick leave.

The University has a skewed gender distribution among associate professors and professors. To meet this challenge UMB has a special action plan for recruiting women to permanent academic posts in the period 2011–2013.

The University’s buildings and particularly the older structures have restricted access to people with physical disabilities. Promoting the development of an environment that facilitates access by physically disabled people has a high priority in the planning of new buildings and work places at the University.

Improvement measures:
Participation in decision-making bodies (cf. principle 35)
As employees, UMB’s researchers are represented on boards and committees, and separate information, discussion and negotiation meetings are held at regular intervals. In 2012 UMB revitalised the contractual participation of elected officers and safety representatives at departmental level.

Research and working environment (cf. principles 7, 23, 24 and 34)
Working conditions are relatively well-regulated in Norway today through, for example, the Civil Servant Act, Working Conditions Act, Universities and University Colleges Act, collective bargaining agreements and the basic agreement for the civil service with the national government. Employees’ rights are also extensive and well-established (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian).

As a step toward strengthening research, “Strategy 2010–2013” focuses on creating academic meeting places internally, between the departments, and between UMB and external institutions. The strategy also emphasizes measures that will provide researchers with more time for academic work and for publication. “Strategy 2010–2013” requires that the university follow up on all employees through appraisal interviews, where annual targets and achievements are considered. This is an important management tool.

An important adaptation to a bilingual campus is that important information must be available in Norwegian and English. In the autumn of 2011, UMB produced a new HR and HSE Handbook, which is available in both a Norwegian and an English version. Over the last few years, a systematic health, safety and environment (HSE) system has been built up at UMB, including safe laboratory procedures.

Foreign researchers may not have the same background in general safety and laboratory safety, and ensuring that they acquire the knowledge needed to work safely in UMB’s laboratories has been addressed. There are good research facilities in some fields. UMB need to get a total overview over facilities and instruments. The university has many buildings that vary a great deal in age and functionality and this creates special challenges.

Improvement measures:
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4.2.4 Access to research training and career development

Research training and supervision (cf. principles 33, 36, 37 and 40)
The Norwegian University of Life Sciences offers an organized research training programme that leads to the degree of PhD or dr.philos. The programme consists of active research under supervision, and includes planning and completing an independent project resulting in a thesis and taking a number of courses at doctoral level.

UMB’s Codes of ethics regulate the relationship between the supervisor and the PhD candidate. Norwegian universities and university colleges provide PhD education with good pay and employment terms (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian). There is, however, a need to strengthen the supervisory role through training and exchanging experiences. The Employee Survey shows that researchers are constantly being given new tasks to perform and this reduces the time available for supervisory activities.  In 2012 the university established a trial forum for supervisors focusing on training and exchange of experiences. The forum has been a success and will be continued.

Improvement measures:
Access to career advice (cf. principles 11, 20, 21, 24, 28, 30, 38 and 39)
UMB and other Norwegian educational institutions have systematised their work on career and competence development to a very limited degree, and they lack a feedback system that sees attraction, qualification requirements, position requirement from the job description and the achievement of results in context (Analysis for Norway – in Norwegian). UMB has not focused on tools that the individual can use for own learning as an individual or in groups. UMB has established a career centre for students and PhD candidates, but not for employees.    

Improvement measures:
[1] The Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science will be merged in 2014. The new university is named Norges miljø- og biovitenskapelige universitet (NMBU).

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Updated: 08.08.13
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