Republic of Poland

WUELS has received a Human Resources Excellence in Research logo

May 24, 2017

The „Human Resources Excellence in Research” logo is granted to institutions abiding by the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. Both these documents were adopted by the European Commission in 2005 and they describe rights and obligations of researchers but also universities and other institutions employing them. The researchers are subject to the rules of freedom of scientific research and dissemination of its findings, professional responsibility, observing common ethical practices, social involvement, relationship with a scientific supervisor etc. Employers, on the other hand, are obliged to ensure stability of employment for researchers at every stage of their professional development, non-discrimination, gender-equality, creating conditions for steady professional development, access to training and careers guidance.

– Receiving this logo means enormous prestige for the University as not many entities in Europe get it. In Poland these are only 30 institutions and there is no other university of a profile similar to ours which has been granted this logo – says Krzysztof Kafarski, the director of International Relations Office and one of the project coordinators. – But it also entails tangible benefits: more points from unit evaluations and easier access to Polish and European grants. And for the University itself it’s a great opportunity to revise internal rules and procedures as well as gaining transparency in employing researchers – we will have to choose the best and raise our standards.

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fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

From 2005 till the end of 2016 the Charter and the Code was embraced by over 1200 European and international institutions but only 298 received the logo, out of which the largest number – 95 – in Britain. The Charter rules are mentioned in the grant contract within the Horizon 2020 programme. According to the regulation of the Minister of Science and Higher Education of 27th October 2015, from January 2017 the units possessing the logo gain additional points and it is also taken into account during some grant competitions of the Ministry itself as well as Foundation for Polish Science, National Science Centre and National Centre for Research and Development.

The attempts by the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences to receive the logo began in September 2016 – the University embraced the principles of European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct, and following a decree by the rector Tadeusz Trziszka a team was set up which was responsible for its implementation. It consisted of scientists and administrative employees responsible for organizational, legal and informational documentation and for creating HR strategy and overall schedule. The first controlling stage for WUELS was a survey which evaluated the working rules at the University and their compliance with European requirements.

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fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

– The survey consisting of 40 questions coherent with 40 principles written in the Charter and the Code was sent to all researchers employed at our University. The deadlines were tight, the workload considerable and we had to gather a lot of data. That’s why the motivation and mobilization among employees were crucial. We received an answer from 431 people and on its basis we created an over 100-page document for the European Commission – explains Dominika Mańkowska, the coordinator of the efforts for the implementation of the European Charter for Researchers. The Vice-Rector for Research and International Relations, professor Jarosław Bosy points out that it was also a great test for the University – a test of matrix management in which we will function during the next years and whether we will manage it – as the project required mobilization, quick action and involvement of practically whole University.

The scientist were asked, for example, if they know mechanisms of research funding at the University and if the University abides by the rules of thorough, transparent and effective finance management in this area, if the standards and procedures of recruitment are clearly defined, if the University appreciates employees’ mobility, if regular meetings of doctoral students with their supervisors have been arranged and actually take place and if the older scientists performing different tasks at the University are building positive and creative relationships with researchers on the threshold of their career.

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fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

Negative responses prevailed only in two cases. One of them concerned availability of careers guidance at the University and assistance in finding a job at every stage of professional career and regardless of contract type. The other one was related to appropriate remuneration of all duties connected with educating and training young researchers and taking these duties into account in employees’ evaluation systems. Another group of questions which received special attention were those to which most respondents marked the “hard to say” option, especially the question about appointing by the University an impartial person for adjudicating on complaints and appeals of researchers as well as resolving conflicts. (46% of respondents did not have a crystallized opinion on the subject).

In all the cases remedial actions have been planned: publicizing information on activities of Personal Development Consultancy Office and increasing responsibilities of the Careers Office to include professional guidance for doctoral students and young researchers, novelization of rules concerning parametric evaluation of academics and appointing a mediator.

In November 2016 the documents were submitted to the European Commission. After examining them the European experts accepted the application but recommended taking some additional action and clarifying some of the data. Hence, the coordinators of the project have planned additional self-improvement measures such as: including gender balance policy in the University Statutes, updating and publicizing internal regulations concerning management of copyright and related rights, evaluating informal qualifications of employees by the Department of Project Acquisition, carrying out information campaigns on the development of professional career and opportunities for researchers concerning different forms of professional mobility.

After completing the documentation the University received the logo for a 2-year “trial period”. – This is the time to fix all the problems. During this period we will be working to reach European standards and after that we will undergo and audit which will verify our progress. Only then will we be able to receive the logo permanently – explains Dominika Mańkowska.