research matters

Scientific research matters – to whom and why? | EYE 2016 Workshopreportage

Aleksandar Bogdanovic | On 20th of May 2016 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, a crackdown on the unemployment in the EU and youth empowerment was all that mattered! How can the scientific research contribute to creating jobs in the future? Nobel Prize winners and scientists discussed the opportunities with young European leaders.

Speakers of the session “Research matters: New jobs on the horizon” were notable European scholars – Mir Wais Hosseini (Professor of Chemistry at the University of Strasbourg and holder of multiple international research awards), Kathrin Valerius (leading Junior Researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Gianfranco Visentin (Head of the Automation and Robotics Group) and Richard Freedman, in role of the moderator (European Parliamentary Research Service).

Mr. Hosseini, born in Kabul, Afghanistan came to Strasbourg at the age of 17 with dream to pursue further education in the city of European diplomacy. Besides facing common challenges every foreign student eventually comes across in a new host country, as a student working with other PhD scholars, he noticed that the EU needs to create more opportunities appropriate for young students, who in times of digitalized communities are obliged to learn fast and adapt their skills constantly to the changing environment. Furthermore, having in mind scientific research as opportunity for future jobs creation, Hosseini brought attention to the following major types of research:

  • Finalized research (idea already exists and it could be finalized on the market)
  • Applied research (there is a know-how, which has to be made more efficient)
  • Fundamental research (application is still not known)

As Mr. Hosseini outlined, the fundamental research is the one with the highest potential of creating future jobs, since it deals with those problems we know nothing or very little about. For instance, before scientists and engineers invented online booking systems, we were accustomed to arrange our vacations at the travel agencies. Each type of a modern job known to us today, someone had to invent and no invention would be possible without some kind of research beforehand.

Mr. Visentin, could not agree more with those arguments – all the projects he worked on in the past (e.g. robotic platforms, alternative robotics, robot autonomy, etc.) needed a staff to research behind and transform the projects from the initial phase of a project idea to the phase of project assignment and execution. Nevertheless, Ms. Valerius highlighted that job of a fundamental scientist brings plenty of challenges – from constrained job opportunities, requirements to travel and frequently move to other locations, limited budgets and time pressure, to unexpected outcomes of a research project. As young researchers are mostly PhD students possessing already an advanced academic degree, the competition is tough and young students, still in pursuing their first academic degrees, have to be exceptionally qualified to be considered for employment, even an internship position.

However, just because it is difficult, it does not mean it is impossible. As an intern of the Austrian Academy of Sciences myself, I am aware of the limited opportunities a young student usually gets in this field, but there are plenty of ways to increase personal employability and labour market attractiveness, to qualify for limited scientific research jobs. As Ms. Valerius also confirmed, organisational and soft-skills are highly welcomed by the scientific community and international experience is considered as an asset, since many researchers have to move to different countries in working on their projects. It is also crucial for young people to take leading roles in student organisations as many researchers are expected to work systematically and independently.

Finally, what has to be done from the EU perspective, is definitely more lobbying to bring the awareness on these issues still existing in the field of scientific work as a space for future jobs creation. I highly encourage the EU agencies to invest their effort in smart strategies and systematic outreach activities, in order to attain qualified young researchers and improve communication on scientific work opportunities in the European Union. I will continue to advocate for youth empowerment in the EU, otherwise, we will never get the chance to see any of those young leaders present in the today’s session to become the next Nobel Prize winner! As Mr. Freedman outlined “Politicians cannot act without the proposals of the scientists”, so let’s ensure to develop the future generations of excellent scientists already from today!

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Josef Ladenhauf

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