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8

Lab Times

5-2016

News

Declaration of Young Researchers

Young & Unhappy

The future belongs to the young, they say.

But has this message been heard in the sci-

entific world as well? Fact is, young Euro-

pean researchers are anything but happy

with the current working and career situa-

tion at European universities and institutes.

Therefore, ten of Europe’s early career sci-

entists, including Caroline Lynn Kamerlin

(Uppsala University) and Bruno González

Zorn (University Madrid), banded together,

framed a Declaration of Young Research-

ers and presented it, during an informal

meeting in Bratislava in July, to the minis-

ters from the 28 EU member states and the

European Commissioner for Research, Sci-

ence and Innovation, Carlos Moedas.

In their Bratislava Declaration of Young

Researchers, the ten scientists identify four

areas that are in desperate need of reform-

ing: Enabling Great People and Ideas; Sus-

tainable and Transparent Career Trajecto-

ries; Research Environment and last but not

least, Work-Life Balance. Regarding career

opportunities, the young researchers ob-

serve that there’s “an extended period of

career insecurity with non-transparent ca-

reer progression. This provides an obstacle

that can dissuade even the brightest young

researchers from pursuing a research ca-

reer”. Addressing the European Commis-

sion and the EU Member States, they call

for “structured opportunities for non-tra-

ditional career trajectories, such as recruit-

ing permanent staff researchers, and mech-

anisms for better mobility between the pub-

lic and private sectors”.

Speaking to the

University World News

(

UWN

), Lynn Kamerlin says the declara-

tion’s main mission is to “raise awareness

among decision-makers. We have had ex-

cellent support, so far, and I am optimistic

that the Declaration can take advantage of

this momentum to make a real difference”.

Not everyone agrees fully with the Dec-

larations’s demands, though. Thomas Jør-

gensen, Head of Unit at the European Uni-

versity Association, says that initiatives to

support young researchers do exist. “We

have had European policies such as the

European Charter for Researchers and the

Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Re-

searchers, and a very hands-on implemen-

tation through the HR Excellence in Re-

search logo, and the statement at this point

seems strangely detached from all these in-

itiatives,” he told

UWN

.

Despite welcoming the Declaration,

Katrien Maes, LERU’s chief policy offic-

er, finds fault with the young researchers’

statement that researchers do not have the

same employment rights as other young

professionals. “It is a difficult world for all

young professionals nowadays – with a few

exceptions – with short contracts and inse-

cure positions as the norm. But that doesn’t

mean there aren’t wrong situations that

need fixing: What is really important is to

give all early-career professionals good,

thorough career counselling and honest,

realistic perspectives.”

The Declaration will be submitted for

adoption at the Competitiveness Council in

November but it’s already possible to sign

the petition and show your support under

www.ipetitions.com/petition/bratislava-dec-

laration-of-young-researchers

.

Publishing costs at eLIFE

Numbers Revealed

Many regard them as a revolution in ac-

ademic publishing, now, the open access

journal,

eLIFE

, is spearheading a new rev-

olution: being transparent about their rev-

enues and expenses. “We hope that being

transparent about our costs will help to set

a future course for research communica-

tion that is efficient and sustainable,” write

Mark Patterson,

eLIFE

’s Executive Director

and Jennifer McLennan, Head of External

Relations in a recent editorial.

Let’s look at the revenue for 2015 first.

This comes directly, in grant-form, from

the journal’s founding funders: the How-

ard Hughes Medical Institute contributed

£1.84 million, the same amount came from

the Wellcome Trust. The Max Planck Soci-

ety chipped in another £470,000, amount-

ing to £4,154 million. What’s on the expens-

es’s side? Costs for running a journal can

be split into non-publishing and publishing

costs. Last year,

eLIFE

spent £831,000

Recently Awarded

Two emeritus professors at the Univer-

sity of Jerusalem, both of them pioneers

of epigenetics, won the

2016 Louisa

Gross Horwitz Prize

by Columbia

University. Together,

Howard Cedar

and

Aharon Razin

, deciphered the

DNA methylation process. The duo, for

instance, discovered how DNA methyla-

tion silences genes and that methylation

marks are erased in early development,

allowing for epigenetic reprogramming.

“To uncover new processes, they had to

continually develop new tools and work

with new systems. This innovative spirit

– in the service of scientific astuteness

– is why they are worthy winners of the

2016 Horwitz Prize,” said Michael Purdy,

University of Columbia’s vice president

for research.

This year’s

Lasker Awards

honoured

scientists working on oxygen sensing

and the hepatitis C virus. The Lasker

Basic Medical Research Award went

to, amongst others,

Peter Ratcliffe

(University of Oxford) for his research

unravelling the mechanisms, by which

cells sense and signal low oxygen

levels. He, for instance, identified and

characterised the underlying signalling

pathways that involve the transcription

factor, hypoxia inducible factor, HIF.

Ralf

Bartenschlager

(University Heidelberg)

and two American colleagues won the

Clinical Medical Research Award. Study-

ing the replication cycle of the hepatitis

C virus, Bartenschlager was able to es-

tablish robust cell culture models, which

have been used to test candidate drugs.

For his “pioneering studies on the mo-

lecular characterisation of synaptic vesi-

cles and the roles of protein complexes

in the process of exocytosis”,

Reinhard

Jahn

(MPI for Biophysical Chemistry,

Göttingen) received this year’s

Balzan

Prize

in the Medical Sciences category.

One major breakthrough was the dis-

covery that SNARE proteins are involved

with the membrane fusion process. The

award comes with a prize money of CHF

750,000 (approx. €685,000).

-KG-

Photo:

www.publicdomainpictures.net

/George Hodan

Transparent finances...