6 June 2024 ICoRSA Events, News

Eurodoc Conference 2024: Towards a United European Research Area – The Ljubljana Process and Beyond

The Eurodoc Conference 2024, titled “Towards a United European Research Area: The Ljubljana Process and Beyond,” took place on June 4th and 5th in a hybrid format, with physical events hosted in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Organized by Eurodoc and the Young Academy of Slovenia (Društvo Mlada akademija, MA), the conference received support from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation of Slovenia and the University of Ljubljana.

Objectives and Themes

Conditions and Prospects for Early Career Researchers in the European Research Area

The Eurodoc Conference 2024 provided a detailed examination of the current conditions and future prospects for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) within the European Research Area (ERA). This integration is critical for enhancing the skills and knowledge of individual researchers and for addressing regional disparities in research capabilities and resources.

Addressing Brain Circulation Imbalances

A significant topic at the conference was the existing imbalances in brain circulation within the EU, particularly between EU-13 and EU-14 member states. Brain circulation refers to the movement of researchers across borders, which can lead to the exchange of knowledge and skills that benefit both sending and receiving countries. However, disparities in economic development and research infrastructure can lead to one-way brain drain, where talent is lost from less developed regions to more developed ones.

  1. Challenges in Brain Circulation

    • The EU-13 member states, including many from the Balkan region, often experience a net loss of researchers to the EU-14 countries, which have better-funded research environments.
    • This one-way flow of talent exacerbates regional disparities, leaving less developed regions with a depleted research workforce and stunted scientific progress.
  2. Strategies to Promote Balanced Brain Circulation

    • The Widening Programme, discussed by Luisa Henriques, aims to create a more balanced flow of researchers by boosting collaborative links and promoting attractive conditions for researchers across all EU regions.
    • Ensuring broader geographical coverage and stimulating brain circulation through initiatives like Horizon Europe can help address these imbalances and promote a more equitable distribution of research talent.

Future Prospects for ECRs

The conference highlighted several future prospects for ECRs in the ERA:

  1. Increased Mobility and Collaboration

    • Efforts to facilitate researcher mobility and international collaborations are expected to provide ECRs with more opportunities to work on high-impact projects, gain diverse experiences, and contribute to global scientific advancements.
  2. Improved Research Infrastructure

    • Investments in research infrastructure across the EU-13 countries can enhance the local research environment, making it more attractive for both domestic and international researchers.
    • Upgraded facilities and resources will enable ECRs to conduct high-quality research and compete on an equal footing with their peers from more developed regions.
  3. Supportive Funding Mechanisms

    • Tailored funding mechanisms that recognize the diverse needs and capabilities of researchers can ensure that both breakthrough and incremental research receive adequate support.
    • By providing flexible and inclusive funding opportunities, the ERA can nurture a wide range of research talents and innovations.

Key insights

Luisa Henriques discussed the importance of a systemic approach in Horizon Europe, emphasising the Widening Programme

“Broader geographical coverage, boosting new collaborative links, stimulating brain-circulation, and attractive salaries to researchers are essential principles in Horizon Europe.” – Luisa Henriques

Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council, highlighted the diversity in research capabilities.

“Not everyone can be expected to do breakthrough research. Incremental research is important. There are people who are less daring, and they need funding. All researchers have different qualities – the idea of career advice won’t work for everyone.” – Maria Leptin

Jure Mravlje, President of the Young Academy of Slovenia, expressed concerns about bureaucratic obstacles in the ERA.

“We are just filling papers. Proving that we do work, we lose time to do real research work. This is one obstacle that should be changed in the European Research Area.” – Jure Mravlje

Norbert Bencze, Presidential Commissioner responsible for the Ambassador System, Association of Hungarian PhD and DLA Candidates, emphasized the potential of brain circulation.

“There are a lot of talented people and researchers who would like to participate in short-term or long-term projects in other countries, where they can bring the acquired knowledge and experience to their home countries.” – Norbert Bencze

Gregor Majdič, Rector of the University of Ljubljana, posed a critical question on brain circulation.

“Is brain circulation currently a one-way process for Eastern Europe?” – Gregor Majdič

Key Topics

  1. Impact of ERA on ECRs

    • Enhanced mobility and participation in international research projects.
    • Improved access to funding and resources.
  2. Research Infrastructure and Mobility

    • Correlation between research infrastructure quality and international researcher mobility.
    • Influence of social and cultural conditions on mobility flows.
    • Importance of diverse funding mechanisms to support both breakthrough and incremental research.
  3. Open Science and Data Sharing

    • Promotion of transparency and collaboration through open access.
    • Acceleration of scientific progress via shared resources.
  4. Research Excellence and Assessment

    • Connection between research excellence and research assessment.
    • Need for tailored career advice to accommodate diverse researcher qualities and talents.
  5. Widening Program

    • Strategies to address uneven brain circulation and disparities between EU member states.


The conference featured a range of distinguished speakers from various sectors, including government, academia, and research organizations:

  • Jure Gasparič (SI) – State Secretary, Ministry for Higher Education, Science and Innovation of Slovenia
  • Gregor Majdič (SI) – Rector, University of Ljubljana
  • Klemen Miklavič (SI) – Deputy Director, Slovenian Research and Innovation Agency
  • Manuel Heitor (PT) – Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), former Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education for the Government of Portugal (2015-2022) and Secretary of State (2005-2011)
  • Signe Ratso (EE) – Deputy Director-General, DG RTD, European Commission
  • Denys Kurbatov (UA) – Vice-Minister for Research, Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • Lucy Swan (BE) – DG EAC MSCA Unit
  • Maria Leptin (DE) – President of the European Research Council
  • Lidia Borrel-Damian (ES) – Science Europe
  • Amanda Crowfoot (GB) – Secretary General, European University Association
  • Luisa Henriques (PT) – Senior Policy Advisor, FCT Board
  • Martin Andler (FR) – President, Initiative for Science in Europe
  • Tanja Vertelj (SI) – Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation of Slovenia
  • Boštjan Markoli (SI) – Vice-Rector, University of Ljubljana
  • Mike Bunard (SI) – University of Primorska / Innorenew CoE
  • Dean Korošak (SI) – Vice-Rector, University of Maribor
  • Miro Pušnik (SI) – Director, Central Technical Library
  • Jure Mravlje (SI) – President, Young Academy of Slovenia
  • Ana Slavec (SI) – University of Primorska & Mlada Akademija
  • Alisa Sukhikh (UA) – Young Scientists Council at the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • Oleksandr Prokhorchuk (UA) – Young Scientists Council at the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • Hannah Schoch (CH) – Secretary, Eurodoc
  • Pil Maria Saugmann (DK) – Vice President, Eurodoc
  • Nicola Dengo (IT) – Postdoctoral Researcher, Università degli Studi dell’Insubria, WG Research Assessment & Career Paths Coordinator, Eurodoc
  • Sebastian Dahle (SI) – Assistant Professor, University of Ljubljana, President, Eurodoc
  • Maya Petek (SI) – Research Associate, University of Maribor, Vice President, Young Academy of Slovenia
  • Norbert Bencze (HU) – Presidential Commissioner responsible for the Ambassador System, Association of Hungarian PhD and DLA Candidates
  • Gledson Emidio (BR) – Project Officer, Eurodoc

Conference Sessions

The conference included a mix of panel sessions, workshops, and keynote speeches. A special session was dedicated to the state of Ukrainian academia, addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by Ukrainian researchers amidst the current geopolitical climate.

Organizers and Sponsors

The Eurodoc Conference 2024 was co-organised by the Young Academy of Slovenia (MA), established in 1995 as a non-profit, voluntary association of doctoral candidates and early career researchers. Key partners included the University of Ljubljana, the Central Technical Library (CTK), and the Slovene Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (MVZI), which also served as the main sponsor of the conference.

The Eurodoc Conference 2024 provided a comprehensive platform for discussing the integration and support of Early Career Researchers within the European Research Area. By addressing issues such as mobility, funding, research infrastructure, and open science, the conference highlighted the importance of creating a cohesive and collaborative research environment across Europe.

Connecting Researchers Globally: The Role of ICoRSA

The International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA) plays a pivotal role in connecting researchers from around the globe. By bringing together independent researchers, academics, research staff/postdoc associations, universities, funders, and businesses, ICoRSA fosters a collaborative environment aimed at improving research careers worldwide.

One of ICoRSA’s core functions is to facilitate networking among researchers across different regions and disciplines. This global network enables researchers to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices, enhancing their professional development and research outputs.

The consortium serves as a platform for researcher empowerment, encouraging research staff associations and individual researchers to take an active role in shaping the future of their careers. By acting as research career ambassadors, ICoRSA members promote the importance of recognising and valuing researchers’ contributions to society.

ICoRSA also organises thematic workshops and conferences, both online and in-person. These events cover a wide range of topics, including research and innovation, funding opportunities, global collaborations, and responsible research practices. By providing a forum for discussion and learning, ICoRSA helps researchers stay informed about the latest developments in their fields and explore new avenues for collaboration.

Membership in ICoRSA is free and open to all researchers, making it an inclusive platform for anyone interested in improving the research ecosystem. By joining ICoRSA, members become part of a transnational organization that leverages global insights to drive change at both national and international levels.

ICoRSA’s global perspective allows it to address issues such as gender and family inequalities in research careers. By highlighting these challenges and advocating for fair policies, ICoRSA contributes to creating a more inclusive and supportive research environment.

The consortium also focuses on mobility, helping researchers navigate the complexities of working in different countries and institutions. By promoting brain circulation rather than brain drain, ICoRSA encourages the exchange of knowledge and skills across borders, benefiting both home and host countries.