The studies refer to the beneficiaries and offer assessment on the public intervention mechanism from the European Social Fund to support young researchers and researchers at various stages of their careers. According to the evidence to date, more than 4,500 participations have been recorded in these Actions representing 2,700 unique beneficiaries.
Young scientists who have benefited from ESF Actions (i.e. PhD students, post-doctoral, research teams and new researchers obtaining academic teaching experience) belong mostly to the 25-34 and 35-45 years age groups. The contribution of these Actions to the increase of employment has been significant. 66.1% of doctoral candidates and 32.2% of young researchers reported no other employment during the same period.
Acquiring further (academic, research and business) skills, implementing innovative teaching methods and linking research with entrepreneurship are some of the benefits also reported by the young scientists. Initial findings concerning brain drain indicate that 39.4% of all beneficiaries who were considering moving abroad, said that participation in these actions prevented them from doing so.
Young scientists are considered to be part of the highly skilled human resources of the country, on whom rests the strategy and design for the productive reconstruction and the transition to a knowledge-intensive Greek economy. Enhancing this population stood as the main objective of the public funding intervention mechanism designed and implemented by the Managing Authority of the Operational Programme Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning (HRDELL OP), supervised by the Special Secretariat for the Management of Sectoral OPs of the European Social Fund (ESF) .
The National Documentation Centre (EKT) was responsible for undertaking the development of a data collection mechanism as well producing relevant metrics and in-depth studies in order to monitor the implementation and evaluate the effectiveness of this public funding intervention mechanism.
Monitoring the development of these Actions, which includes taking into account the views of young scientists, at the time of their implementation, has been an innovative public policy practice, as it has provided the Special Secretariat with timely information allowing for modifications or corrective actions, thus optimising the impact of these interventions.
The following are some of the most striking findings of the studies prepared under the implementation of the Action ‘Assessment of NSRF Higher Education Actions’, Operational Programme ‘Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning’ co-financed by Greece and the European Union - European Social Fund.
Action for the Acquisition of academic teaching experience
In relation to the two cycles of the Action ‘Acquisition of academic teaching experience for new scientists’ (for the academic year 2016-2017 and 2017-2018), 3,106 teaching positions in Greek universities were funded. 1,997 young scientists were awarded these positions. Of those, 15.6% had no other employment during the Action. As to their demographic characteristics, 59.1% were men and 40.9% women, while the majority were aged between 35 and 44 years (61.9%).
This Action has significantly contributed to the Greek higher education system since it allowed for the introduction of new and innovative teaching methods, incorporated a large number of new courses, strengthened student interest in courses offered and allowed for further networking with members of the academic community. In addition, young scientists that were awarded these positions were added to the decreasing numbers of the existing permanent teaching personnel and, thus, helped restore the teacher-student ratio.
Particularly encouraging was that 77.3% of the beneficiaries reported as satisfied or very satisfied with their participation in the Action. Lastly, 43.5% of beneficiaries who were considering moving abroad, said that participation in this action prevented them from doing so.
Actions to Support doctoral candidates
The Actions ‘Strengthening Human Resources in the implementation of PhD research’ and ‘Programme for the award of scholarships for PhD studies second cycle of studies’ (1st cycle 2016-2019) funded 420 doctoral grants. Of those, 66.1% of the grantees had no other employment during the Action. Women outperformed men in terms of participation (61.6% to 38.4%), while the majority of PhD candidates were in the 25-34 age group (87.2%).
The Actions were designed to encourage new researchers to produce high-level research results. 94.1% of PhD candidates participated in the preparation of scientific publications, 82.4% attended/participated in scientific conferences and 54.0% drafted research proposals.
The research subjects of the PhD theses fell into the following categories: Social Sciences (24.1%), Medicine and Health Sciences (23.2%), Natural Sciences (18.5%), Humanities (16.4%), Science and Engineering (14.9%) and Agricultural Sciences (3.0%).
48.8% of doctoral candidates stated that their doctoral research can be of use/interest for commercial and production purposes (examples would include the sectors of Education, Health and Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities). Lastly, 38.2% of beneficiaries who were considering moving abroad, said that participation in these actions prevented them from doing so.
Action to Support post-docs
The Action ‘Strengthening Postdoctoral Researchers’ (1st Cycle 2017-2019) funded 288 grantees. Of those, 29.7% had no other employment during the Action. An equal gender representation was recorded (50.7% men and 49.3% women), while 69.9% of post-docs belonged to the 35-44 age group. Post doctorate research subjects fell into the following categories: Natural Sciences (24.7%), Medicine and Health Sciences (24.3%), Engineering and Technology (18.4%), Social Sciences (15.9), Humanities (12.6 %) and Agricultural Sciences (4.2%).
45.6% of post doctorates stated that their research can be of great relevance to commercial and production purposes (particularly in Education, Health, Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities). Lastly, 48.2% of beneficiaries who were considering moving abroad, said that participation in this action prevented them from doing so.
Action to Support new researchers
The Action ‘Support for researchers - particularly new researchers’ (1st Cycle 2017-2019) funded 713 new researchers and 245 academic advisers to form 245 research groups. Of those, 32.2% had no other employment during the Action. Gender distribution was approx. equal (49.2% women, 50.8% men), while 46.0% of new researchers were between 25 and 34 years of age. Research subjects fell into the following categories: Engineering and Technology (24.1%), Social Sciences (18.8%), Natural Sciences and Medicine and Health Sciences (both 18.6%), Humanities (12.8%) and Agricultural Sciences (7.1%).
59.5% of new researchers stated that their research can be of great relevance to commercial and production purposes (including the Education and Health sectors). Lastly, 37.9% of beneficiaries who were considering moving abroad, said that participation in this action prevented them from doing so.
EKT will monitor the future cycles of the aforementioned Actions, providing relevant information to the Special Secretariat for the Management of Sectoral OPs of the European Social Fund (ESF). Thus, contributing to the optimisation of the implementation process and the achievement of objectives.
Further, EKT will develop a digital repository to aggregate the research results that will be generated by the beneficiaries of each Action – a repository available to all. This is in line with EKT’s Open Science objectives.
Data collected under this Action will be paired with related statistical data that are also collected by EKT, in compliance to the latter’s role as agency and national authority of the Hellenic Statistical System. This will allow for better understanding the pattern and potential of the highly skilled human resources.