22 SES 07 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
Policy statements on the importance of the link between research and innovation abound. Within these the postdoctoral researcher can be regarded as a particular category of ‘knowledge worker’, occupying a key role as part of policy on national innovation systems. However, despite a considerable range of constructive policy development at EU level, the actual initiation and implementation of policy at national level regarding postdoctoral career structures is often far removed from the lofty aspirations of the European Union. For example, the European Council, in February 2011 approved a proposed framework for the European Research Area (ERA), which set out to ‘to improve the mobility and career prospects of researchers, the mobility of graduate students and the attractiveness of Europe for foreign researchers’.The ERA framework aimed to secure a common approach across member states to achieve attractive employment conditions for researchers and gender balance in researcher careers. The central concern of the ERA was facilitating mobility of researchers across countries and sectors, including open recruitment in public research institutions and comparable research career structures. Also, the report of the Higher Education Research Group in Ireland (DETE, 2009) set out a draft national framework for researcher careers, but this was shelved due to the economic crisis and it is widely acknowledged that progress in the matter of researcher careers has been tentative, fragmented and incoherent.
Research in the area of postdoctoral researcher lives is relatively sparse despite the role attributed to these ‘knowledge workers’ in European and Irish national policy on innovation. This paper reports on an exploratory project which it is hoped will be developed into a national and international study. Within this project, we examined the work-lives and interactions of a small group of postdoctoral researchers in different disciplines, in the arts and humanities as well as the natural sciences, in two of Ireland’s seven universities over the first two years of their careers after graduation. The reported experiences are analysed against the background of recent statements in European and national higher education and research policy documents that point specifically to the importance of developing research mobility and career development among Europe’s researchers (European Commission, 2007, 2008).
 European Council 4 February 2011 Conclusions, Brussels, 8 March 2011, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/119175.pdf.
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