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Action 17 and its potential for the RMA community

Action 17 and its potential for the RMA community

As a European association with a focus on decision-making in Brussels, we thought it would be helpful to explain to our community how our activities are influenced by policy developments set in motion by the EU. This article will provide you with a brief overview of how EARMA's projects and future endeavors fit into a wider pan-European strategy for research and development.

During 2000, the European Commission developed a common European Research Area (ERA) to strengthen the EU's position on research and development. To draw attention to this, the European Commission published a communication for a New ERA in 2020. This was then adopted by the European Council in 2021, which established a new governance for the ERA with the ERA Forum and put forward the first-ever ERA policy agenda with 20 action points to address the current challenges facing Europe.

One of these ERA points is particularly important to the RMA community. Action 17 wants to strengthen the strategic capacity of Europe's public research performing and funding organisations. In practice, this means that the EU wants to respond to and develop solutions for the issues that research managers and administrators (RMAs) in Europe face: the uneven distribution of RMA communities and expertise across Europe, the need for training, new skills, and networking opportunities for RMAs, and the lack of recognition of the profession of research managers or research support staff.

The European Commission envisions the strategic capacity of RMAs to be strengthened by building capacities in four key areas: Upskilling, Recognition, Networking, and Capacity Building. This will be achieved by building upon the support offered by existing RMA communities, such as EARMA. The role of the European Commission here is to coordinate the existing projects, align the initiatives on the European level and provide funding, which will be complemented by the Member States for activities on a national level.

For all of those hopeful for the quick implementation of this ambitious policy agenda, especially Action 17, it is important to remember that this policy plan is voluntary, so the interpretation and concrete measures depend on the Member States. More specifically, at least 14 Member States need to support an individual action on the ERA policy plan for the implementation to go ahead. Action 17 is estimated to achieve this level of support soon.

One of the reasons why it has taken longer for Action 17 to build support is a lack of awareness at national level of the issues facing the RMA community. On top of that, political representation of the RMA community is uneven across Europe. These blind spots are precisely what Action 17 aims to address with strategic capacity building.

To support the implementation of the new ERA, the Council set up a Forum for experts and representatives from EU countries to discuss the implementation of the agenda and will set up a platform to compare progress, share best practice, and generate feedback.

While the implementation of the new ERA Policy agenda is still ongoing, RMAs in Europe are also supported by the Horizon Europe Framework Programme (HORIZON). Two Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) pilot projects by the European Commission started in Q2/Q3 2022: RM ROADMAP (coordinated by EARMA) and CARDEA (coordinated by University College Cork). These projects are a product of the European Council's conclusions on the new ERA and are set up to deliver a pilot action for a Europe-wide networking program for science managers including research infrastructure managers.

As an organisation representing RMAs and their interests in Europe, we are very glad that the importance of RMAs has been identified by the EU. We strongly support this valuable development and recognition of the role of research professionals in the European research ecosystem. EARMA welcomes the call of our colleagues at DARMA in Denmark for Member States to support this important initiative and its implementation.

It is vital that our community uses its voice to support this important initiative. We are very close to reaching the threshold for implementation so it is crucial to reach out to your national representatives and policymakers to explain why they should support Action 17.