Ireland’s first Research Staff Association is launched in Trinity College

Posted on: 19 October 2005

Researchers deserve greater recognition

Access to pensions and parental leave are essential

“In order for Ireland to attract and retain highly educated and skilled researchers, they require greater recognition. Current funding arrangements mean that the vast majority of researchers at third level institutions are employed on short term contracts with few of the benefits normally enjoyed by other sectors of the Irish workforce, including provision for pensions and parental leave.” This was stated today (Wednesday, 19 October) by Dr. Alison Donnelly, President of the new Trinity Research Staff Association (TRSA), which was launched by Mr. Batt O’Keeffe, Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
TCD’s Research Fellows and Assistants represent an essential constituent of the College’s research capacity, and are critical to its goal of improving its world-class standing. However, as in all other Irish third-level institutions, unlike many of their academic colleagues who are engaged in teaching and administration those engaged in full-time research generally have short duration contracts, 2-3 years, and have little long-term security. This insecure career path is linked directly to the short-term nature of research funding in Ireland. 
The first association of its kind in Ireland, the TRSA represents some 400 professional researchers in Trinity College and will promote the interests of research staff and the creation of a working environment that encourages excellence in research and serves to attract and retain high quality researchers.

“A serious concern is that the poor career prospects for researchers are leading to an exodus from the field and are an important contributing factor to the decreasing uptake of science subjects at second and third level”, according to Dr. Donnelly.
The TRSA will work for the enhancement of research careers at Trinity College, beginning with an assessment of the implications of the Fixed Term Workers Act and the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for their Recruitment. It will continue to lobby for increased input by researchers into policy at the university and school levels and hopes that similar bodies will be established in other Irish third level institutions.
Provost of TCD, Dr. John Hegarty stated that in addition to a knowledge economy it is important that Ireland develops as a knowledge society.  “The solutions to many problems in Irish society can be found through research. The government’s priority is to transform Ireland into a knowledge economy, as a way of sustaining economic development and social well-being. A target of 2.5% of GNP is to be spent on research by 2010.  As part of this, it is planned that research expenditure in the third-level institutions will more than double to reach €1.1 billion per year.
“An increase in research output will require an increase in researchers.  It is estimated that an additional 2000 researchers will be required in the third-level sector over the next five years to achieve the government’s aims.
“Much of the research conducted in third level institutions is conducted by contract research staff and these staff are entirely funded by external agencies as the third level sector receives no central funding for them. Due to this funding reality, research contracts are generally of short duration and confer little long term security.
“Organisations such as the TRSA will be a good platform to address these issues and to allow the voice of the researcher to be heard in the policy making process.”