SER-MORE project (Development of Serbian Network of Mobility Centers, FP7 People) is carried out in period of September, 2008 – September, 2011, with objective to establish a national EURAXESS infrastructure in Republic of Serbia and to join the EURAXESS pan-European initiative, supported by 37 countries. Main goals of the project were:
(1) to develop a network of EURAXESS Service centers which provide the services to mobile researchers (in specific, to provide responses to queries of mobile researchers in aspects of social security, visas, accomodation, work permits, tax issues, etc.)
(2) to develop an information platform – portal, intended to be used by the mobile researchers (namely, to publish relevant content and services for searching centralized database of research jobs and fellowships, offered by the R&D organizations throughout Europe)
(3) to promote the network (and to spread awareness on the importance of mobility for researchers’ career development, as well as to provide support to Government of Republic of Serbia in related activities, such as development of human resources, promotion of FP7 People program, etc.)
EURAXESS network and services
EURAXESS network in Serbia has been established in year 2010, when 45 R&D organizations signed the document “Declaration of Commitment by the members of the EURAXESS Service Network” (DoC). At this point, all EURAXESS Service centers (namely, Universities in Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad and Kragujevac) signed DoC, as well as 7 organizations from University of Belgrade, 8 from University of Novi Sad, 1 from Kragujevac, 7 from University of Nis and 16 independent research institutes, private faculties and universities. The organization of the network, as well as internal and external communication is defined in adopted code of conduct, which describes the actors, responsibilities, communications, methods for planning and quality management, etc. Services are provided to the mobile researchers (27 inquiries processed) by using the information from pre-release of the Guide for mobile researchers in Serbia. Data about the structure of foreign researchers in Serbia, as well as 5 of their testimonials has been collected and published at EURAXESS portal. EURAXESS reception office has been established at University of Belgrade.
In the second period of SER-MORE project, the interest for participation in national EURAXESS network was increased. Some new organizations joined the network, including one from University of Novi Sad, Nis and Belgrade, and 7 new organizations from University of Kragujevac. In period of January 2009 – Jun 2011, network members (Center for Coordination and EURAXESS Service centers) processed a total of 211 inquiries. Majority of inquiries was related to financing of mobility, followed by issues of employment opportunities, entry conditions / visas, diploma recognition and others. Statistics of the inquiries is illustrated at Figure 1, below. This statistics emphasizes the priorities in resolution of the specific problems of the mobile researchers in Serbia, both incoming and outgoing.
Figure 1. The statistics of the types of inquiries, processed by Serbian EURAXESS network
Besides increasing the capacity of the network, in second period of SER-MORE project, a first release of the Guide for mobile researchers was developed, printed and published (15.3.2011). The guide was disseminated in number of opportunities, including EURAXESS conference at Cyprus, 21-23.3.2011.
National EURAXESS Portal
Main objectives of the national EURAXESS portal were: to inform the Serbian scientific and research community about opportunities for career development through mobility, about opportunities for employment of foreign researchers, about services of pan-European EURAXESS network; and to inform the foreign researchers about Serbian R&D landscape, collaboration and employment opportunities and procedures for employment and work in Republic of Serbia.
National EURAXESS portal publishes information about EURAXESS network in Europe and Serbia, European Charter for researchers and Code for employers, FP7 People program and other relevant information, namely, projects, initiatives, events, etc. Also, portal offers services of online searching of jobs and fellowships for researchers in Europe, as well as online searching of the database of Serbian scientific and research institutions. In period of January 2009 – August 2011, total of 493 pages with authored content is published (54% in Serbian language and 46% in English). Besides that, 137 pages with descriptions of scientific organizations in Serbia have been published.
In this period, portal was visited 31.000 times, by approx. 22.000 visitors (62% from Serbia, 38% from rest of the world), with approx. 100.000 page views (3.3. per visit). Visitors came from 126 countries, most from Serbia, then from Bosnia and Herzegovina, USA, Montenegro and Germany.
Figure 2. Statistics of the interest for specific content at national EURAXESS portal
Content statistics, presented at Figure 2, illustrates that visitors have shown the greatest interest for the database of Serbian scientific and research organizations. Next, they were interested in basic information about EURAXESS initiative, EURAXESS Service centers in Serbia, services offered, etc.
The visits at EURAXESS portal were increased in the summer of year 2011, after online advertizing campaign was carried out. This campaign included contextual advertizing on the number of most visited portals in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Google AdWords campaign. Besides this effort, the greatmost of the referalls came from the web sites of the faculties from University of Belgrade, Facebook page of the national EURAXESS network, EURAXESS Jobs portal of European Commission and web portal of the Basileus project (University of Ghent, Belgium).
The activities of EURAXESS promotion in Serbia were particularly intensive in first 18 months of the SER-MORE project. 4 thematic Info days were organized in Kragujevac, Nis, Belgrade and Novi Sad (May, 2009) with a total number of 200 participants, as well as 2 Info days per invitation at the Faculty of Medicine in Nis and Institute for Physics in Belgrade. The network was promoted also in the international context, through participation of its representatives at the relevant events, such as SEERA.NET Workshop in Romania and RCC Workshop in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this period, 6 newsletters were sent, 3 media conferences were organized and 3 media releases were issued.
Given the importance of the promotion for activities of EURAXESS network in Serbia, many promotional activities were carried out in the second period of the SER-MORE project. Event “EURAXESS day in Serbia” and a new series of EURAXESS & FP7 People Info days were organized. EURAXESS representatives participated at the thematic TV shows and two media releases were published. 20-minutes promotional film about EURAXESS initiative, impact of the mobility to development of human resources in research and science, FP7 framework and Charter and Code, was produced. A representative promotional material is printed and social networking and newsletter publishing activities were continued.
A great number of presentations of national EURAXESS network per invitation were made, in national and international context. National network representatives participated in the training of Montenegrin EURAXESS network in two ocassions, at the opening of EURAXESS network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the international workshops in Serbia, Romania and Greece and on other ocassions. In May, 2011, Milan Zdravković and Miroslav Trajanović participated in thematic shows at two TV broadcasts, one with local and another with regional coverage.
At Kopaonik winter resort, in 7.3.2011, an event “EURAXESS day in Serbia” was organized, back to back with scientific conferences YUINFO & ICIST 2011, attended by more than 400 researchers. Program of the event included the lecture about EURAXESS on the plenary session of YUINFO conference, open meeting of the Steering Group of national EURAXESS network with participation of the representatives of the EURAXESS networks from the neighbourhood, organization of the workshop “EURAXESS in Serbia – European, regional and national aspects” and EURAXESS Party (Researchers Only).
Figure 3. Workshop “EURAXESS in Serbia – European, regional and national aspects”
Promotion of the EURAXESS network on Facebook was very succesfull, also as a tool for online promotion of the portal. EURAXESS page on Facebook was visited more than 13000 times; 350 subscriptions were received, mostly from Serbia (225), followed by Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, USA, Spain and other countries.
Figure 4. Facebook page of the national EURAXESS network
In March, April and May, 2011, a new series of Info days with support of Ministry for education and science was carried out in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac and Nis. Info days were attended by total of approx. 150 researchers. Finally, in the second part of the SER-MORE project, additional 10 newsletters were sent (5 in 2010, 5 in 2011). Now, newsletter has around 1000 subscribers and each of the sent newsletters generates 200-300 portal visits.
The majority of the activities of training of EURAXESS Service centers staff and local contact persons was carried out in first 18 months of the SER-MORE project. Those activities included: 2 seminars for coordinators of the EURAXESS service centers, organized in Nis, in October, 2009 and March, 2010; training in the areas of quality, promotion and networking, organized by the European Commission for coordinators of the service centers in Varna, Tallin and Thessaloniki; training for Charter and Code promoters, organized in Potsdam and Brussels; and workshops for local contact persons, organized at 4 Serbian universities and at the Faculty of Information Technology in Belgrade, with attendance of 57 participants from 47 research and scientific organizations in Serbia.
For the second period of SER-MORE project, no training activities were planned. However, some representatives of the EURAXESS network attended different training events, organized by the European Commission, such as the training for service centers’ staff in Zagreb, training for portal administrators in Estonia and training on handling different practical issues in Brussels.
Coordination and impact
The aspects of project coordination and impact are discussed uniquely, since both were the main responsibility of the Steering group of the SER-MORE project and the Project Management Committeee, which were both established in the early months of the project.
The Steering Group meetings are attended by the high representatives of the Ministry for education and science of Republic of Serbia (in specific, minister associates in charge for international cooperation and development of human resources), vice-rectors of the state universities, in charge for international cooperation and representatives of the BHO organization – Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Nis. The members of the Project Management Committee (PMC) of SER-MORE project are coordinators of EURAXESS service centers and representatives of BHO organization. The role of the PMC is to ensure that all activities of the SER-MORE project are carried-out on time and within the budget. The role of Steering Group is to ensure the impact of the project’s activities to Serbian research community in general, through the contribution to establishment of better condtions for development of human resources and mobility.
In first 18 months, three joint meetings of the Steering Group and PMC were organized. One of the specific results of the SG work at this period was the proposals for improvement of the National strategy for scientific and technological development. These proposals included specific measures on reaching three objectives: increase of the employment transparency, facilitation of the proactive approach to financing the mobility and improvement of the status of PhD students. These proposals were taken into consideration by the Government, but unfortunately, they were only partially included in the Strategy.
In the second period of SER-MORE project, three joint meetings of the Steering Group and PMC were organized. Main topic of the 4th meeting, held in Belgrade, 23.12.2010 was publishing jobs’ ads of Serbian R&D organizations on EURAXESS Jobs portal. Main topic of the 5th meeting, held at Kopaonik winter resort, 6.3.2011 was discussion on the experiences of the neighbouring countries in improving conditions for researchers’ mobility. On the 6th meeting, held in Belgrade, 29.8.2011, members of the Steering Group and PMC were presented with a final report about the SER-MORE project. SG and PMC also discussed with the representatives of the Ministry for education and science about establishment of the conditions for sustainable operations of the EURAXESS network in Serbia.
Figure 5. 6th meeting of the Steering Group of national EURAXESS network
The work of the Steering Group had some impact in the context of signing the European Charter for researchers and Code for employers. During the second period of SER-MORE project, three organizations signed the Charter and Code: University of Novi Sad, University of Nis and Metropolitan University. Unfortunately, none of the institutions have started the implementation procedure.
Publishing of the jobs of our R&D organizations at EURAXESS Jobs portal is considered as one of the importan steps in increasing the transparency of employment. The Steering Group of the EURAXESS network discussed about two possible approaches to improve a response of the R&D organizations to invitations to publish their jobs’ ads. First, considered as sustainable, assumes: promotion of the Charter and Code (with motivation to ensure better visibility of the University in the international context), increase in the number of PhD programs in English language, limited focus (for example, on Serbian scientific diaspora) and continuing work on removing the administrative obstacles and problems for employment of foreign researchers. The second approach, considered as pragmatic, assumes that Ministry of education and science launches a recommendation or a directive to all organizations which are funded by the state, to publish the jobs’ ads.
As in many other contexts, the fact that Universities in Serbia are not integrated is a serious obstacle for implementing the policy of development of human resources and mobility of researchers. This circumstance is considered as one of the main reason for lack of positive response to invitations to Universities to sign and implement the Charter and Code, as well as for a low performance of the EURAXESS service centers in collaboration with local contact persons. Although this was not an objective of the SER-MORE project, the work of the network, including the work of the Steering Group did not have any influence on improvement of the legal and administrative conditions for researchers’ mobility.
However, the results made during these three years of development of EURAXESS network and portal imply that project created adequate infrastructure for providing services to mobile researchers and councelling in career development. Excellent results have been made in domains of promotion and information provision – national EURAXESS portal gained significant progress, both from the aspects of visibility and quality of the offered information and services.
In the future, national EURAXESS BHO organization, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of University of Nis will continue with the provision of services and information to mobile researchers, support to EURAXESS service centers, reporting about national EURAXESS network’s performance to European Commission and to a lesser extent – promotion (mainly, through joint organization of Info days with Ministry for education and science).