Get started – the first (recruitment) activities in your Horizon Europe MSCA DN
29th June 2023 at 3:41 pm
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Doctoral Networks (DN) that were submitted to the last call in November 2022, and were selected for funding, are already in the final stages of their grant preparations. If your proposal was among the lucky ones, you may be interested in learning more about the recruitment requirements and process as well as the onboarding of your Doctoral Candidates (DCs). We would like to share below the experience from our first five Horizon Europe DNs, including one Industrial Doctorate (ID), which started between September 2022 and February 2023.
Finding the right Doctoral Candidates
The search for talents has become very competitive in Europe and attracting the best researchers is a challenging task in most European countries. At the same time, DNs need to fulfil the MSCA recruitment requirements and follow a transparent and fair recruitment process. Recruited researchers must be Doctoral Candidates; this means that they must not be in possession of a PhD at the date of recruitment. They also have to fulfil the mobility criteria to be eligible: While they can be of any nationality, they must not have resided or carried out their main activity in the country of their host for >12 months in the 3 years prior to recruitment. Notably, this mobility criteria only applies to the first recruitment (e.g., in joint doctorates or industrial doctorates).
To find the most suitable candidates, we recommend starting the recruitment process as early as possible, which essentially means starting right after signing the Grant Agreement. To ensure the widest possible outreach of your job advertisements, publish these internationally and clearly outline the attractive MSCA Fellow remuneration package. As you know, publishing all positions on the EURAXESS Jobs Portal is mandatory (check Annex 5 of the EU Grant Agreement for the additional requirements) but we recommend publishing the job ads on as many platforms as possible and actively distributing them within your networks.
The selection process requires following the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. This ensures that the recruitment process is:
- Open, transparent, impartial and equitable.
- Merit-based, i.e., based on the applicants’ scientific skills and the relevance of their research experience.
- Considers the impact of the proposed training on the researchers’ careers.
- Gender balanced.
Whilst following the MSCA recruitment guidelines is key, it is also important to consider the recruitment requirements of the host institutions. We recommend that you check the individual hiring practices of each beneficiary.
To be able to prove that the recruitment process was fair, we suggest tracking all applications (e.g., by country of origin, gender), as this may be subject to investigation during your project’s mid-term meeting with the Research Executive Agency (REA) between months 13 and 15.
Once you have identified the best suitable candidates for your advertised position, your organisation will issue the employment contract according to the following rules:
- Full-time contracts (unless agreed differently with the EU Project Officer).
- Minimum 3 months, maximum 36 months contracts (funding).
- All DCs must be enrolled in a PhD programme.
- Contracts must specify, according to Annex 5 of the EU Grant Agreement, the following:
- The name of the supervisor(s) for the research training activities;
- The starting date and duration of the research training activities;
- The monthly support for the researcher under this Agreement;
- The obligation of the researcher to work exclusively for the action;
- The obligation of the researcher to inform, as soon as possible, about events or circumstances likely to affect the implementation of the action or the compliance with requirements under the Agreement (see Article 19);
- The obligation of the researcher to maintain confidentiality (see Article 13);
- The obligation of the researcher to ensure the visibility of EU funding in communications or publications and in applications for the protection of results (see Article 17).
From our experience in more than two dozen ITNs/DNs, the recruitment process typically takes three to six months, depending on the time of year, the host’s location, recruiting partner and the research area.
Onboarding of your new Doctoral Candidates
Once the DCs have officially joined the network, some tasks need to be accomplished by their supervisors and employers. These include the following:
- Inform all project partners and other DCs in your network of the contact details of your DC for easier communication.
- Provide the DCs with an info package that should be made available by the EC/REA soon and includes (1) the MSCA Guidelines for Supervision, (2) the MSCA Green Charter and Guidance Materials, as well as (3) the European Charter and Code for Researchers.
- Also share the project-specific contracts with your DCs, such as (1) the EU Grant Agreement, including the Description of the Action and (2) the Consortium Agreement.
- Complete the Mobility Declaration for your DCs on the EU Funding & Tenders Portal within 20 days after the DCs’ official start.
- Set up Personal Career Development Plans (PCDP) with your DCs within the first 1-2 months.
A guided tour, a thorough introduction to the research topic, and other measures that you typically undertake to introduce new staff members should take place upon arrival of the DC and before the research training starts.
Expert help and support
Our multi-disciplinary team has a wealth of knowledge in Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions training networks from dozens of ITNs funded under FP7 and Horizon 2020, and now in the newly-funded Horizon Europe Doctoral Networks including CONcISE, BREAKthrough, MITGEST, SYNSENSO and the Industrial Doctorate MIRELAI. As an associated partner, we at accelopment have gathered a great deal of practical experience in Project Management and Dissemination support as well as Transferable Skills Training all geared toward DNs.
We regularly publish blog posts on Doctoral Networks and other Horizon Europe funding topics. You can subscribe to our blog updates in our blog main area or contact our DN team if you are looking for specific expert advice!
Research & Innovation Project Manager
Dr. Jörn-Frederik Wotzlaw
Research & Innovation Project Manager