About the Academic Careers Observatory, ACO
The Academic Careers Observatory (ACO) is an initiative of the Max Weber Programme, a postdoctoral studies programme which is part of the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) and funded by the European Commission.
The ACO facilitates the diffusion of knowledge among young researchers about national academic careers and research opportunities in the social sciences and humanities, throughout Europe and beyond. Career planning for Ph.D. candidates and post-docs fellows can be easy in one’s own country of reference, but often proves complicated when pursuing an international profile.
ACO plays an important role towards the realization of the European Research Area (ERA). ERA was established in 2000 to increase the mobility of, and networking between, researchers, the sharing of knowledge, and the openness and coordination between European, state and regional research programmes.
Research is part of the Lisbon Strategy, aiming to expand growth and jobs and therefore allow Europe to become more competitive in the global economy. The EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) made available new funding for research across disciplines. Euraxess Researchers in Motion was created as a unique pan-European initiative providing access to a complete range of information and support services to researchers wishing to pursue their research careers in Europe. Finally, Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available for research over 7 years (2014-2020).
Much remains to be done before a truly European and open space for research is fully realized, including in the specific ACO's field of competence. The improvement of 'careers and mobility' was among the unresolved questions and priorities raised by a public consultation done by the Commission on its Green Paper 'The European Research Area: New Perspectives' published in April 2007. To improve mobility and careers, there is a need to open national research institutions to international researchers and put emphasis on the quality of these institutions' scientific output.
By offering young academics a basic understanding of the structure of academic systems and the formal and informal barriers to career advancement, the MWP-ACO contributes to overcoming what the Commission identified as the persisting "strong national and institutional barriers which prevent ERA from becoming a reality".
At the same time, by focusing on the social sciences and the humanities, the ACO supports careers in disciplines that, as much as the natural sciences, are key factors for the establishment of a comprehensive and strategic common research area in Europe.