The warning was sounded by the head of a research staff group at Trinity College Dublin, as global experts met at the university to discuss funding of high- innovation and high-risk research in Europe.
A central part of the Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) unveiled last June is the plan to double the number of researchers. But the TCD workshop heard there are serious issues facing the sustainability of this plan in the absence of real research career paths.
Dr Alison Donnelly, chairwoman of the Trinity Research Staff Association (TRSA), said it is impossible to build a knowledge economy on short-term contracts. “There is a need to improve the recognition, remuneration, conditions of employment and career development opportunities for Ireland’s thousands of contract researchers,” she said.
The association has warned that, otherwise, leading researchers from abroad will not be interested in working in Ireland.
In the more immediate term, however, existing research staff will not be retained without the changes the TRSA is seeking. More than 160 of its members took part in a survey, which found that more than half earn less than €44,000 a year.
The starting salary of almost €36,000 for a post-doctoral researcher is less than €5,000 more than the average industrial wage.
The workshop was co-ordinated by Professor Patrick Prendergast, director of TCD’s bioengineering centre, as part of an EU programme on promoting research in new and emerging science and technology.