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Researchers    Career stages R1 to R4    Fields of science    Reference countries

Career stages R1 to R4

In order to allow for country comparisons in terms of functions and experience levels, the concept of specific career stages was introduced according to the four career stages outlined and defined in the European Commission’s communication “Towards a European Framework for Research Careers”. Researchers in the MORE3 and MORE4 surveys were asked to self-select into one of these four stages.

These four career stages are:

  • R1: First Stage Researcher (up to the point of PhD),
  • R2: Recognised Researcher (PhD holders or equivalent who are not yet fully independent),
  • R3: Established Researcher (researchers who have developed a level of independence),
  • R4: Leading Researcher (researchers leading their research area or field).


According to the definitions given in the EC’s communication the different stages are characterized as follows:

A First Stage researcher (R1) will:

  • Carry out research under supervision;
  • Have the ambition to develop knowledge of research methodologies and discipline;
  • Have demonstrated a good understanding of a field of study;
  • Have demonstrated the ability to produce data under supervision;
  • Be capable of critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas;
  • Be able to explain the outcome of research and value thereof to research colleagues.


Recognized researchers (R2) are PhD holders or researchers with an equivalent level of experience and competence who have not yet established a significant level of independence. In addition to the characteristics assigned to the profile of a first stage researcher a recognized researcher:

  • Has demonstrated a systematic understanding of a field of study and mastery of research associated with that field;
  • Has demonstrated the ability to conceive, design, implement and adapt a substantial program of research with integrity;
  • Has made a contribution through original research that extends the frontier of knowledge by developing a substantial body of work, innovation or application. This could merit national or international refereed publication or patent;
  • Demonstrates critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas;
  • Can communicate with his peers - be able to explain the outcome of his research and value thereof to the research community;
  • Takes ownership for and manages own career progression, sets realistic and achievable career goals, identifies and develops ways to improve employability;
  • Co-authors papers at workshop and conferences.


An Established researcher (R3) has developed a level of independence and, in addition to the characteristics assigned to the profile of a recognized researcher:

  • Has an established reputation based on research excellence in his field;
  • Makes a positive contribution to the development of knowledge, research and development through co-operations and collaborations;
  • Identifies research problems and opportunities within his area of expertise Identifies appropriate research methodologies and approaches;
  • Conducts research independently which advances a research agenda;
  • Can take the lead in executing collaborative research projects in cooperation with colleagues and project partners;
  • Publishes papers as lead author, organizes workshops or conference sessions.


A Leading researcher (R4) leads research in his area or field. He or she leads a team or a research group or is head of an industry R&D laboratory. “In particular disciplines as an exception, leading researchers may include individuals who operate as lone researchers.” A leading researcher, in addition to the characteristics assigned to the profile of an established researcher:

  • Has an international reputation based on research excellence in their field.
  • Demonstrates critical judgment in the identification and execution of research activities.
  • Makes a substantial contribution (breakthroughs) to their research field or spanning multiple areas.
  • Develops a strategic vision on the future of the research field.
  • Recognizes the broader implications and applications of their research.
  • Publishes and presents influential papers and books, serves on workshop and conference organizing committees and delivers invited talks.


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