European Web Sites to Watch: The Joint Research Centre


W elcome to the first in a new series for Next Wave Europe. Across Europe, there are lots of organisations that early career scientists should know about--because they offer employment opportunities, and/or because they do other things, such as giving out awards and grants, which can help you in your career development. In European Web Sites to Watch, we?ll be creating a survey of such sites, telling you how they can help you and, because they are often fairly extensive, pointing you to the most useful information. Are there any European Web sites you find particularly useful that we should feature? Let us know!

What is it?

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) provides technical and scientific support for European policy-making. It gives scientific and technical reference information to the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament, and European Union (EU) member states, and it is a Directorate-General of the European Commission in its own right. It has seven institutes, which are based in Geel, Belgium; Ispra, Italy, Karlsruhe, Germany; Petten, Netherlands; and Seville, Spain (see box).

The JRC Institutes

  • The Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements ( IRMM), Geel, Belgium

  • The Institute for Transuranium Elements ( ITU), Karlsruhe, Germany

  • The Institute for Energy ( IE), Petten, Netherlands

  • The Institute for the Protection and the Security of the Citizen ( IPSC), Ispra, Italy

  • The Institute for Environment and Sustainability ( IES), Ispra, Italy

  • The Institute for Health and Consumer Protection ( IHCP), Ispra, Italy

  • The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies ( IPTS), Seville, Spain

JRC employs 2100 staff members, more than 1500 of which are scientists. Their research areas include cybersecurity, developing tests to detect bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") and genetically modified organisms, boron neutron capture therapy to treat brain tumours, developing nuclear forensic science techniques to combat the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, improving the earthquake resistance of buildings, and the sustainable management of water resources.

What kind of researchers do JRCs employ?

You name it! Every kind--from engineers physicists, chemists, biologists, and environmental scientists to social scientists.

Why should I take a look?

Two reasons:

First, JRC occasionally calls for applications for Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowships. Both fellowships have a minimum duration of 6 months and can be up to 2 years for postdocs and 3 for Ph.D.s. (Unfortunately, however, there is an age limit of 35.)

Second, in preparation for EU enlargement, JRC is offering a programme of workshops and advance training courses for scientists from candidate countries. The aim is to bring those individuals up to speed on the reference methods and techniques used to enforce EU legislation in the JRC priority areas of food, chemicals, environment, metrology, agriculture, nuclear safety, and technology foresight. There are also opportunities for visiting scientists from these countries to spend from 3 months to 1 year working at a JRC institute.

Star Ratings


(sites with white backgrounds get my vote every time!)

Ease of Navigation

(difficult to fault)

Quality of Information

(impressively free of EC jargon!)

Anything I should know for the future?

More senior researchers can spend time working at JRC as a visiting scientist or as a (gloriously named--you?d never guess this came from an EC body) "detached national expert" (DNE). Visiting scientists spend a year at a JRC institute and must have at least 10 years? postdoctoral research experience. DNEs are national or international civil servants and private-sector employees who remain in the paid employment of their administration or firm throughout the 3 to 36 months they spend with the JRC.

Any other interesting stuff?

JRC forms collaborations with academic and industrial organisations to carry out projects and commercialise findings.

JRC?s White Brochure gives an easily digestible overview of some of its projects.

The JRC Alumni Survey was carried out in 2000. Find out a little about what former Ph.D.s and postdocs have done during their fellowships before you take the plunge!

Our Staff shows a breakdown of the number of men and women in each staff category.

The event calendar gives details of workshops, training courses, and summer schools organised by JRC?s institutes.

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