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In April 2015, the Fundació Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron – Institut de Recerca (VHIR) was recognised with ‘HR Excellence in Research‘ accreditation by the European Commission (also known as ‘HRS4-R’).

This accreditation is based on the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers (Charter & Code). Obtaining the HR Excellence in Research seal ensures that VHIR integrates 40 basic principles related to HR, applied to the research environment, into its management.

To integrate these principles, since 2015, VHIR has defined a series of actions and measures depicted in 3 different Action Plans. Over time, these Action Plans have evolved to meet researchers’ needs and expectations.

The HRS4-R at VHIR consist of a collaborative process involving the Directorate, Administrative Structure, Workers Representatives and Researchers.

Furthermore, the measures in each Action Plan have increased in number and have included more principles of the Charter & Code. We initialled focused on the Ethical & Professional aspects’ Area, and today we can say that every area of the strategy includes a well-balanced number of actions.

Every 36 months the HRS4-R at any institution is reviewed by the European Commission. Since 2015, VHIR has undergone an Interim Assessment (2017) and a Renewal Evaluation (2021).

Seal Renewal

As part of the Seal renewal process, at the end of 2020, VHIR submitted a request for HRS4-R seal renewal accompanied by an Internal Review report that included the new Action Plan 2021-2024. Once validated by the European Commission (EC), VHIR started preparing for the site-visit evaluation, the last step of the Seal Renewal process.

This evaluation took place in October 2021 and was divided into a series of sessions that included conversations with VHIR’s Directorate, Administrative Structure and Research Staff, and the 3 EC Evaluators.

After the evaluation, we received confirmation that VHIR has renewed the HRS4R Seal for the next 3 years.

Based on feedback from the EC Evaluators, the Action Plan was also reviewed once again and updated.

The feedback highlighted some of the actions that VHIR was able to implement as strengths, including:

  • Regardless of the Spanish/public sector complex context within the research field, VHIR managed to significantly improve on the implementation of the HRS4-R overall. This improvement was made clear through the comments given by our Researchers during the sessions with the EC Evaluators.
  • The level of ambition is coherent with VHIR’s context, and gradual progress has been perceived over time and can be seen reflected in each Action Plan.
  • Likewise, the advisors mentioned some good practices carried out today at VHIR, as examples for the network of institutions recognised with the HRS4-R Seal. These include:
    • The Women in Science (WinS) Project
    • The training in leadership skills and team management for PIs.
    • The development of Gender and Equality policies

On the other hand, 3 main areas of improvement were emphasised:

Recruitment Process

The importance to continue training and informing all Research Staff about VHIR’s Recruitment Process and OTM-R principles was pointed out.

Monitoring System

Define a clearer monitoring system that can track quality and progress of each action within the HRS4-R Action Plan.


Continue providing training programs for all Research Staff in transversal competencies.

Why is the HRS4-R important?

Maintaining this Seal is an opportunity to continue improving as an institution and carry on aiming for excellence. This strategy provides a framework in which VHIR can build an attractive and researcher-oriented working environment.

It also allows VHIR to align with EU research principles and therefore offer quality benefits and working conditions.

The HRS4-R encompasses a network of research institutions and researchers across Europe and worldwide, allowing us to maintain a close relationship and exchange with fellow counterparts.

VHIR’s commitment to this strategy is in line with our institutional Strategic Plan, which clearly embeds the HRS4-R as one of its key topics.

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VHIR Annual Report 2021