Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - SCHROEDINGER FELLOWS (Erwin Schroedinger Program)

The Erwin Schroedinger Programme is the largest outgoing-Programme in Austria for basic research at postdoc level. Open to all disciplines and destinations, it aims to support researchers to work abroad at leading research institutions and on leading research programmes in order to open new areas of knowledge, new scientific approaches, methods and techniques. It helps the fellows to broaden and deepen their competence and to establish long lasting international cooperation.
The programme was founded in 1985 and has been evaluated in 2006. With the cofunding of the EC the FWF was able to strengthen the programme with different measures. In particular it was possible to improve the programme by including the possibility to apply for a reintegration-phase and, thus, facilitating the critical return phase. This return phase has been established successfully: two thirds of the Schroedinger applications include the request for the reintegration phase. The FWF in this way counters the brain drain from Austria and consequently from the ERA in the long term. Within this grant we saw already 50% of the fellows returning with the Schroedinger funding.
This grant represents a follow-up to two other COFUND-Grants (No. 228516, and No. 245550). With the current grant, the FWF had the possibility to maintain the implemented programme improvements and the rather high approval rate.
The FWF started this COFUND-contract in January 1st 2012. We have maintained the major improvement already established with the first COFUND grant – the reintegration phase after the stay abroad. Furthermore – implemented with the second COFUND grant - the FWF covers contributions to the Austrian pension fund for the duration of the outgoing phase and the age limit was eliminated.

Schroedinger proposals are not subjected to deadlines; they can be submitted on a rolling basis. The application processing time is about four months, which is highly appreciated by our clientele and we are convinced that this rapid and quality-controlled decision process is especially helpful in the career paths of young scholars. With our rapid processing time and flexible arrangement of stays abroad (10 to 24 months plus an optional return phase of up to 12 months, free choice of host research institutions), the FWF offers to its target group a programme which is nicely tailored to their specific needs.

All Schroedinger proposals submitted from January 2012 until June 2013 were treated under this COFUND contract. We received 196 applications during this period. 10 of them were withdrawn by the applicants, so we processed 186, of which 7 were immediately rejected by the FWF’s Executive Board without review, because they did not meet the eligibility criteria. Based on the external peer reviews 79 proposals were rejected and 100 approved by the FWF-Decision Board. In total, we received 386 reviews from international experts. 6 of the fellows withdrew their approved grants, so in sum we saw 94 projects started. 160 outgoing and 31 return years have been cofunded under this contract.
The reintegration phase was highly appreciated and we saw that approx. 70% of the approved projects included a return phase.
84 out of 94 projects have been terminated under this contract and we have received and processed to date 76 final reports. 65 projects included a reintegration-phase, 37 reintegration phases have been concluded, 8 are still ongoing, 2 fellows have not started their return yet and 18 fellows did not made use of their return phases mainly because of job offers after the Schroedinger-stay abroad.

The information provided by the final reports of the fellows is highly positive: We monitor a great average publication output (3.5 scientific publications per fellow), an immediate effect on continuing the scientific career path (24 persons terminated their fellowship earlier or abstained from the approved reintegration financing mainly because of job offers, 11 applied successfully for another project at the FWF) and a very high satisfaction with the programme design and management.

In 2013/2014 the FWF launched again an external programme evaluation also to render account to the EC. The few weaknesses mentioned in the evaluation report from 2006 were no longer issues after the improvements of the programme made possible by the cofunding of the EC. The extremely positive results of the evaluation published in May 2014 are summarized in the executive summary of the evaluation report
Evaluation, p. 44: “The evidence gathered by this evaluation suggests that the Schrödinger program with a return phase is well managed and that its overall objectives are achieved. The way in which the program has been repeatedly evaluated and how it has continuously been adapted and improved is commendable. This is also reflected in the high level of satisfaction expressed by the surveyed Schrödinger fellows. The evaluation measured the impact of the program on four different levels: The individual researchers’ careers, the involved research institutions, the Austrian Science system and the European Research Area. “
In sum, the FWF was again able to improve the Erwin Schroedinger Programme with the help of COFUND, the external evaluation showed the positive impact of the programme on the fellow’s career and the final reports show the high satisfaction of the fellows with the programme design and management.

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