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Periodic Report Summary 1 - ETHFELLOWS 2 (ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship Program 2)

The ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports incoming fellowships for postdoctoral researchers at ETH Zurich. The program is intended to foster high-potential, young researchers, who have already demonstrated excellence in terms of internationally competitive achievements in the early stages of their professional careers. Applications have to be made jointly by the candidate and their host, who must be an ETH Zurich Professor and who will act as a mentor of the fellow. The duration of an ETH Fellowship is two years.

From the planned ten calls over the project duration of five years, the first four calls have been published on time and have been evaluated in the given time frame of four months. Overall 215 applications have been submitted, 213 were eligible for the overall selection process. 61 fellows have been selected under the ETH Fellows program according to Annex I. Of these 61 fellows, 58 have been cofunded, two more than planned in Annex I (year 1/2015: 28 fellows, year 2/2016: 28 fellows). The higher number of approved fellows compensates for the earlier termination of four fellowships until December 31, 2016, due to assistant professorship offers or other job opportunities.

The quality of submitted applications was very high. Therefore a thorough quality based selection is key for our program. The selection is based on the recommendations of the external reviews and referees of the research commission of the ETH Zurich. In the first step half of the candidates have been invited for interviews; of these, again a little more than half have been recommended for funding. This allowed us to fund 14 to 15 excellent fellows in each round. Based on all four calls, the success rate was 27 %, with a higher success rate for women (35%) than for men (23%).

The applications process is described transparently on our webpage All applications are submitted on the web online submission platform. All candidates have been informed shortly after the final decision meeting or – if they have not been invited to the interview, after the preselection – about the funding decision. Candidates and mentors, whose application have been rejected, have been given the reasons in a signed letter. Fellows and mentors, whose application have been successful, have been informed by an official letter about the conditions, their rights and duties in this fellowship, including the obligation to use the brand “Co-funded by Marie Curie Actions” in all publications. All processes from the submission to the selection for each call have been executed within the planned 4 months.

Together with the HR department we offered tailored 1-day Career Development Seminars in February and August 2016, with 11 resp. 10 participants under the title “Leadership skills and conflict management”. The ETH Fellows Seminars were organized in form of 4 social events: two in 2015 and two in 2016, with on average 45 participants. In order to build a strong network in view of more and more dual career couples, we also invite the partners of our fellows. Also, we have installed a LinkedIn-Group “ETH Fellows” were the fellows can connect between each other, and where the programm management can post new events, interesting call openings or prize nominations.

It is very important for this program that all research fields represented at ETH Zurich receive funding, in order to foster excellent science bottom up. The selected 58 fellows represent the following research areas defined by COFUND: Life Sciences (16), Engineering (11), Chemistry (10), Physics (7), Environmental Sciences (6), Mathematics (6) and Social sciences (2). This distribution represents 14 of the 16 departments of the ETH Zurich and proves that a wide range of disciplines are covered. From the 58 elected fellows, 24 are women (41 %) and 34 fellows are men (59 %). This is much higher than the ETH Zurich average for the postdoctoral sector, which is 28 % in 2015 (Gender Monitoring Report ETH Zürich 2015/2016). The highest proportion of females can be found in physics (5 out of 7) followed by environmental sciences (4 out of 6).

The elected fellows are recruited highly internationally, having 24 different nationalities, and having received their PhD in 14 different countries. The majority of the elected fellows are nationals of the EU (35 fellows, 60 %). The other 40 % were quite diversely distributed, with the most fellows coming from USA (5), Israel (4) and India (4). The numbers of PhD received in the USA (24 %, 14 fellows) shows that the program can successfully attract excellent postdocs from North America to Switzerland for their next career step. The percentage of 24 % (origin of last institution USA) is only reached again on faculty level for ETH Zurich (International Knowledge Database of ETH Zurich: 25 % for faculty, 7 % for scientific staff, numbers for 2015).

The impact on the careers of ETH Fellows by ETH FELLOWS cannot be assessed yet, as the first official terminations of fellowships are expected for June 30, 2017. Still, until December 31, 4 fellows have terminated the fellowship earlier, than expected due to assistant professorship offers (2 fellows) and two offers for permanent positions in France and Germany, respectively. This confirms the successful impact on the careers of our fellows from our programm under the first COFUND period (Grant Agreement N°: 246543, 2011-2015, see final report).

We believe that our program is highly successful, because applicants have a large degree of freedom in choosing from all research fields at ETH Zurich, as long as the proposal is submitted in consensus with the host. The uniqueness lies in the combination of openness, stringent quality control and excellent work environment.

Webpage:, Contact Address: Wendy Altherr, Office of Research, ETH Zurich, HG E 32.1, Rämistrasse 101, 8092 Zurich, Tel: +41 44 632 02 74,,

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