Final Report Summary - INSPIRE (IRCSET International Mobility Fellowships in Science Engineering and Technology: co-funded by Marie Curie Actions)
The main objective of the INSPIRE programme was to provide a career development experience for Experienced Researchers (ERs) based in Ireland who had not had the benefit of a previous period of research mobility. The programme enabled ERs to undertake up to two years of research outside Ireland, with a one-year return period to Ireland. Eligible researchers were ERs of any nationality and/or residency, who received the majority of their research training in Ireland, and who had been an ER for no more than 5 years (eligible career breaks of up to 5 years were exempt). These ERs independently, and carefully, selected the host organisations for both the international outgoing and Irish reintegration phases of the award. The subject of the research project could be any topic, so long as it fell within the broad area of Science, Engineering and Technology with no quota on individual topics within those categories. However, there was a requirement for the applicant to demonstrate that the choice of host organisations and research topic were aligned appropriately with the researcher’s experience and career development.
The mobility period abroad enabled the Fellows to add an international dimension to their research career and to gain additional skills and expertise, and to expand and internationalise their research network. The return phase of the award allowed the Fellows to reintegrate into Ireland, utilising and transferring the various skills they acquired during the outgoing phase of the award. The fellowship programme was designed to broaden and to deepen the scientific and other complementary skills of the awardees, thereby contributing to their career development and employability. Career development support mechanisms such as training courses and Individual Development Plans were given a central role within the INSPIRE programme.
Since the programme was launched in October 2008, IRCSET launched and managed two funding calls for INSPIRE fellowships that opened in autumn 2008 and 2009. During the course of these two calls, IRCSET received 138 applications from eligible ERs, and 50 individual fellowships were awarded. The appointment conditions for the awarded Fellows aligned with those specified in the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. Fellows selected some of the world’s most prestigious research institutions, including the University of Oxford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Max Planck Institute for the initial outgoing phase of the award and subsequently returned to Ireland to finish their projects. The INSPIRE COFUND award ended with effect from the 31st January 2014, with the last active Fellows completing their fellowships on the same day.
In November 2011, the Irish Government officially decided to merge the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) and its sister council the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science (IRCHSS) into a consolidated single research council under the Higher Education Authority. The newly established Irish Research Council (the Council) was launched on the 29th March 2012 and, from this date, the INSPIRE programme was managed by the new Council. During the course of the programme, the Council held four annual research symposia for Fellows. These successful symposia provided Fellows with the following:
(i) a platform for researchers across all disciplines and levels to network, and to celebrate and showcase the research projects funded by the Council.
(ii) assistance in learning key strategies to better market themselves and their research outputs, with a particular focus on career development and career progression.
(iii) identification of research funding and other employment opportunities.
The Irish Research Council also built a Fellows’ alumni network via online social networking sites for researchers, and the Council is currently placed at the heart of an active higher-education social-media community. The Council employs a variety of social media platforms in addition to our website to communicate with researchers and to disseminate its awardees’ activities among an international audience: principally, through use of Twitter (https://twitter.com/IrishResearch) Facebook (https:www.facebook.com/irishresearch) LinkedIn, Vimeo, and YouTube. Updates are posted with particular frequency on Twitter; the Council’s growing cohort of followers now exceeds 3,500 in number. Furthermore, all Fellows were encouraged to join the Marie Curie Fellowship Association. Following the merger of the two councils, the IRCSET website for INSPIRE was replaced with a new Irish Research Council website at http://www.research.ie/scheme/inspire-postdoctoral-fellowship-scheme). The programme has received media attention: e.g. an article published in Science Spin, an Irish science and technology magazine.
A survey of the Fellows, in combination with information provided in progress and final reports, clearly demonstrates that Fellows have strongly benefitted from the mobility and career development experience offered by the fellowships. A small number of Fellows terminated their fellowships early due to very attractive and beneficial employment opportunities, such as the offer of permanent lectureships. The remaining Fellows, who have all now completed their research fellowships, are all in employment with many of them holding permanent, tenure-track and other senior academic positions, further demonstrating the positive career development benefits of the programme.
In addition to gaining advantageous employment contracts, Fellows are also using the experience they gained during their INSPIRE award to help secure further significant research funding: e.g. one Fellow was recently awarded a European Research Council Starting Grant and commented ‘I am in no doubt that the INSPIRE program provided me with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable my successful application to the ERC program’. Further details can be found at http://research.ie/intro_slide/dr-david-hoey . Separately, other Fellows have used their newly acquired expertise to embark on a career in industry. One Fellow in particular has founded their own startup ‘Nuritas’ (http://www.nuritas.com/home/ ), which uses a combination of bioinformatics software and experimental approaches to identify bioactive peptides and novel functional ingredients in food.
The wide variety and high level of positions that INSPIRE Fellows now hold illustrates the breadth and depth of expertise and proficiencies that were gained during the fellowship scheme. Further to research career development, The INSPIRE Fellowships also demonstrated academic as well as societal and economic impacts. Academic impact was largely in the form of developments in methodologies and techniques (statistics, laboratory, field etc), contributing to the development of specific scientific disciplines, developing skills and training of academic researchers, and building international networks of researchers across the globe and with industry.
Fellows engaged in many other forms of impact, including a variety of promotional activities to raise awareness of research. This included the setting up of websites (for instance an online social network for researchers: http://paperfoc.us and a website showcasing a community-led effort towards improving experimentation in Genetic Programming http://gpbenchmarks.org). Fellows also set up social media accounts (such as @epilepsylab) to promote work done. Fellows engaged with public outreach and dissemination events, and radio shows, for instance Dublin Wireless Week and an interview on Dublin City FM.
The positive effects of the programme on the career development of our INSPIRE Fellows can be clearly observed by looking at the follow-on positions that Fellows secured immediately after finishing their fellowship. Furthermore, the programme demonstrated a wide scope of impact in many different areas. Thus, in terms of enhancing the mobility and employability of early career researchers in Ireland, INSPIRE may be considered to have left a significant, valuable and lasting imprint on the Irish research landscape.
List of Irish Home Host Organisations
1. University College Dublin (14 Awards); 2. University College Cork (6 Awards); 3. Trinity College Dublin (5 Awards); 4. Dublin City University (6 Awards); 5. National University of Ireland, Galway (2 Awards); 6. National University of Ireland, Maynooth (2 Awards); 7. University of Limerick (6 Awards); 8. Royal College of Surgeons (3 Awards); 9. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (2 Awards); 10. Teagasc (1 Award); 11. Waterford Institute of Technology (2 Awards); 12. Dublin Institute of Technology (1 Award). 50 Awards in total.
List of International Host Organisations (Institutional Name, Host Country. Unless stated otherwise each Institution hosting one award)
1. Monash University, Australia; 2. University of Alberta, Canada; 3. Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada; 4. Max Planck Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik, Germany; 5. GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Germany; 6. University of Konstanz, Germany; 7. Forschungszentrum Julich GmbH, Germany; 8. Max Planck Institute for Physics, Germany; 9. NEC Laboratories Europe, Germany; 10. Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany; 11. Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin, Germany; 12. Institute of Photonic Technology, Germany; 13. École nationale supérieure de chimie de Paris, France; 14. Universite Joseph Fourier, France; 15. University of Montpellier, France; 16. Institute Gustave-Roussy, France; 17. Laboratoire de Cristallographie et Sciences des Matériaux, France; 18. Institut de Microélectronique, Électromagnétisme et Photonique, France; 19. Observatoire de Grenoble, France; 20. University of Trento, Italy; 21. Osaka University, Japan; 22. Institute of Physical Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland; 23. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain - two Awards; 24. Agroscope, Switzerland; 25. The University of Lausanne, Switzerland; 26. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; 27. University of Glasgow, United Kingdom; 28. The University of Oxford, United Kingdom - 4 Awards; 29. Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, United Kingdom; 30. University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom - 2 Awards; 31. Imperial College London, United Kingdom; 32. University College of London, United Kingdom; 33. University of Southampton, United Kingdom; 34. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, United States; 35. San Diego State University, United States; 36. University College Davis, United States; 37. University of Washington Seattle, United States; 38. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States; 39. Purdue University, United States; 40. Northern Arizona University, United States; 41. Georgia Institute of Technology, United States; 42. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States; 43. Columbia University in the City of New York, United States; 44. University of Texas at Austin, United States; 45. Yale University, United States.