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Co-funding of International Fellowships in Cancer Research

Final Report Summary - FELCARES (Co-funding of International Fellowships in Cancer Research)

The Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) is a major Italian charity that provides about 40% of all research funds invested in cancer research in Italy. FELCARES, an ambitious fellowship program cofunded by AIRC and Marie Curie Actions, had the overarching goals to:
1. increase the mobility of experienced researchers (post-doc fellows or equivalent) worldwide to and from Italy;
2. create new knowledge in any field relevant to cancer research by leaving freedom of choice in the research to be pursued (“bottom-up” approach);
3. broaden the expertise and abilities of fellows by integrating their research activities with training in complementary skills and participation to scientific meetings;
4. promote training of scientists from less favored countries/regions;
5. favor gender balance in the scientific community.

International mobility was achieved with the provision of three types of fellowships: Outgoing Fellowships (OF), for Italian scientists who wanted to work in a research lab outside of Italy; Incoming Fellowships (IF), for non-Italian researchers interested in a research experience in Italy; Reintegration Fellowships (RF), for Italian researchers who had worked abroad and who wished to return and work in a research center in Italy.

Each fellowship lasted two years and comprised a living allowance and a mobility allowance; in addition, travel costs (one round trip ticket/year to travel to the hosting institution’s location) and expenses to participate to one scientific meeting/year were refunded.

Awardees were selected through a rigorous peer review process that ensured a fair, independent and expert evaluation of all applications. The review panel was composed of authoritative researchers working in laboratories outside Italy, and well-established Italian scientists members of the AIRC Technical and Scientific Committee. Assignments, made in compliance with conflict of interest rules, were based on the best match between reviewers’ expertise and the research topic of any given application.

At end of the programme, all the tasks have been completed.

● Publication of two Calls
Within the first call (2010), 46 applications were submitted: 26 OF; 13 IF; 7 RF.
Within the second call (2011), 42 applications were submitted: 19 OF; 10 IF; 13 RF.

● Selection of awardees
In the first call, 18 fellowships were awarded: 11 OF; 4 IF; 3 RF.
In the second call, 12 fellowships were awarded: 8 OF; 2 IF; 2 RF.
Mobility of researchers has been achieved by granting fellowships in all three categories. In addition, an OF was awarded to a researcher from an Italian less favored region. While in the first call the majority of awardees was female (11 vs 7 males), we have achieved a perfect gender balance with the second call (6 males, 6 females).
The areas of investigation chosen by the fellows encompassed several different disciplines, from cancer genetics to systems biology, thus ensuring broad and multi-faceted approaches in the fight against cancer.

● Awarding of fellowships
All fellows have completed their appointment at the designated Host Institutions. In most cases, the fellowship gross amount was transferred to the Host Institutions, which then provided the monthly amounts to the fellows, acting as withholding agent according to the local taxations and legislation.

● Monitoring of the progress in the research and training activities of the fellows
At the end of the first year of their appointment, fellows submitted a renewal request to obtain continuation of their fellowship. In it, a description of the research and training activities carried out was provided, together with a list of publications. At the end of the second year of their appointment, fellows submitted a final report and a financial report. The reports showed that fellows attended several different courses and workshops in complementary skills (e.g. grantsmanship, project management, science communication etc.), and participated to international meetings.