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Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience

Final Report Summary - P.R.I.M.E. (Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience)

In 2014 the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) initiated the programme P.R.I.M.E. ("Postdoctoral Researchers International Mobility Experience") to support the international mobility of postdoctoral researchers by temporary positions at German universities in place of conventional stipends. In doing so, DAAD entered a new path in supporting postdoctoral mobility to meet the principles of the European Charter for Researchers.

The P.R.I.M.E. fellowships combine a 12-month mobility phase abroad with a 6-month reintegration phase in Germany. Fellows receive an 18-month temporary position at a German university of their choice and are thus hired as scientific staff fully integrated into the regular pay scale at German universities which guarantees adequate salaries and social security benefits. With this scheme, DAAD promoted the introduction of employment contracts as a means to support the outgoing mobility of researchers.

The programme was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Union (FP7/Marie Curie Action/COFUND) for a 5-year period (March 2014-February 2019). The EU funds enabled DAAD to allocate a total of 1,512 fellowship-months, most of which have been awarded in the three selection cycles of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The few remaining fellowship-months were distributed evenly across the fellows selected in Oct. 2017, whose fellowships were otherwise supported with funds from the national level.

More than 1,000 applications in the four calls between 2014 to 2017 testify to the programme’s attractiveness among the target group. Selection for the programme is strictly merit-based and each proposal is reviewed by external experts and by the selection committee, which consists of national and international scientists of all relevant disciplines. A robust procedure in handling ethical issues prevents violation of ethical principles.

Almost 50 German universities participated in the P.R.I.M.E. programme, acting as employing institutions for over 100 researchers that have received support for their research projects and training throughout the project duration.

After completing the pilot phase with EU co-funding, the programme will now continue with support from the national level (BMBF). The main platform for the promotion of the programme is its website which also includes the fellows’ profiles. Marketing is further done through various other channels like brochures, flyers and mailings. Other external media (e.g. Euraxess database) were similarly used to publicize this funding instrument.

Programme quality was monitored continuously by recording feedback through anonymized surveys conducted among stakeholders. The feedback repeatedly revealed a high level of satisfaction with the programme. Fellows cited highly productive research experiences that yielded very satisfactory results and enabled them to acquire additional skills.

Tracing the career development of fellows was another important aspect of programme monitoring. An increasing number of former fellows now holds tenured positions in academia like professorships and research group leaderships, or attractive positions in industrial entities. Their career development is an indicator of the highly successful reintegration into the German and European research system.