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BRAIN- The Brandenburg Research Academy and International Network

Final Report Summary - BRAIN (BRAIN- The Brandenburg Research Academy and International Network)

The fellowship program „BRAIN – The Brandenburg Research Academy and International Network“ was developed by the Brandenburg State Ministry of Sciences, Research and Cultural Affairs together with all Brandenburg universities. The program has been created in order to further the internationalization of scientific institutions within the German State of Brandenburg as well as in order to create a new and innovative form of research network for highly qualified young researchers. The program has been set out to have a significant and sustainable impact on the further careers of those postdoctoral researchers in science and research.

In the course of the BRAIN pilot program, 10 incoming fellowships with a duration of 2 years have been granted to experienced young researchers of non-German nationality from EU Member States, Associated Countries and other Third Countries. The program furthermore has addressed excellent experienced young researchers from all scientific disciplines. These have been given the opportunity to pursue research projects in their chosen scientific field at one of the 8 Brandenburg universities. Fellows have received a post at their preferred host university, which provided an inspiring environment and supported them in their research project. Fellows were free to pursue an individual project or join one of the many existing groups of young researchers.

The Berlin-Brandenburg region has a leading position within the German and international innovation landscape. The capital region offers young international researchers an optimal research environment among the highest concentration of universities and non-university research institutions in Germany. All Brandenburg universities as well as non-university research institutions co-operate with a large number of national and international universities and research institutions as well as with regional and national enterprises on a bilateral basis and in a number of subject-oriented networks as part of the joint innovation strategy of the States of Berlin and Brandenburg. The BRAIN Fellows have been able to profit from this research environment and receive broad opportunities to enlarge their scientific networks – not only by building up contacts within the scientific community of the Berlin-Brandenburg area but also in other countries by networking with the other Fellows; establishing the opportunity for the creation of an individual reliable transnational scientific network has been an essential part of the program.

The fellowship program has been accompanied by a broad range of events, including Training and Coaching programs, seminars, talks, lectures, and other events aiming at maximizing the impact of the BRAIN fellows’ stay in Brandenburg.

The Call for Applications for the BRAIN Program was open from January 15 to April 15, 2014 and resulted in 53 applications from more than 30 countries worldwide and with a broad variety of research focuses. The ensuing evaluation and selection process led to the choice of the 10 BRAIN Fellows by a Selection Panel staffed by 7 international experts on August 25, 2014. The BRAIN fellows came from Pakistan, Serbia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, India, Australia, Cameroon, the Netherlands and France. The research projects they have pursued during their two-year-stays at Brandenburg universities covered geological sciences, political and environmental sciences, physics, cultural sciences, sociology, linguistics, biotechnology, agroforestry and architectural history. Four fellows have been staying at the University of Potsdam, three at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, two at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder and one at the Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau. Most of the fellows began their fellowship stays at the end of 2014/the beginning of 2015; one fellow in September of 2015. Accordingly, most of the two-year-fellowship stays ended at the end or 2016/the beginning of 2017; the last fellowship, which started later on, ended in September 2017.

Apart from numerous scientific events hosted for the fellows and a cultural accompanying program, a special feature of BRAIN consisted in the training opportunities offered to the fellows. The concept of the Training program was based on the following characteristics:
# Multifaceted: The whole palette of Training and Coaching programs for post-doctoral researchers which Brandenburg Universities offer has been open to all BRAIN fellows, independent from the Host University they were stationed at.
# Individual: There was no obligatory training schedule to be strictly followed by every fellow, but fellows were entitled to choose training and coaching activities according to their specific wishes and needs.
# Subject-specific and complimentary: Training opportunities have been offered both in subject-specific form as well as targeting complementary skills.
# Communicative: While individual coaching was also on offer for the fellows, most training activities have been offered to either the fellows as a group or as events in which fellows also met personally and got the opportunity to connect and network with other (esp. postdoctoral) researchers from universities and non-university research institutions in Brandenburg.

Throughout its duration, the program has completely fulfilled the expectations connected with its development and succeeded in promoting its objectives. It has been possible to select 10 highly qualified experienced international young researchers whose fellowship stays and research work at four Brandenburg universities has made a strong impact on the internationalization and the broadening and strengthening of international research cooperation networks of Brandenburg universities, while at the same time enriching the BRAIN fellows by manifold impulses towards their further career development and network building. After the completion of all 10 fellows’ fellowship stays in 2017 it can be stated that these effects and especially these co-operative ties have outlasted the two-year fellowship stays. All former BRAIN fellows are still in close contact with their BRAIN host universities, with their fellowship supervisors as well as with other researchers at Brandenburg universities and non-university research institutions and with the BRAIN Management Team at the Ministry. Furthermore, one special result of the BRAIN program has been the fact that the 10 BRAIN fellows have also formed an intense network as a group, still keeping personal contact after the end of the fellowships and closely following and supporting each other’s further research careers despite coming from completely different scientific disciplines as well as from different countries.

Since the end of the fellowship stays, the Brandenburg State Ministry of Sciences, Research and Cultural Affairs, together with all Brandenburg universities and non-university research institutions, has started to build on the experiences from the BRAIN pilot program with the aim of strategically developing its key elements into permanent features of the Brandenburg scientific system for the benefit of both national and international postdoctoral researchers. A comprehensive internal evaluation of the BRAIN program and of the experiences made in its context have laid the basis for this process. In May 2018, the Brandenburg universities signed a cooperation agreement which founded the “Brandenburg Network for the Career Development of Postdoctoral Researchers”. The official start of the network was celebrated in November 2018. The implementation of the network is closely accompanied and supported by the Ministry.

BRAIN project website address: http://www.mwfk.brandenburg.de/sixcms/detail.php/633291
BRAIN program logo and photographic documentation of the project: See BRAIN photo book attached to this report.

Host universities:
University of Potsdam
Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau

Contact: Brandenburg Ministry of Sciences, Research and Cultural Affairs
Dr. Sonja Rademacher
Head of Section 23 (responsible for BRAIN Programme Management)
Dortustr. 36, D-14467 Potsdam
Phone: +49 (0) 331 866 4760
Email: sonja.rademacher@mwfk.brandenburg.de or brain@mwfk.brandenburg.de