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SUPPORTING MOBILITY IN THE ERA THROUGH AN INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME FOR DEVELOPEMENT OF BASIC RESEARCH IN POLAND

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - POLONEZ (SUPPORTING MOBILITY IN THE ERA THROUGH AN INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME FOR DEVELOPEMENT OF BASIC RESEARCH IN POLAND)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2021-05-31

POLONEZ was a MSCA Cofund Project supporting mobility in the ERA through an international fellowship programme for researchers coming to Poland. It offered incoming scientists 12- and 24-month-fellowships with attractive working conditions combined with an opportunity to move between academic and other settings. In three globally advertised calls for research proposals, the project recruited 109 excellent scientists from 28 countries.
What is the issue addressed?
Nowadays, a successful career in science involves not only high quality individual research and publication output but also a great amount of networking and an ability to embrace various research cultures, including those in other countries and outside academia. Researchers are aware of the value added by transnational mobility, but it is often difficult for them to find the suitable environment with the right conditions for competitive, knowledge-intensive career development. On the other hand, a number of European countries, including Poland, are underrepresented as post-doc mobility destinations even though their research institutions operate according to the highest European standards.
Why is it important for society?
According to the Europe 2020 Strategy, in order to provide citizens with higher incomes and more fulfilling work, European societies need to grow in three ways. They need to become:
• smart i.e. develop economy based on knowledge and innovation,
• sustainable, i.e. promote efficient and ecological use of resources,
• inclusive i.e. guarantee high employment levels through education and life-long learning.
Achieving these aims is impossible without researchers involved in basic research who develop new knowledge, novel ideas and innovative methodologies. It is also impossible without international mobility and knowledge transfer between researchers as well as through communication with knowledge users and society at large.
What are the overall objectives?
POLONEZ aimed to attract the best possible candidates and support them throughout their stay in Poland in order to:
• conduct basic research in a discipline of their choice,
• experience and benefit from transnational mobility to extend their professional network,
• collaborate with suitable research-focused Polish organisations,
• take part in comprehensive training and career development opportunities by which to increase their chances of gaining a future independent research position,
• engage in knowledge transfer activities by means of Open Accesss publications and outreach.
POLONEZ launched 3 globally advertised calls for research proposals open to scientists of any age, nationality or discipline. Candidates were also free to choose the host institution in Poland, which designated a mentor and provided hosting arrangements compatible with the scope of the planned research. Fellows were selected in a two-stage, transparent, merit-based evaluation process based on international peer-review. Apart from the scientific potential of the proposal, and the demonstrated excellence of the candidate, the reviewers also assessed the proposed hosting arrangements and planned impact of the fellowships. Out of the 1151 submitted proposals, the POLONEZ funded 109 excellent scientists from 28 countries and placed them in 49 Polish host institutions. This result exceeded the number of originally planned fellowships by 19 (21%).
The POLONEZ Coordination team at the National Science Centre provided support and an online helpdesk for all researchers, first for the applicants during the selection stage, and later on for the funded Fellows throughout the duration of their individual fellowships.
The programme implemented excellent working conditions inclusive of a competitive salary with full health and social security benefits and a research grant to cover relevant direct costs of research and dissemination of results. Notably, 85 (78%) of the Fellows decided to hire co-investigators and created over 188 new jobs in research.
The research component of each POLONEZ fellowship was complemented by a comprehensive training programme enhancing both research-related and transferable skills, organised and funded by the NCN. The delivery of the transferable skills training was procured to CRAC/Vitae Ltd UK, and encompassed 336 hours of custom-made workshops across five thematic areas: Personal Effectiveness, Working with Others, Management, Communication and Intellectual Property. All the components of the training were delivered in a timely manner and evaluated positively by the attendees.

The POLONEZ Fellows also experienced and benefited from intersectoral and international exposure during study visits, which helped create and support links between academia, business and other non-academic sectors. Most of these (48%) were visits to non-academic institutions in Poland, 41% took Fellows to organisations in Europe and 11% - outside the EU countries. In some cases the study visits proved to be an excellent bridge for the Fellows towards the next step in their research career.

As POLONEZ was a mobility programme supporting 109 independent small research projects, its scientific results, exploitation and dissemination are spread across many disciplines and therefore not easy to define. At the time of this report (July 2021), however, over 470 open access publications generated by POLONEZ Fellows were registered in the OpenAIRE database.

POLONEZ combined new and promising research talent with the inspiring environment of top Polish institutions and boosted the two-way transfer of ideas and good practices.The objectives of the programme have been achieved. The feedback collected from Fellows via surveys confirmed the success and impact of this EU programme.
The impact of POLONEZ programme can be described on a number of levels:
At researcher level POLONEZ:
- prepared scientists to become leaders in their research fields, equipped them in transferable skills and increased their professional maturity;
- increased Fellows’ networking and communication capacities with peers, junior scientists and the general public.

At institutional level POLONEZ:
- increased the research potential of the Polish Host Institutions;
- allowed a new generation of Polish scientists to enjoy greater access to global science by creating 188 new positions in project teams;
- increased the visibility of the Polish Host Institutions, allowing them to attract more talented researchers;
- created a strong foundation for long-term international cooperation beyond the project end date.

At system level POLONEZ:
- increased transnational mobility of researchers;
- created improved working and employment conditions in compliance with the European Charter and Code for Researchers;
- supported the practice of Open Science.

Thanks to the rich funding portfolio offered by the NCN, POLONEZ also provided scientists with a sustainable continuation of their research on the basis of other grants – as of the date of this report, 38 POLONEZ Fellows continued their careers in Poland as Principal Investigators of 50 other grants funded by the NCN.

The feedback from POLONEZ Fellows demonstrated a very high level of satisfaction with the programme. Their suggestions for possible improvements were incorporated in the POLONEZ BIS programme subsequently funded by the European Commission under GA no 945339.
Overview of MSCA POLONEZ results