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The LMU Research Fellowship Program: Promoting excellent early-stage postdoctoral researchers at LMU Munich

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LMUResearchFellows (The LMU Research Fellowship Program: Promoting excellent early-stage postdoctoral researchers at LMU Munich)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

As a leading international research-intensive university, LMU places a major focus on the provision of optimal conditions and reliable career options for junior researchers at all stages of their academic career. To this end, the University has been advertising the “LMU Research Fellowships” for the past ten years. Under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) grant, LMU has extended its successful fellowship program by pursuing the following objectives:

1) Enhance the international make-up of the existing Incoming LMU Research Fellowship Program and integrate a mandatory segment of international or cross-sectoral mobility
2) Expand the program by offering Outgoing LMU Research Fellowships
3) Increase the number of fellowships offered
4) Develop the quality assurance of the program by establishing a multi-stage selection process based on international peer review
5) Extend the University’s support services

The action is directed at early-career postdocs from all fields of research and is designed to support their career development and mobility. Successful candidates manage their own research project with the academic support of an experienced LMU professor and undertake research stays at partner organizations abroad. Fellows receive an attractive salary and a substantial budget to cover material and travel expenses for two years (in exceptional cases three years). During their time in Munich, they can make use of the excellent research infrastructure at LMU and benefit from the wide range of professional training options and support services on offer. The co-funding by the European Union allows the University to offer a total 30 Incoming and 15 Outgoing LMU Research Fellowships in three calls.

• Incoming Fellowships are directed at international postdocs who have completed their doctoral degree within the last three years. Incoming fellows will conduct their research at LMU in Munich and will be required to undertake a three- to six-month research stay at academic partner institutions abroad or to collaborate with non-academic institutions.
• Outgoing Fellowships are targeted at postdocs who have completed their doctoral degree within the last year. This scheme also gives LMU doctorate holders the opportunity to apply for a fellowship. Outgoing fellows will initially undertake a 12-month secondment to an academic institution in a country outside the European Union before returning to LMU for a 12-month reintegration phase.

With this framework, LMU aims to provide the best possible conditions to advance the academic careers of outstanding international postdoctoral researchers.
During the period under review (1 October 2017 to 30 September 2019), LMU has made every effort to achieve the set objectives:

• As a result of two Calls for Applications, LMU has so far been able to award 25 fellowships to excellent candidates from all subject areas. Fellows have joined LMU from renowned research institutions across the globe. 53% of those selected are female, 43% male, 4% third-gender candidates. Fellows recruited in the 2017 Call have been advancing their research projects for about a year while successful candidates in the 2018 Call have just begun or are about to take up their fellowship at LMU.

• The amendment of funding and mobility rules has resulted in a significant increase in international fellows (87%) when compared to previous calls (71%).

• LMU successfully implemented the Outgoing LMU Research Fellowships as an additional scheme in order to foster scientific exchange especially with non-EU countries. Outgoing Fellows have been seconded to first-rate institutions such as the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) or The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

• LMU has successfully established a multi-stage evaluation and selection process including an international peer review and established a needs-based project management and service infrastructure to safeguard the implementation of the action.

• As part of the action, LMU has extended its portfolio of first-rate support services ranging from interdisciplinary exchange and professional training measures to consulting services on research funding as well as support in developing research outputs into social and technological innovations.
To enhance the potential and future career perspectives of researchers and strengthen human resources on regional, national or international level, LMU is working towards the following objectives as part of the action:

• Recruit outstanding postdoctoral candidates from all fields of research
• Provide optimal conditions for the career development of outstanding early-stage postdoctoral researchers in line with the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers
• Capitalize on and further develop transnational and cross-sectoral research training opportunities in accordance with the mobility requirements of the MSCA actions
• Produce excellent science and foster the translation of scientific findings into innovations
• Consolidate and expand the University’s international and cross-sectoral networks
• Contribute to the establishment of attractive and reliable career paths

During the reporting period, LMU recruited candidates from various disciplines (44% Humanities and Social Sciences; 56% Natural Sciences and Medicine) and renowned international research institutions (e.g. from Princeton University, Imperial College London, the University of Melbourne, and the National University of Singapore). The fellowship program has provided fellows with attractive employment contracts and generous research budgets in line with Charter and Code. As part of their projects, fellows successfully developed networks of collaboration with partner institutions abroad or are about to do so. To this end, fellows plan research stays at, for example, Harvard University, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Chicago, or the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. The approved projects have already resulted in high-quality research outputs, with LMU expecting more to come over the course of the action. Since the recruited fellows are still at the beginning of their projects, their career trajectories following the conclusion of their fellowships have not yet been established. However, based on the experiences of the previous fellowship program, LMU expects fellows to secure attractive follow-up positions and provides additional support to promote the career progression of outstanding postdocs.