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FELLowship for Innovation at INFN

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FELLINI (FELLowship for Innovation at INFN)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-12-31

The FELLINI (Fellowship for Innovation at INFN - Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics) fellowship programme is a new, high-quality fellowship scheme based on a modern research and training approach, which aims at research excellence and promoting researcher mobility and training.
FELLINI combines best practice found across the EU with a number of innovative elements that shall provide all fellows with an ideal basis for their future careers, preparing them for a wide range of career options.
Within FELLINI, INFN plans to improve the 'standard fellowship programme' for incoming postdoctoral fellows. FELLINI supports 30 Fellows through a three-year appointments rather than the standard two-year terms of INFN, with a full employment contract. Also, in order to give a burst to the career of young researchers, the opportunity of a yearly secondment to an international laboratory or in the private sector, keeping their full employment contract with INFN, is provided.
In line with the European Charter of Researchers, the FELLINI programme doesn’t contain any constraint on the subject of the research projects, on the research methodology and approach, or on locations.
Fellows can choose freely their working place in any of the INFN divisions distributed all over Italy, and among a very large number of disciplines and topics where INFN has a tradition of excellence:
● Experimental Particle Physics
● Experimental Astroparticle Physics
● Experimental Nuclear Physics
● Theoretical Physics
● Applied and Interdisciplinary Physics
Moreover, Fellows can broaden their skills using the numerous training opportunities offered by the programma and through their high exposure to an interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral environment. Also, they can profit from dedicated support arrangements like mentoring, tailor-made training courses, and the opportunity to engage in outreach activities.
FELLINI programme is expected to contribute to realising the full potential of the recruited fellows and to add significantly to the development of their careers.
The first 6 months of FELLINI have been dedicated to setup the start of the project, to prepare the website and to prepare the Call for Proposals and everything needed for the evaluation procedure.
A FELLINI website has been launched and it includes all the information related to the programme.
INFN has published two calls for applications, in 2018 and 2019 respectively, each one was opened for 3 months. In total FELLINI received 210 applications in the first call and 231 in the second call and awarded 30 fellowships to excellent candidates coming from renowned research institutions across the globe.
The fellowships have been awarded through a highly competitive, strictly merit-based selection process performed by an International Selection Committee.
An evaluation summary report has been provided to all applicants within four months from the deadline for applications. The recruitment procedure started promptly. The selected fellows have been given 10 days to accept the fellowship that had to start within 6 months from the notification.
The first 15 fellows started their fellowship in 2019. An Italian fellow, who moved back to Italy for the FELLINI fellowship, resigned after three months to accept a permanent position in Italy.
For the second call, the evaluation procedure closed in December 2019 with the approval of the final ranking list.
In 2020 and 2021, 22 new fellows have been recruited scrolling the 1st and 2nd Call ranking lists. Indeed, 8 fellows found new prestigious or tenure/permanent positions in other research Institutes/Private Companies. In all these cases, the Fellini fellowship was an important step in the fellows' careers, providing them with the necessary visibility, which led to reaching a very prestigious and, in most cases, permanent position.
In this period 14 fellows already started or completed their secondment in another Institute: the minimal duration of the secondment was reduced to 6 months instead of 12 originally envisaged through an amendment to the GA, to meet the travel difficulties caused by the COVID pandemic. Despite the pandemic,11 fellows spent this period abroad in important research institutes. Indeed, INFN provided for further economical support, inserted by means of an amendment to the GA, to meet the difficulties faced by fellows in going on secondment in this period.
Indeed, the COVID pandemic had a great impact on fellows mobility; most of the meetings, training courses and conferences/workshops were organized online. The fellows had no opportunity to use their research and training budget for missions or to invite collaborators from foreign institutions, and also their participation to the life of their INFN unit was limited.The pandemic had an impact in their research project as in whole science research, that was partially mitigated by the possibility to go on secondment also during the COVID pandemic. With the soon foresee end of the restrictions the situation should return to normal and we expect that the fellows' projects will benefit.
Nevertheless, during the last 2 years different remote training courses were organized within the Fellini programme with the idea of giving Fellows wider competences, and one course was organized in a mixed way (in person and in remote) for the European Researcher’s Night. Also, general FELLINI meetings have been organized to help exchanges between fellows.
More than 100 scientific publications in peer reviewed journals have been published and many talks in International Conferences/Workshops have been given by the fellows. A series of Fellini seminars, with the aim of involving the whole INFN community, has been organized and a lively public engagement activity was coordinated by the Fellini program and carried out by the fellows.
The fellowship programme has provided fellows with attractive employment contracts and research and travel budgets in line with the Charter and Code for the Recruitment of Researchers.
In conformity with the principles of the Charter & Code the appointed researchers have full employment contracts, which are not usually provided to fellows in Italy, an extended duration of the fellowship, and improved recruitment method.
They could rely on selection procedures that joined transparency, research freedom, use of independent reviewers in the selection process, clear setting of selection criteria and related rating systems.
At this stage of the project, we already see a significant impact of the FELLINI programme on enhancing career perspectives of participating researchers, thanks to the high exposure to an interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral environment, and research and soft skills training courses, and engagement in outreach activities. Indeed, several fellows already found tenure/permanent positions in prestigious Research institutes or private companies. Many of them have had the opportunity to broaden their scientific horizons by collaborating with new research groups during their secondment. One of them received the offer of a permanent position in the private company chosen for his intersectoral secondment.
The dedicated training on Public Engagement, EU project writing and project management help them in enhancing their career prospects. For instance, some of them have been interviewed by important newspapers and others submitted an ERC proposal.