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AIAS-COFUND II Fellowship Programme

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - AIAS-COFUND II (AIAS-COFUND II Fellowship Programme)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2022-09-30

Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS) is a scientific platform for curiosity-driven and independent research that hosts excellent scholars from all disciplines, from anthropology to astrophysics. AIAS offers a highly competitive international fellowship programme, and in its multidisciplinary setting it focuses solely on research excellence and training of research talents. AIAS hosts around 30-35 international fellows at all times. At present, 20 different nationalities are represented from worldwide research institutions.
The long-term ambition of AIAS is to become a scientific hallmark for researcher-driven research that is able to attract the most talented researchers from around the globe in competition with other prestigious fellowship programmes in the US and China. By building such outstanding research platforms in Europe, institutes like AIAS can contribute to retain talent as well as reintegrating European scholars in European science. The programme offers full academic freedom to the fellows to pursue their ideas and independently develop ground-breaking ideas in a stimulating scientific environment.
The AIAS-COFUND II Programme has a distinct focus on career development for especially young researchers offering both academic mentorship, career development courses in transferable skills and opportunities to plan and carry through multidisciplinary and international conferences at AIAS
The AIAS-COFUND II programme aims at reinforcing excellence by:
1) Allowing fellows to choose their research topic freely and fully focus on deepening their research skills
2) Enhancing fellows’ genuine understanding of the methodologies and approaches of other scientific disciplines and thereby making cross-disciplinary inspiration and initiatives possible.
3) Establishing a multidisciplinary training platform to develop the fellows’ career and to strengthen their capabilities to work anywhere in Europe or abroad, not just their country of origin.
4) Attracting researchers from around the globe to Europe and thereby contributing to the European goals of increasing the numbers of researchers with innovation skills in Europe by 2020.
The work performed for the past 60 months of this project (01-10-2017 to 30-09-2022) has included the following activities and can be summarized in the four headings below:

1) Announcement and conclusion of the planned four calls resulting in recruitment of 61 fellows.
2) Various interdisciplinary exchanges, conferences and workshops
3) Networking and mentorship meetings with researchers at Aarhus University
4) Different career development and training activities in transferable skills

1) The four calls of the AIAS-COFUND II Fellowship Programme were widely promoted nationally and internationally. In the first call, AIAS received 232 applications resulting in 11 fellowships and in the second call 333 applications resulting in 16 fellowships. The call received 299 applications of which 20 fellows were awarded a fellowship and lastly in the fourth call, the programme received the highest number of application in all calls, 378 applications that resulted in the selection of 14 fellowships.

2) During the course of the programme various activities have taken place. The Fellows’Seminars are an example of one of the (few) mandatory activities at AIAS. At these seminars one fellow present her/his research and receive feedback from the fellow colleagues from other research disciplines. These seminars lead to profound and widespread discussions, which manifest the multidisciplinary nature of AIAS. ‘Joint Research Presentation’ is another way of presenting the fellows to each other, including their field of research. All fellows (new and current) have 6 minutes each to present their research question(s), and argue why this research is relevant in a societal perspective. In addition, fellows are also strongly encouraged to (and supported in) organising and carrying out seminars, workshops or conferences during their fellowship at AIAS. Especially for the younger fellows, conference planning and organisation are important skills that promote their career, share their research and extend their professional network.

3) AIAS has organised various networking meetings for the fellows such as meetings with the vice deans for research and former AIAS fellows, who now are employed at Aarhus University. These connections strongly facilitate the integration of the fellow in the local research environment. All junior fellows are assigned a mentor. The senior fellows are not assigned a mentor directly, but they are introduced to relevant local collaborators. Furthermore, the senior fellows play an informal mentor role for the junior fellows.

4) The Programme has carried out a variety of different career development and training workshops and seminars such as a ‘Workshop on Cultural awareness and Danish academic culture’, a seminar on ‘How to talk to the media’, and a yearly workshop on strategic fundraising and grant proposal writing. This workshop offered individual feedback on CV and career planning and an optional bibliometric analysis. Moreover, a specific workshop on ERC grants with tips and tricks from former ERC evaluation panel members and grantees has been held.
Being a long-term fellowship programme, encouraging researcher-driven, risk-taking research for scholars with an impressive track-record, an expected impact is transformative research projects. The cross-field nature of an AIAS fellowship provides possibility for truly groundbreaking ideas to evolve, which eventually can have societal impacts.
Various research projects of the AIAS-COFUND fellows are tackling societal challenges e.g. focusing on the challenges in the search for a cure for HIV and later a vaccine for COVID-19. Another example is how a multi-disciplinary research approach, which integrates micropaleontology, geochemistry, and ecological modelling, can provide new insights into community-level ecosystem dynamics of the extinct polar biome. This type of research could have a potential impact on the Societal Challenges connected to ‘Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials’.
An important expected impact of the programme is improved employability. The stay at AIAS should improve fellow’s career perspectives and increase the depth and width of her/his research decisively which in all probability will result in an improved bibliometric record, new research collaborations and valuable knowledge exchange between research groups. An impact analysis carried out by AIAS among the fellows that have ended their fellowship shows a solid track-record of fellows proceeding in their career from researcher to group leader or to tenure track positions and even full professorships throughout Europe after their fellowship at AIAS.

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