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AIAS-COFUND II Fellowship Programme

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AIAS-COFUND II (AIAS-COFUND II Fellowship Programme)

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

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 35 international fellows at all times. At present, 19 different nationalities are represented from worldwide research institutions.

The long term ambition of AIAS is to become a lacuna 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 AIAS-COFUND II programme aims at reinforcing excellence by:
1) Allowing fellows to choose their research topic freely and fully focus on deepening their skills within their own research discipline.
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 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, organised networking with industry and opportunities to plan and carry through multidisciplinary and international
conferences at AIAS.
This reporting period covering the first 24 months (01-10-2017 to 30-09-2019) has included the following activities:
1) Announcement and conclusion of two planned calls.
2) Fellows’ seminars and Joint Research Presentations
3) Workshop on Cultural awareness and Danish academic culture
4) Networking and mentorship meetings with researchers at Aarhus University
5) Funding workshop
6) International networking - Annual meeting for Institutes for Advanced Studies
7) Conferences, workshops and symposia organised by the fellows

Announcement and conclusion of two planned calls
The two first 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.

Fellows’ Seminars and Joint Research Presentations
One of the (few) mandatory activities at AIAS is the ‘Fellows’ Seminar’. 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.

Workshop on Cultural awareness and Danish academic culture
AIAS has implemented a workshop in cultural awareness addressing how it is to live and work in Denmark with practical tools and insights to facilitate the integration and collaboration with the Danish colleagues as well as in many other cross-cultural collaborations.

Networking and mentorship meetings
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 seniors fellows play an informal mentor role for the junior fellows.

Funding workshop
In collaboration with the expert fundraisers and advisors at Aarhus University's Research Support Office, AIAS has offered a workshop on strategic fundraising and grant proposal writing. The workshop offered individual feed-back on CV and career plan and an optional bibliometric analysis. A specific workshop on ERC grants with tips and tricks from former ERC evaluation panel members, was also organised.

International networking – Annual meeting for Institutes for Advanced Studies
In the spring 2019, AIAS hosted a large meeting for Institutes of Advanced Studies (NetIAS), which included the annual conference for the common fellowship programme, EURIAS. This event was a valuable networking occasion for the AIAS-COFUND fellows and AIAS was displayed internationally as an ambitious, top-level research environment.

Conferences, workshops and symposia organised by the fellows
Fellows are 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 and extend their professional network.In this reporting period, three fellows organized events.
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 ground-breaking ideas to evolve, which eventually can have societal impacts.

A current research project focuses on the challenges in the search for a cure for HIV and argues that plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) can contribute to such a cure. This type of research could potentially have an impact on the Societal Challenges described under the headline ’Health, demographic change and wellbeing’. Another example from one of the current research projects, is how a multi-disciplinary research approach, that integrates micropaleontology, geochemistry, and ecological modelling can provide new insight 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. The previous AIAS-COFUND programme has 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.