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EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdocs 2

Final Report Summary - EIPOD2 (EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdocs 2)

Publishable summary

1. Summary description
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is one of the top research institutions in the world, with more then 80 laboratories at six facilities in five European countries, working on topics ranging from structural to organism biology and from computing and biophysics to chemical biology. The EMBL has a strong tradition in promoting interdisciplinary basic research in molecular biology. The EMBL Interdisciplinary Postdoc (EIPOD2) fellowship programme makes use of this unique international, multidisciplinary research environment to broaden the interdisciplinary education and expertise of experience researchers. The scheme is based on EMBL inviting young researchers to propose interdisciplinary projects of their choice to EMBL faculty of their preference. Candidates are asked to contact at least two group leaders, preferably from different research units, to discuss and shape projects that bring together separate scientific disciplines or transfer techniques to new usage. Alternatively they may choose from a list of project ideas advertised on the EIPOD web pages when a call opens and develop the idea into a project to meet their individual interests and needs. The scientific excellence of the applicants and interdisciplinarity of the proposed work are evaluated by an independent selection committee composed of EMBL faculty including the Heads of Units and other external internationally renowned scientists. Besides high-level interdisciplinary research training, EIPODs receive additional vocational training, special career development support, training in ethics and good scientific practice and take part in the EMBL second mentorship scheme during their three-year positions. An active alumni network facilitates reintegration into national research environments.

1.1 Summary of work performed since the beginning of the project
Calls for Applications: The programme welcomed 67 EIPOD2 fellows into the EIPOD programme to work on interdisciplinary research projects supported by the grant. The fellows joined the programme through three competitive calls for applications that took place from 2012 to 2014. The calls were advertised internationally via web and print advertising campaigns, job fairs and at scientific meetings and conferences. Applications were evaluated in a two-step process involving EMBL faculty and external scientific experts from academia, industry and funding organizations. Interviewing Candidates visited the labs involved in the projects they proposed and then gave a talk and took part in a panel interview as part of the official interviews.

The 67 EIPOD2 fellows represent 31 different countries in-line with the programme’s goal of advertising and recruiting internationally. The number of successful applicants per call was 20, 23 and 24 in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 calls, respectively.

Support and administration: EIPOD2 fellows are supported by a dedicated office consisting of a Senior Programme Administrator and, in the last year of the grant, a Career Advisor. The office serves as the main contact point for fellows during their time at EMBL. Furthermore, the Senior Programme Administrator follows up with fellows for the administrative obligations that come with EIPOD2 positions (yearly reports and surveys, exit survey). The office also administers funds allowing EIPODs shared between more then one EMBL site to visit their partner labs. The EIPOD programme is under the leadership of EMBL’s Head of Internal Scientific Training and an Academic Mentor for Postdocs (also an EMBL senior scientist).

EIPOD supervision and training: One of the main missions of EMBL is to provide scientific training at all career levels. By the nature of the projects with which EIPOD2s join EMBL they receive interdisciplinary training in their chosen areas.
Furthermore, the EIPOD office coordinates a number of training and career development activities such as career days and workshops to prepare for the academic and industry job markets. The programme has developed a workshop on ethics which all fellows supported by the EIPOD2 grant have taken part in. In addition, they have completed an online course on ethics and research integrity. EIPODs are made aware of training opportunities when they first join EMBL and are periodically reminded of these opportunities during their fellowship time. EMBL has a very active seminar and conference programme which EIPODs have access to. Fellows also have the opportunity to regularly present their own research such as in unit seminars. EIPOD2 fellows take part in the Second mentorship programme and are encouraged to meet regularly with their second mentor.

Vocational skills training and career development: Outside of the lab EIPODs have access to a wide array of courses covering career development, language courses, IT courses and transferable skills courses as part of EMBL’s General Training and Development Programme. To further enhance the available career development support, the programme recruited a Career Advisor who joined the team in June 2016. The Career Advisor offers one-to-one career advice, provides access to job notifications and career events in a structured manner and is developing new training formats for EIPODs. EIPOD2 fellows are able to make use of some of the first resulting services (jobs portal, applying to industry workshop, career planning guide). Furthermore, many also benefited from one-to-one career counselling sessions.

Development for the programme: At the end of their fellowship time, EIPODs are asked to complete an exit survey so that their experiences and feedback from their EIPOD training can be captured and used in the future developments of the programme. An application and referee database have been developed and tested to improve the front end of the application process for applicants and referees. The new software was developed based upon the needs and feedback from all players in the application process (applicants, referees, programme administrator, faculty). The first module prepared was to handle the evaluation of candidate application by faculty and was put into production in 2012. Modules to replace the applicant and referee databases were developed, tested and made available for use in 2014.

Dissemination of the programme
The channels used to disseminate the EIPOD programme and individual calls are summarized below.
i) Promotional material: The programme is disseminated globally through promotional material. This includes a brochure highlighting postdoctoral life at EMBL and the EIPOD programme. Individual calls are advertised via posters and flyers. Those relevant to the EIPOD2 grant have been included.

ii) EIPOD Website: Information about the EIPOD programme is publically available at The website is managed by the EIPOD office and updated according to feedback received from applicants, current EIPODs and others. It includes a description of the objectives of the EIPOD fellowship programme, acknowledgement of the Cofunding that the programme receives, examples of previously successful projects and testimonials from previous EIPODs who have completed the programme. A detailed call schedule for an open call is also available so that applicants are informed of the timing for individual steps of a call, when the official interviews will take place and the format. Contact details for the Programme Administrator are also available on the programme pages and in the application database so that applicants can easily get in touch with open questions.

iii) Talks and Visits: The EIPOD programme team as well as other departments at EMBL (Strategy and Communications, Human Resources) promote the programme at various events including job fairs and meetings. EMBL also hosts many groups of visitors each year. When relevant, visitors receive promotional material on the programme and/or hear a talk on the programme from a member of the EIPOD team.

1.2 Impact
The EIPOD2 programme is an example of a successful mobility scheme. The 67 supported researchers are from 31 different countries. The interdisciplinary projects they work on involved two or more EMBL groups often located across different EMBL sites. In addition to providing rich sources of interdisciplinary scientific training, the involved group leaders also serve as mentors helping fellows develop into independent researchers ready to take on leadership roles in the next positions they move into after their time at EMBL. Data from the EMBL Alumni Relations department indicate that many of EMBL’s Postdocs remain in Europe and active in research following their time with the programme (77% in academic research and 11% in research in industry) and thus enhance the European research landscape with their knowledge and experience.

The EIPOD programme serves as a model for best practices in postdoctoral training and has hosted visits from many organizations wishing to learn about the workflows and set-up of the EIPOD2 programme. Furthermore, several fellowship programmes (both internal and external) are based on the successful EIPOD2 programme. The EIPOD team has been invited to present the programme at various events including a Kowi workshop designed for institutes interested in applying for Cofund support of doctoral or postdoctoral fellowship programmes and at the 2015 MSCA Cofund conference in Luxembourg.

The programme was successfully completed in June 2017. A total of 67 EIPOD fellows were supported by the EIPOD2 grant and received high quality interdisciplinary research and transferable skills training. This was complemented by career development support including access to a Career Advisor in the last year of the programme. The EIPOD2 programme made use of 96% of the planned for fellowship years as outlined in the amended grant agreement.