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A Programme to Attract Postdoctoral Researchers to the Basque Country in any Research Field

Periodic Report Summary 2 - WOLFRAM (A Programme to Attract Postdoctoral Researchers to the Basque Country in any Research Field)

The WOLFRAM programme is based on a combination of incoming and reintegration of post-doctoral researchers from any country, in order to strengthen the research potential of the European Research Area, and at the same time to consolidate the Basque Region as a European Reference Point for excellence in research, through knowledge sharing on a multi-level basis and through the interaction of researchers in interdisciplinary research fields.

The Basque Country, organized in research communities closely linked through its business and social fabric, is building its research system on researchers and capacities. In this environment, that constitutes a simple, transparent and coherent system based on various public and private sources of finance (national, regional and European), transnational mobility represents an action of crucial importance for innovation and, consequently, for the need to ensure enhanced collaboration between the worlds of academic research and industry.

The Ikerbasque Foundation’s activity represents an important actor in the culmination of the mission to make the Basque Country a truly scientific–technological community, which combines human skills, infrastructures and, which opens its arms to global knowledge by establishing consortia and collaborative agreements with the most influential knowledge centres worldwide. In this sense, the importance of having international researchers coming to the Basque Country is a key aspect that is included in our programme.

Description of the work performed since the beginning of the project

2 WOLFRAM calls have been launched during the second project period (from months 25 to month 48). The first with deadline for submitting the applications on the 04th April 2016 and the second with deadline on the 30th March 2017. The applications were evaluated based on:
- Scientific merit and research track
- Relevance of research topic and latest publications
- Concordance with Basque research capabilities

The results of these calls are described in the next section. The main work within the project so far has involved the publication, evaluation and negotiation, and contractual procedures related with the above calls.

Description of the main results achieved so far:
- 2016 Call: 222 applications received and 21 passed the evaluation, being eligible for COFUND only 16 applicants
- 2017 Call: 137 applications received and 18 passed the evaluation, being eligible for COFUND only 14 applicants

* On the 31st July 2017 (end of period 2), and considering all applicants that have passed the evaluation in the 5 call executed (including those during the PR1), a total of 38 researchers have already signed a contract in the framework of WOLFRAM.
* 8 additional applicants have already taken up the contract under the WOLFRAM project but their fixed starting date is during the third period of the project (August 2017 or later).
* 4 of the applicants still are under the negotiation process with Ikerbasque.
* 30 of the applicants did not take up the offered contract of WOLFRAM for various reasons, such as a lack of agreement on the contractual terms being offered, or they had received an appropriate counter-offer from their current research institution that caused them to reconsider their decision to change.

The project has progressed successfully so far, although it has not completely achieved all the objectives originally planned for the first and second period. From the originally estimated 80 researchers to be recruited during the first and second project period, Ikerbasque has been able to get an agreement with 46 (38 already recruited and 8 to be recruited during the following months). This represents a 57,5% of execution in terms of number of researchers, but not executed fellow months.

Expected final results
During the initial project duration of 60 months 80 researchers were expected to be recruited and only 3 calls were planned in the framework of WOLFRAM.
During the first project period Ikerbasque has executed the 3 calls, and in order to mitigate as much as possible the underdevelopment of the project, 2 additional calls were implemented during the second project period (2016 and 2017), offering in each call 15 positions.
As already justified in the first periodic report submitted to the EC, during the second project period (to end on the 31st July 2017) we have also suffered delays on the actual start of some fellows (international mobility of researchers requires adequate time for the transition period for families and research projects) and thus the project is accumulating more delays to those during the first period. Additionally, the economic crisis in Spain is being a critical issue affecting the project execution, since too much of the selected applicants finally are not moving to Spain because of the economic uncertainty and lack of stability.
As result, the overall number of fellow-years originally expected to be executed by end of the second period has not been achieved. In order to maximise the execution of WOLFRAM project, Ikerbasque requested an extension of 24 months. Such extension has been approved, from 1st August 2018 – 31st July 2020 and Ikerbasque expects to be able to recruit 80% of the expected researchers and execute 80% of the initially estimated fellow months.

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