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INterdiSciPlinarity and excellence for doctoral training of International REsearchers in Paris

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INSPIRE (INterdiSciPlinarity and excellence for doctoral training of International REsearchers in Paris)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The COFUND INSPIRE action commenced on October 1st, 2015, for a duration of five years, with the three stated objectives to 1) attract high-quality international candidates from a wide range of countries, 2) to provide high-quality collaborations at an international level and with the non-academic sector, and 3) to improve follow-up and mentoring conditions.

Following two successful calls for INSPIRE doctoral contracts in 2016 and 2017, the action fulfilled its principal objective to recruit 60 doctoral fellows with excellent academic credentials and a strong international background, extending across all disciplines, with 10 laureates in the Humanities, Arts, Letters and Literature (HALL), 16 in the Life and Health Sciences (SDVS), 21 in Exact Sciences and Technology (SET), and 13 in Social Sciences (SS). They are employed by eight member institutions of USPC, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Université Paris Descartes, Université Paris Diderot, Université Paris 13, INALCO, IPGP, EHESP and Sciences Po. Nearly half the fellows originate from outside the EU (6 from Africa, 5 from South America, 12 from Asia and 5 from North America) and the other half from eleven different EU countries. In terms of mobility, 47% of the 2016 laureates completed their Bachelor’s degree outside the EU, versus 56% in the second cohort, indicating a further diversification of the international background of the recruited candidates in the second call. Both cohorts showed increased mobility to a EU country for their Master’s diploma (73% in the first cohort and 66% in the second cohort). This international background of the laureates has played a role in the incorporation of co-tutelles, and international collaborations, of a number of INSPIRE fellows.

The gender distribution of the recruited INSPIRE fellows is close to parity with 32 women and 28 men having been recruited via the two calls, with 12 female (F), and 17 male (M), laureates in 2016, versus 21 female, and 11 male, laureates in 2017. Their distribution across the four disciplinary poles in 2016 was, 3F:3M in HALL, 4F:3M in SDVS, 2F:8M in SET, and 2F:3M in SS, versus 5F:0M in HALL, 7F:1M in SDVS, 4F:8M in SET, and 5F:2M in SS, in 2017 (see Figure 1).

These laureates were chosen via a rigorous three-step selection procedure, first by the research group, then by the Doctoral School, and finally by an independent jury, composed of international and national experts. The call for the fellowships was implemented in accordance with principles of The European Charter for Researchers to ensure a transparent and impartial procedure. The laureates were provided with dedicated support by the INSPIRE management team, including the coordinator, a project manager and assistant project manager who strove to ensure the reception of the laureates under best conditions at their host institutions. Fellows were provided with the necessary support to register at their host institutions; to facilitate the immigration procedure to work in France (for non-EU citizens); as well as an offer for subsidised housing. All together this facilitated a smooth transition for fellows to begin working. The management team remains present to respond to queries from the fellows, and strives to provide a high level of non-academic support to all fellows.

These diverse initiatives undertaken within the INSPIRE action, during the call and follow-up actions, have the potential to be applied in a wider context within USPC.
INSPIRE project was performing successfully. We recruited all 60 ESRs in time through two calls. Most of them, 52, were employed for the full 36-month period. More than 44 scientific papers have been published, some more are prepared/submitted/under review. ESRs present their results regularly at high-level scientific conferences (more than 70 presentations in international conferences, and more than 40 presentations in workshops and seminars). These presentations have reached more than 35 000 people.

ESR have received high level training with transversal and soft skills training. They participated in international, interdisciplinary and intersectorial activities. One of the highlights of them was the 3i week-ends: a two-day stay in a French city consisting of visits of laboratories, companies and cultural places.
The partnership with the 8 institutions from USPC was fruitful and the implementation was smooth. A good communication between partners allowed to solve each difficulty and to give the ESR the best conditions of work.
The project had an important impact on internal processes amongst USPC members, thanks to the new selection process and more advanced training for the ESR and their supervisors.
The projects financed by INSPIRE address various scientific questions of a fundamental nature as well as with more immediate applications potential across all four disciplinary poles from the Humanities, to Social Sciences, to the Life and Health Sciences, and Exact Science, and their scientific impact is equally diverse. In addition, the objectives of INSPIRE to enhance international collaborations with the academic and non-academic sector, will be facilitated by the triple “I” weekends, or a “hackathon” to provide exposure to inter-sectorial and inter-disciplinary activates to complement their scientific activities. Additionally, informational sessions about ethics in research vis-à-vis research integrity, and gender issues in relation to the research/academic environment and practices, will be implemented. The adoption of good practices in the selection and accompaniment of doctoral fellows, has the potential to be applied in a wider context within USPC, and will contribute significantly to the impact of the INSPIRE action.
Figure 1. Gender distribution of INSPIRE laureates from the two calls and across disciplina