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Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CAROLINE (Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe)

Reporting period: 2016-06-02 to 2018-06-01

The Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe “CAROLINE” programme is a research fellowship scheme with international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility elements. The aims are to support suitable highly qualified experienced researchers of any nationality in any discipline to:

• conduct research relevant to the overarching theme of global sustainable development as set out under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for shared economic prosperity, social development, and environmental protection (http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E);
• engage in international collaboration with suitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or international organisations (IOs);
• experience and benefit from international mobility;
• avail of relevant training and career development opportunities; increase their chances of gaining a future senior research position, including in the non-academic sector.

Two types of fellowships are available under the scheme:

• International Fellowships: researchers awarded with an International Fellowship are seconded to a partner NGO or IO outside Ireland, with a return year at the home host RPO in Ireland.
• Irish Fellowships: Researchers awarded with an Irish Fellowship will be hosted by an RPO in Ireland for two years, with a main mandatory secondment during this time to NGO or IO partners in Ireland for research and/or training.

All CAROLINE fellows are employed by an Irish research-performing organisation (RPO) for the entire duration of the fellowship. In addition to the mandatory secondment to an NGO/IO, the researcher can avail of an optional placement to another organisation, where this is clearly beneficial to their training or research project. This flexibility is to support ongoing training and development in a non-academic environment and to facilitate inter-sectoral transfer of knowledge. Thus the programme contributes towards addressing important societal challenges while enhancing research- and innovation-related human resources and providing new career perspectives.
Since CAROLINE was launched in 2016, the Council has operated two calls for postdoctoral fellows, opened in the autumn of 2016 and summer 2017. During the course of these two calls, the Council received in total 125 applications from experienced researchers supported by NGO/IO partner organisations and made 40 awards. It was envisaged that the Council would make 50 awards in total under the programme, therefore a third call has been launched for both international fellowships and Irish fellowships.

There was an active pre-call publicity drive in advance of calls 1 and 2, including regional information sessions, notification of HEI Research Offices and strategic partners, provision of targeted information to current Council awardees, alumni and their mentors, a webinar, creation of a scheme microsite, participation at third party events, press releases, and social media activity. The Council also provided an online facility for NGOs/IOs to register their interest in participating in the scheme. Profiles of NGOs/IOs who completed an online expression of interest form could be accessed by prospective applicants online to facilitate match-making. Promotional activities resulted in more than 2,500 draft applications created in the online system, however only a fraction of these application were completed in full and submitted.

Submitted applications were assessed by international expert evaluators. In the first stage of the assessment process, evaluators assessed applications remotely using the Council’s online system. Applications meeting the threshold for progression to the second stage of the assessment process were then assessed by members of the Inner International Assessment Board (Inner IAB). Following an initial assessment undertaken by individual assessors remotely, the Inner IAB met and following deliberations a final ranking of applications was agreed. Feedback was provided to all applicants. The same processes were followed under calls 1 and 2.

A training and networking event for funded researchers was organised in September 2017. Topical sessions on sex/gender dimension in research and use of social media for communicating research, networking and career development were complemented by an induction session. In parallel a networking session with a group of researchers funded under the Council’s previous MSCA COFUND programme ELEVATE took place.
The CAROLINE fellowship programme has attracted experienced researchers from a broad range of disciplines and a variety of partner organisations, from large international organisations to small NGOs. Examples of organisations to which current fellows are seconded include the UN Environment Programme, Proyecto Andino de Tecnologías Campesinas, The World Bank, Cancer Trials Ireland, Anti-Slavery International, the International Labor Organisation and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. Fellows are located around the world, both on secondment and for the completion of fieldwork. Switzerland, Canada, the United States, Peru and Italy are examples of countries to which CAROLINE fellows have been seconded.

The core theme of the CAROLINE programme encourages diverse areas of research and this diversity is reflected in the publications of CAROLINE fellows. CAROLINE funded research has appeared in a number of journals including: Chemical Communications, Ecosystem Services, Public Administration, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, International Review of Neurobiology, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and The World of Music.

Of the 17 Strategic Development Goals which frame the 2030 Agenda, SDG 3 ‘good health and well-being’, SDG 5 ‘gender equality’, SDG 8 ‘decent work and economic growth’ and SDG 16 ‘peace, justice and strong institutions’ have been the focus of the greatest number of CAROLINE applications.

The Council expects to make an additional 10 awards under the currently open third call, which will bring the total number of fellowship awards to the originally envisaged fifty. Progress reports received from researchers and their academic, as well as secondment mentors, indicate that individual fellowships are progressing well in line with expectations and that the project aims will be achieved.