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Final Report Summary - ZIF-MARIE-CURIE (Zukunftskolleg Incoming Fellowship Programme)

The Zukunftskolleg is an Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Konstanz, which offers early career researchers a creative space for pursuing cutting-edge research, gaining academic independence, and launching their careers at one of the finest research institutions in Germany and the European Research Area (ERA). The University of Konstanz belongs to those universities in Germany whose “Institutional Strategy to Promote Top-Level Research” is supported within the framework of the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. The Zukunftskolleg is an integral component of the university’s institutional strategy “Modell Konstanz – Towards a Culture of Creativity” and is a central scientific institution dedicated to the promotion of high-potential researchers from all 13 university departments– in the natural sciences, humanities and social sciences. The Zukunftskolleg forms a platform for interdisciplinary discourse between distinguished researchers in Germany and abroad, providing them with outstanding research conditions, an inspiring scientific environment as well as the freedom and resources to conduct their research independently.

The Marie Curie COFUND Zukunftskolleg Incoming Fellowship Programme (henceforth ZIF-MC), which ran from May 2012 through May 2018, offered 5-year ZIF-MC Research Fellowships and 2-year ZIF-MC Postdoctoral Fellowships. The programme was funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) Marie Curie Actions – People (co-funding of regional, national and international programmes), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the University of Konstanz. The 2-year Fellowships targeted postdoctoral researchers in the first years after earning their doctorate. The 5-year Fellowships were tailored towards the needs of researchers with several years of experience in academic teaching, scientific research, and the management of externally funded projects.

The programme succeeded in attracting excellent and experienced researchers from outside Germany and developed mutually beneficial long-term research partnerships. Dialogue and cooperation was fostered beyond research disciplines and across generations through a productive and supportive community of fellows. The ZIF-MC Fellows at the Zukunftskolleg received optimal career support along with access to the best possible curriculum and research experience, which reflects the Zukunftskolleg’s enduring commitment to equal opportunity. The Zukunftskolleg is characterized by its experimental character: providing the fellows with the freedom and opportunity to explore and expand their research on many levels. The overall infrastructure and environment are instrumental to helping the Zukunftskolleg achieve its central goal: to encourage early scientific independence.

To achieve these objectives, the ZIF-MC Programme offered ideal research conditions to excellent early career researchers who were selected on the basis of their academic track record, the quality and topicality of their research proposal, their personal aptitude and their interest in interdisciplinary research. The ZIF-MC Fellows benefited from a variety of Zukunftskolleg programmes and instruments to support interdisciplinary research and networking.

The most important instruments include:
• The weekly Jour Fixe: Regular presentations of research projects by the fellows enabling the fellows to meet and interact with each other;
• The Senior Fellowship: The fellows were encouraged to invite established international researchers to spend time the Zukunftskolleg for up to twelve months, providing support to their hosts by means of cooperative research, advice, and discussions.
• The Mentorship Programme enabled the fellows to invite renowned scholars in their field to Konstanz for a few days of mentoring, followed by a return visit to the mentor’s home institution.
• Additional funding for research projects: The fellows were encouraged to apply for co-funding for human and material resources needed for their research activities (such as student/research assistants, conferences, equipment, research trips or consumables). In addition, they had the opportunity to apply for up to € 10,000 to implement interdisciplinary, intersectoral, transdepartmental and collaborative teaching and/or research projects.

During their stay at the Zukunftskolleg, the ZIF-MC Fellows gained academic independence and developed the disciplinary, interdisciplinary and professional skills needed to become leading experts in the international research community and decisively shape the research of the future. Thus, the Zukunftskolleg trained researchers who will advance their research fields and take up leading positions in academia and society.

The 5-year ZIF-MC Research Fellows established their own junior research groups during the project – developing early research independence, while expanding leadership and management skills. To this end, they were required to apply for external research funding in the amount of at least € 50,000 to be used in Konstanz during their fellowship in order to establish their own research group. The 2-year ZIF-MC Postdoctoral Fellowships provided recent doctoral graduates with the opportunity to focus on new and innovative research projects, enabling them to gain further research expertise. While the fellows had no teaching obligations, many took advantage of the close cooperation with their respective departments to develop and offer courses specifically suited to their current lines of research. Fellows were recruited from all 13 academic disciplines represented at the University of Konstanz.

The Zukunftskolleg published five calls for ZIF-MC Fellowships and received more than 1,000 eligible applications. On average, each call for applications received applications from over 40 nations worldwide. The selection process was extremely stringent and highly competitive not only due to the high number of applications received, but also because of the high quality expected from all applications and supporting documents.

The ZIF-MC Programme recruited 46 2-year Postdoctoral Fellows and seven 5-year Research Fellows. To increase the number and visibility of women in research, 42% of the fellowships were awarded to female researchers. The success of the ZIF-MC Programme is further demonstrated by the impact our fellows had on the ERA. Together, they published 377 articles, chapters, books and other publications, participated in 552 public lectures, conferences and workshops, contributed and started 189 research partnerships, and successfully acquired 77 externally-funded research grants. Overall, 87% of all former ZIF-MC Fellows still work in research, promoting an interdisciplinary and international research agenda and close relations between researchers within Europe and outside. The Zukunftskolleg thus succeeded in creating an environment for innovative research as well as an alternative career path for early career researchers in the European Union and around the world.

More information is available on our webpage: https://www.uni-konstanz.de/zukunftskolleg/
Contact: Professor Giovanni Galizia (Giovanni.Galizia[at]uni-konstanz.de)

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UNIVERSITAT KONSTANZ
Germany
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