With its draft multi-annual programme and continued improvement of existing career programmes, FWF hopes to further advance the establishment of researchers, especially of women, in the scientific community – the consultation process will continue until the end of this year.

Competition-based third-party funding plays a crucial role in the careers of young researchers today. With highly competitive, transparent and objective awarding processes, the “FWF brand” of research funding programmes has set a standard of excellence for many decades. Grants received under FWF programmes are widely regarded as a motor of success in career development.

With this in mind, FWF engages in periodic progress reviews and – where needed – further development of its career promotion programmes. FWF has assisted and promoted researchers in all stages of career development for the last more than 30 years. We have drawn on our decades-long experience and the results of programme monitoring and evaluation, as well as active exchanges with stakeholders, in drafting a strategy that sets the course for the future of our portfolio.

Good reasons to set a new course

We at FWF believe that the time has come to take our career development programmes in a new direction, clearly strengthening the funding side and optimizing framework conditions. The underlying principle for this change of course is to make the programmes equally attractive for the researchers we are addressing and for the various disciplines. We are proposing to optimize the programmes and present them clearly and succinctly. Programme components that have proven their value will be strengthened and expanded, weaker points in programme design will be eliminated. To live up to the demands of diversity and flexibility in basic research, we will no longer differentiate our programmes by target group (incoming, reintegration, women) or programme goal (brain gain, return to research work, group-building, Habilitation), effectively eliminating any differences in the reputation of individual programmes.

Programmes on two levels will be implemented to attract the best and most creative talents to Austria and to retain excellent researchers in the country. Promoting women in research will continue to be a core mission. The new Early Stage Programme (working title) will help researchers in the early stages of their career to develop their research profiles on the basis of an independent project conducted under the best possible conditions. At the same time, they will be enabled to acquire the skills and qualifications they need for a career as independent scientists. Best-practice instruments including coaching and mentoring will continue to be used in the context of this programme. As flexibility and quick grant decisions are important factors in young postdocs’ propensity to pursue a career in scientific research, applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis.

The Advanced Stage Programme (working title) will be created by merging the START Awards and the Elise Richter (PEEK) Programme and developing the new programme format further on this basis. FWF’s goal is to enable outstanding scientists, including those engaged in arts-focussed research, to carry out innovative research projects. The programme will be designed to meet the different needs of different disciplines by allowing flexibly set project periods and budgets. In this stage of researchers’ careers, the programme aims at further strengthening the grant recipients’ profiles and facilitating their establishment at research institutions in Austria. The programme will thus meet the need for long-term career perspectives in the later stages of researchers’ careers.

Improved prospects for women researchers

The detailed design of the two programme tracks will be developed in a consultation process. As in previous programmes, promoting women scientists will continue to be a central element. FWF hopes that the new two-stage model, while being equally accessible for women and men, will help raise the number of women in leading positions in Austrian research and science. Specific rules will ensure that this goal is met: half of all funds available under the programme will be reserved for women, and the approval rate for women must be at least equal that for men. There are currently more grant applications by excellent women researchers than can be covered out of available funds. Overall, more funding shall be provided for women in future. In addition, established measures and policies for the promotion of women will continue. These include lump-sum payments for young mothers, active networking support, coaching workshops and policies to make successful women visible, such as networking meetings, public relations activities, role models and celebrations around International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Open-ended consultation process until end of 2019

The two planned funding programmes will be designed in detail over the course of the year, with an extensive consultation process being held concurrently and in line with the FWF Gender Policy. The open-ended process will be taken forward by a number of working groups, with input being provided by international experts. Based on the final conclusions and recommendations, especially with respect to career development, the FWF bodies will lay down the future course by the end of the year. Until then, existing career programmes will continue as usual.

The Austrian Science Fund FWF

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is Austria’s central funding organisation for basic research and arts-focussed research. Applying international quality benchmarks, the FWF provides funding for outstanding research projects and excellent researchers who work to generate, broaden and deepen scientific knowledge.


Dr. Barbara Zimmermann
Head of Strategy – Career Development 

Marc Seumenicht
Head of Public Relations and Science Communication

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