As the Austrian Science Fund continues to update and improve its portfolio of programmes, a new early career stage programme for postdocs will be offered as of 2021. The new programme will replace the present Lise Meitner and Hertha Firnberg Programmes. Some of the main features of the new programme will be that project proposals can be submitted on an ongoing basis, funding volumes will be adjusted to meet current needs, and there will be more funding for women as well as more mentoring for women. It is hoped that the new programme, together with some supplementary measures, will help researchers get firmly established in top research.

At its latest meeting, the FWF Executive Board agreed on a schedule for the harmonization of its career programmes. As foreseen in its multi-annual programme and following extensive consultations with representatives of the scientific community and equal treatment experts, FWF is merging the Lise Meitner and Hertha Firnberg Programmes to create a single early career stage programme. Implementation of the reform is scheduled to take place in spring 2021. Under the new programme, project proposals can be submitted on an ongoing basis and project fund management will be more flexible. Moreover, uniform criteria for applicants across the board and an increase in budget volume will benefit all applicants. Promoting women in research will continue to be a key concern, with half of all project funds available under the programme reserved for women. Additionally, established good practices such as mentoring for women and other measures specifically designed to promote women researchers will be implemented on a broader basis. The programme and the decision-making processes involved will be monitored and evaluated by international experts.

Plans to harmonize advanced career stage programmes to be further developed

Both the Elise Richter Programme and the START Programme for researchers in more advanced career stages will remain in place for the time being. The planning phase for harmonization in this area will be extended on the basis of last year’s consultation process.

Higher gender equality standards across all FWF programmes

In addition to our drive towards portfolio harmonization, FWF plans to act on other outcomes of the consultation process as well. This includes the further evaluation of gender equality standards in all programme-related decision-making processes.

Career programme reform to ensure equal opportunities for all

Women apply for FWF programmes in significant numbers, which also compare favourably to international statistics. The share of women among early career stage applicants is 45 per cent (except in natural sciences and engineering, where women are still clearly underrepresented). However, women tend to apply for significantly lower amounts of funding than men, which is due to the fact that funding limits vary from programme to programme. At the moment, differences in terms of project periods, available funding and application criteria mean that researchers operate under different conditions and do not enjoy the same level of reputation. By reducing the programme structure to two stages, FWF hopes to level the playing field and meet the needs of researchers in each career stage, as well as ensuring reputational equality in the long run. In all these efforts, the promotion of excellent women researchers will remain key. Going beyond dedicated women’s programmes, specific measures will be taken to further strengthen women’s long-term establishment in top research. As we develop our programme portfolio, FWF is planning to allocate significantly more funds to career promotion.

Proposals will continue to be accepted for all career programmes

Proposals under the existing career programmes may be submitted as usual in 2020 (continuously open call for the Meitner Programme, Firnberg and Richter calls in spring and autumn, Richter PEEK call in spring, START call in autumn). The redesigned early career stage programme will be launched in spring 2021.


Further information

In-depth report on the conclusion of the consultation process (December 2019, in German)

scilog-Interview with equal opportunities expert Edith Gößnitzer on the consultation process and the FWF career programmes (December 2019)

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