Researcher mobility in 2021

17 Mar 2021

For researchers, changing research environments and being mobile is always worthwhile. How is researcher mobility possible during the pandemic, and how will the Academy take the pandemic into account in the mobility requirements in 2021?

2020 was an exceptional year in many ways, not least for researchers. Physically moving from one research environment to another was challenging.

Postdoctoral mobility is still required from applicants for Academy of Finland funding for research posts as Postdoctoral Researcher and Academy Research Fellow. Funding will be granted only if you meet the Academy’s mobility requirement.

Changing research environments (the mobility requirement) will in other words remain an eligibility criterion when applying for Postdoctoral Researcher or Academy Research Fellow funding.

However, as a research funder, the Academy of Finland has taken into account the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for applicants for Academy Research Fellow and Postdoctoral Researcher funding.

As the pandemic has not yet abated, we will continue last year’s practice of granting an exemption from the mobility requirement in cases where a mobility period has been interrupted or cancelled. Furthermore, if it has been impossible to physically change research environments, we will also accept various forms of mobility in the forthcoming September 2021 call.

Information on the mobility requirement, on exemptions from it in the September 2021 call and on various options for meeting the traditional mobility requirement is available at the end of this article.

  • Why should researchers change research environments?
    Changing research environments is good for your research career. Being mobile and establishing good international networks early on pave the way to a successful career. Changing working environments for a sufficiently long period (at least six months), for example moving to another research team or to a task closely linked to research, strengthens your independence as a researcher.

    This change refers to physically moving from one research environment to another or to research-supporting work in another sector, for example in another field’s research team, institute, administration, hospital, organisation, business or occupation that is legitimately linked to the proposed research or that contributes to the research career.

    The Academy of Finland’s funding for research posts as Postdoctoral Researcher and Academy Research Fellow, the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and the funding by the European Research Council (ERC) all support this objective. From a funder’s perspective, diverse expertise also increases the impact of research and promotes scientific renewal. Together with scientific quality, these make up the key strategic objectives of the Academy.
  • What is a research environment?
    ‘Research environment’ refers to the local research team or research community in which you work. The research environment is often located within a single site of research (usually a university or research institute), but it may also extend to several organisations. There may be several different research environments at a single site of research.

    If you change research environments within the same site, we require a distinct change of work environment, so that it justifiably promotes our objectives for mobility. You must provide a concrete justification for the change of work environment and for meeting the Academy’s objectives on the online application form under ‘Mobility’.

    Changing the name of the research unit or merging units does not count as a change of research environment.

      Mobility requirement in September 2021 call

      To be eligible to apply for funding for a research post as Postdoctoral Researcher or Academy Research Fellow, you must have changed or will be required to change research environments in Finland or abroad after PhD completion.

      This change refers to physically moving from one research environment to another or to research-supporting work in another sector, for example in another field’s research team, institute, administration, hospital, organisation, business or occupation that is legitimately linked to the proposed research or that contributes to the research career. The mobility requirement can be met in two ways:

      1. The mobility requirement is met if you apply for Postdoctoral Researcher of Academy Research Fellow funding to a research environment other than the one where you completed your doctoral thesis.
      2. If you apply for Postdoctoral Researcher or Academy Research Fellow funding to the same research environment where you completed your doctoral thesis, you need to have at least six months of postdoctoral experience from another research environment or from research-supporting work in another sector. The experience may have been gained over several periods, but the two longest periods must equal at least six months.

      Exceptions to the mobility requirement may be made only for special reasons and for individual applicants.

      Examples of such reasons are:

      • a) Severe illness (either your own or a close relative’s) that significantly impedes mobility. The illness must be documented. Contact us at mobility@aka.fi
      • b) Interruption of mobility period or cancellation of agreed mobility period due to COVID-19. If you have been unable to meet the mobility requirement due to COVID-19 (e.g. a foreign organisation has not been able to commit to acting as host), you must describe the reasons and be able to provide proof. Enter the justifications under ‘Mobility’ in the application form. Attach the relevant documents (e.g. invitation and airline tickets) on the tab ‘Appendices’ under ‘Mobility requirement, documents’. Name the attachment as follows: yoursurname_mobility
      • c) COVID-19 has prevented you from meeting the mobility requirement of the September 2021 call, and it is not due to an interruption or a cancellation as described above. You must describe what you have done since PhD completion in order to meet the requirement of changing research environments. This may include co-publishing and/or data sharing and applying for co-funding with researchers other than those in your own research environment. Append to the application (tab ‘Appendices under ‘Mobility requirement, documents’) a letter of cooperation received from the other research environment describing the activity. Name the attachment as follows: yoursurname_mobility. Based on your description and documents, the Academy will decide whether you can be granted an exemption from the mobility requirement whether you are eligible to apply.

      If you refer the above mentioned factors as reasons why you do not meet the mobility requirement, you must contact us by email at mobility@aka.fi before you apply.

      • Read more about mobility in our application guidelines: Mobility: Academy Research Fellow and Postdoctoral Researcher.
      • In addition to the mobility requirement, applicants may have other previous mobility and mobility planned during the project. These will be taken into account in the competence assessment and decision-making.
      • The policies of the Research Council for Biosciences, Health and the Environment and the Research Council for Culture and Society emphasise the importance of international researcher mobility. For the Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering, mobility is a funding criterion. Read more about the research councils’ criteria and policies on our website.

      Plan B – alternative approaches to meeting the mobility requirement

      International researcher mobility puts emphasis on the creation of new collaborative networks. You do not need to move abroad to seek experience of new research tasks. You can also take advantage of opportunities such as sharing or joint use of research data, domestic and cross-sectoral mobility, and applying for funding with new partners.

      We cannot reliably predict how the COVID-19 pandemic will evolve. However, what we do know is that the pandemic will certainly hamper mobility, though not prevent it entirely. It is therefore good to consider viable alternatives, if you cannot travel to your primary destination at this moment. Self-quarantining in the target country is also an option to consider if you are thinking about going abroad.

      Contact our mobility advisers!

      At the Academy, we’re pooling together our advisory functions for the Postdoctoral Researcher and Academy Research Fellow funding schemes. We have assembled a team of experts to answer questions about the mobility requirement and the eligibility to apply. The best way to reach the team is by email: mobility@aka.fi

      Authors: Counsellor of Science Tiina Petänen, Senior Science Adviser Sanna Marjavaara and Science Adviser Vilma Lehtinen are members of the mobility advisory team at the Academy of Finland.

      Our next blog post will tell you about the results of our researcher mobility survey we carried out last winter. We would like to thank all who participated in the survey. We received nearly 450 responses.

      Do you have questions or feedback for us?