Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the Academy Research Fellow reform.
You can send us more questions by email at earlycareer(at)aka.fi.
What is the objective of the Academy Research Fellow reform?
The new Academy Research Fellowships support the research and career of early-career researchers. The goal is to identify and support talented researchers who can make significant career progress towards the most demanding research positions and achieve an established position in the national and international research community. The aim is to make applying for funding as simple as possible: one application and one funding decision. In addition, the aim is to ensure flexibility in funding use so that the funding can be used for the researcher’s own salary, other salaries and other research costs, and so that the funding is easy to manage.
It has become topical to coordinate and update the overlapping objectives of the current funding schemes for Postdoctoral Researchers, Academy Research Fellows and early-career Academy Projects. Ways of doing research have become more and more diversified, and the ways in which researchers form collaborative networks and international contacts have changed. Universities’ career systems have continued to evolve. The funding should therefore be flexible, adaptable to various research needs and suitable for different career situations.
When will the reform enter into force?
The new funding scheme will be introduced in autumn 2022. The call text will be published in June 2022.
What is the time limit for eligibility?
In the first call in autumn 2022, however, applications may be submitted by researchers who at the application deadline (end of month) have completed their first doctorate at least two but no more than nine years ago. As of the Winter 2024 call, the eligibility period will be 2–7 years since the first doctorate. Because of the new call schedule, eligible applicants in the Winter 2024 call are those whose doctoral degree certificate is dated between 30 September 2016 and 31 January 2022.
The idea is that, in the first two years after the doctoral degree, researchers will progress in their careers, change research environments, create their own cooperation networks and advance their own lines of research. Several European funding agencies have corresponding career-oriented funding opportunities.
Why is the eligibility at least two years and at most seven years after the first doctorate?
The new Academy Research Fellowships are intended to support talented researchers who already have some degree of merits and who are at a very specific career stage. At that stage, applicants will already have conducted postdoctoral research and made conscious choices to advance their research career, but as a rule will not yet have reached the career stage necessary to be eligible for a position as principal investigator of an Academy Project. The goal is to identify and support talented researchers who can during the funding period make significant career progress towards the most demanding research positions and achieve an established position in the national and international research community.
Will the mobility requirement be dropped as a requirement of eligibility?
Yes. The requirement to change research environments will be removed, and its objectives (strengthening independence, diversifying skills and competencies) will be incorporated into the review of the applicant’s career progress. At the application stage, applicants will be expected to demonstrate how they meet these objectives by describing, for example, their experience of different research environments, their ability to build up collaborative networks, joint projects or more independent publishing than in previous career stages.
What is the funding period?
The funding period is four years. This provides an opportunity to make significant progress towards a professional research career, even for researchers whose work involves long-term experimental studies. During the four-year funding period, the Academy Research Fellow’s duties also include four months’ worth of tasks other than research tasks that are important for a professional research career. These may include teaching and supervision, administrative duties, interaction or advocacy, or other tasks related to the organisation’s core functions.
How will the Research Council ensure a fair and equal evaluation of researchers at different career stages?
A major focus in the review will be to evaluate the research plan and the applicant’s competence, which is not based on quantitative indicators such as journal impact factors. The researcher’s merits will be assessed through a wide range of outputs and research career roles, taking account of any career breaks.
Particular attention will be devoted to the potential of applicants who are at different career stages. The applicants’ merits will be reviewed considering their career stages.
How will differences between projects be considered in the review? Will individual researchers and teams compete on an equal footing? How are the different ways of doing research taken into account?
The review panels will take into account field-specific research practices, such as whether the field in question mainly consists of individual researchers or research groups. If necessary, the new funding scheme will allow you researchers to apply for funding for their own salary and/or for other salaries and for the research costs of a team. The reviewers will take into account the optimal way to implement the research.
Will the reform affect ongoing funding for Academy Research Fellows and Postdoctoral Researchers?
No. The funding decisions will remain in force under the original terms and conditions.
Can a researcher who has received Postdoctoral Researcher funding apply for this new Academy Research Fellowship?
Individuals who have received the Research Council of Finland's funding for a research post as Postdoctoral Researcher may be granted an Academy Research Fellowship during the last year of the Postdoctoral Researcher funding period if the funding periods do not overlap.
Can an Academy Research Fellowship be granted twice to the same researcher?
A person who has received the previous funding for a research post as Academy Research Fellow will not be eligible for the new four-year Academy Research Fellowship. A person who has received a four-year Academy Research Fellowship may be granted a second Academy Research Fellowship during the last year of the funding period if the funding periods do not overlap.