This post aims to help scientists who are about to obtain their PhD, or already have it, and are wondering what to do next? If you want to do a postdoc, then Marie Curie Fellowships are a great opportunity!
The aim of a Marie Curie Fellowship is simple:
- You are a European citizen and you want to go away from your lab but stay in Europe for research? Ok! Join one awesome lab somewhere else in Europe!
- You are a European citizen and you want to go away from Europe for research? ok! go to an awesome lab in a 3rd country (other than UE) and come back in Europe to share your new awesome research experience.
- You are a non-European citizen and you want to do research in Europe? ok! come to one of our awesome labs!
Explanation from their website:
- Strengthening, quantitatively and qualitatively, the human potential in research and technology in Europe, by stimulating people to enter into the profession of researcher, encouraging European researchers to stay in Europe, and attracting to Europe researchers from the entire world, making Europe more attractive to the best researchers.
- Building on the experiences with the ‘Marie Curie’ actions under previous Framework Programmes, this will be done by putting into place a coherent set of ‘Marie Curie’ actions, particularly taking into account the European added value in terms of their structuring effect on the European Research Area.
- These actions address researchers at all stages of their careers, in the public and private sectors, from initial research training, specifically intended for young people, to life long learning and career development.
- Efforts will also be made to increase participation by women researchers, by encouraging equal opportunities in all ‘Marie Curie Actions’, by designing the actions to ensure that researchers can achieve an appropriate work/life balance and by facilitating resuming a research career after a break.
I applied for a Marie Curie in 2009. Some information may have changed since that time. However, I went to their website to write this post and it seems to me that everything was the same. When I wrote my grant, a friend helped me a lot and he had obtained his Marie Curie Fellowship years before me… So I think my advice will be still useful in 2012!
1. Why a Marie Curie Fellowship?
Proposals are welcomed from all areas of scientific and technological research.
The Fellowships are competitive and prestigious.
The financial support is very good, see details below. They cover your salary plus your research expenses.
2. Where is the Marie Curie website? Where can I find information about Marie Curie Fellowship?
The first step is to find the website, and it’s not the easiest step…at least it was not when I applied in 2009.
Now you have a list of grants (or Marie Curie Actions – as they call them).
I will give a few words on some of the grants, but I will not detail all of them because the aim of this post is to help individual people wondering what they can do after their PhD.
3. What are the different Marie Curie Fellowships?
After having followed step #2, you have the list of different Marie Curie Fellowships. I will talk more about the IEF, IOF and IIF at step #4.
Initial training of researchers
- Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN): This one does not interest us. The participants (so the people or entity who applied) are universities, research centers or companies…
Life long training and career development
- Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships for Career Development (IEF): You are a researcher, of any nationality, AND you work or you have worked in an EU Member state or an associated country, AND you want to work in different European research institution than the institution where you got your PhD. This grant is interesting, it will cover your salary plus many things! (I will explain this grant more detail in the next step of the post).
- Career Integration Grants (CIG): You are a researcher, of any nationality, and you want to get a stable position in a European research institution. This is a contribution to your research costs (this may contribute to your salary or the salary of other staff employed for the project, travel costs, consumables…). Not really what you want to finance your postdoc. But might be an additional income if you have another grant.
- European Reintegration Grants (ERG): You are a researcher, of any nationality, and you want to work in a European research institution AND you have been involved previously in a Marie Curie grant lasting at least 18 months. This grant is like the previous one, this is a contribution toward your research cost.
- International Reintegration Grants (IRG): You are nationals of EU Member states or an associated country and you want to work in a European research institution AND you have been actively engaged in research in a Third country (neither EU Member State nor an Associated Country) for at least 3 years. Again, this grant is a contribution to your research cost.
- Co-funding of Regional, National and International Programmes (COFUND): This one does not interest us. The participants must be public or private bodies that are responsible for funding and managing fellowships or research training programs.
Industry-Academia Partnership and Pathways
- Marie Curie Industry Partnership and Pathways (IAPP): Again, this is not for individual researchers.
- Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowships (IOF): You are a national of a EU Member state or an associated country and you want to work in a Third country (neither EU Member State nor an Associated Country). This grant is interesting, it will cover your salary plus many things! (I will explain this grant more detail in the next step of the post).
- Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowships (IIF): You are a researcher, of any nationality, and you want to work in a European research institution AND you have been active or recently active in a Third country. This grant is interesting, it will cover your salary plus many things! (I will explain this grant more detail in the next step of the post).
- International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES): Again, this is not for individual researchers.
4. Which Marie Curie Fellowship is suitable for me?
I will speak more about the IEF, IIF and IOF grants because those grants cover your salary and other expenses (in other words, those are full grants). However, if you obtain another grant, do not forget the possibility of a contribution to your research cost (CIG, ERG, IRG).
Do you want to know which Fellowship is suitable for you? Answer this question:
Where do you want to carry out your postdoc?
- In a Third country (other countries than an EU Member state or an associated country). You can do the IOF if you are a national of an EU Member state or an associated country. If you are not, you must consider carrying out your postdoc research in an EU Member state or an associated country to be able to apply for a Marie Curie Fellowship.
- In an EU Member state or an associated country.
- Where did you work right before?
- In an EU Member state or associated country. You can do the IEF.
- In a third country.
- Where did you work before that?
- In a third country. You can do the IIF
- In an EU Member state or an associated country. You can do the IIF or IEF (but they will prefer that you apply for an IIF).
Other requirements to apply for the grants
- The grants are for experienced researchers. That means that you need to have either:
i) at least 4 years of research experience (full-time equivalent) after obtaining the degree which would formally entitle you to embark on a doctorate either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training will be provided;
ii) your doctoral degree (PhD). The time limit to fulfil one of these conditions is the deadline for proposal submission of the relevant call.
- At the time of the relevant deadline for submission of proposals, experienced researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity in the country of their host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to that deadline. (Host for the IOF corresponds here to the host of the outgoing phase (not the host of the returning phase)).
- For example, I still did not have my PhD at the deadline of the grant I applied for (end of August 2009), but I was involved in the PhD program since the beginning of August 2005. So I had 4 years and about 20 days of research experience.
The similarity between the IEF, IIF and IOF
- The subject area of the grants is large: proposals are welcomed from all areas of scientific and technological research. But there is one exception: research areas covered by the EURATOM Treaty cannot be funded.
- The deadlines to submit your proposal are usually the same for the 3 grants, once a year in August.
- The financial support is very good, it includes:
- a monthly living allowance: This refers to the basic monthly amount to be paid to the experienced researcher. This is then adjusted, applying a correction factor for the cost of living according to the country in which you will be appointed
- a monthly mobility allowance: This is a monthly payment of a flat rate contribution to cover expenses related to the mobility (relocation, family expenses, language courses, travel expenses etc.). As for the living allowance, a correction factor for the cost of living of the country of execution of the project is applied. Either 1000€/month or 700€/month, depending on if you have family obligation or not.
- Contribution to the research/transfer of knowledge expenses of the eligible experienced researcher: This contribution is managed by the host organisation for expenses related to the participation of the experienced researcher in research and transfer of knowledge activities. In principle all costs related to the successful execution of the project by the fellow (e.g. purchase of consumables, participation in conferences and training courses, fees for scientific journals, memberships of scientific associations etc.), and which would normally not arise if the fellow was not hosted at the host organisation, are eligible. 800€ per researcher-month.
- Contribution to overhead: 700€ per researcher-month, to which the correction factor for the cost of living is applied
- Example: you are doing an IEF in France for 2 years, and you do not have a family obligation, your salary (not including money for overhead and the contribution to the research) will be:
Living allowance: € 58,500 x 2 years = 117,000€ ·
Mobility allowance: € 700 x 24 months = 16,800€
Correction factor for France = 115.8%
(Total Living allowance + Mobility allowance)* Correction factor for France = 154,940.40€
Not bad ;) . It’s a good grant to save money.
And you will have additional money for your research!
+ € 700 x 24 months x 115.8% =19,454.40€
+ € 800 x 24 months = 19,200.00€
Usually, those 2 funds are not included in your salary, but as different funds to use when you actually buy material or go to a conference, for example.
Note that if you have more than 10 years of research experience at the time of the deadline the salary is much higher….
Specificity of the IEF, IIF and IOF
- IEF: Proposals for IEF involve a single host organisation established in a Member State or Associated Country. Intra-European Fellowships have a duration of between 12 and 24 months (full time equivalent)
- IIF: Proposals for IIF formally involve an incoming host organisation established in a Member State or Associated country, and if applicable, a return host organization. You have the possibility to have a return phase, but the host of the return phase must be International Co-operation Partner Countries (ICPC). IIF have a duration of between 12 and 36 months, with an incoming phase of 12 to 24 months and a possible return phase of 12 months. The expenses related to the return phase are 15’000€/year.
- IOF: Proposals for IOF formally involve a host organisation established in a Member State or Associated country, and a partner organisation established in a different Third Country. IOF have a duration of between 24 and 36 months (full time equivalent), with an outgoing phase of 12 to 24 months and a final mandatory reintegration phase of 12 months.
5. When / How to apply?
Now you know which grant you are interested in and you want to know how to apply for it!
You were on the page with the table of the different grants you can apply for, click on the grant you are interested in. For example IOF.
Important advice: read this last page very carefully and download all the documents.
When your call will be open, the configuration of the page to apply, as well as all the documents, will be the same (with maybe some updates, but no big changes). The documents are very useful, especially the Guide for Applicants.
The deadlines are almost always the same each year. Therefore, on this page, you can have an idea about when your call will be open and when the deadline will be!
Notice that when your own call of 2012 will be closed, this is on this page that all the updates of your application will be communicated! As it is the case now for the close call of 2011.
6. Is it hard to obtain a Marie Curie Fellowship?
Proposals are selected in an open competition. Selection is through transparent, independent peer review, based on excellence using a series of predetermined criteria.
- 5 criteria are used to evaluate a proposal:
Scientific and Technological quality. This includes any interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary aspects of the proposal; Research methodology; Originality and innovative nature of the project, and relationship to the ‘state of the art’ of research in the field; Timeliness and relevance of the project; Host scientific expertise in the field; Quality of the group/ supervisors.
- Training. This includes the clarity and quality of the research training objectives for the researcher; Relevance and quality of additional scientific training and complementary skills offered; Host expertise in training experienced researchers in the field and capacity to provide mentoring/tutoring.
- Researcher. This includes the research experience; Research results including patents, publications, teaching etc. taking into account the researchers level of experience; Independent thinking and leadership qualities; Match between the fellow’s profile and project; Potential for reaching a position of professional maturity; Potential to acquire new knowledge.
- Implementation. This includes the quality of infrastructure/facilities and International collaborations of the host; Practical arrangements for the implementation and management of the scientific project; Feasibility and credibility of the project, including work plan; Practical and administrative arrangements, and support for the hosting of the fellow.
- Impact. This includes: the potential of acquiring competencies during the fellowship to improve the prospects of reaching and/or reinforcing a position of professional maturity, diversity and independence, in particular through exposure to complementary skills training; Contribution to career development or re-establishment where relevant; Contribution to European excellence and European competitiveness; Benefit of the mobility to the European research area.
You need to address ALL!!!! of these above five criteria and their subcategories in your proposal.
Each criterion is scored out of 5:
0- The proposal fails to address the criterion under examination or cannot be judged due to missing or incomplete information
1- Poor. The criterion is addressed in an inadequate manner, or there are serious inherent weaknesses.
2- Fair. While the proposal broadly addresses the criterion, there are significant weaknesses.
3- Good. The proposal addresses the criterion well, although improvements would be necessary.
4- Very Good. The proposal addresses the criterion very well, although certain improvements are still possible.
5- Excellent. The proposal successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion in question. Any shortcomings are minor.
Additionally, there are thresholds and weighting for each criterion. These can differ among the different Marie Curie Fellowships.
The proposal takes a very long time to prepare. Your actual proposed research project will be a “small” part of the entire proposal. However, if you decide to apply for other grants, the proposal you write with the Marie Currie Fellowship will be very useful. Indeed, the application is very complete and you can use some parts to write other applications (I did that).
Ask someone, who has already applied for a Marie Curie Fellowship, for his/her grant AND his/her rating sheet (called Evaluation Summary Report ESR), even if the application has failed. The rating sheets will give you information about the weak and strong points of the proposal. Both successful and failed applications will give you a lot of information to right your own grant!
7. Any advices?
- Yes. Read this post carefully.
- If you know which Marie Curie Fellowship you want to apply for, then go to the corresponding closed call of the past year (step 5 of this post):
Download and read all the documents. When your call is open, the configuration of the page will still be basically the same as the closed call page.
You will have a good idea about when your call will open and when the next deadline will be!
After the deadline, you will have all the updates concerning your application on this page.
- Ask someone, who has already applied for a Marie Curie Fellowship, for his/her grant AND his/her rating sheet (called Evaluation Summary Report ESR), even if the application has failed. The rating sheets will give you information about the weak and strong points of the proposal. Both successful and failed applications will give you a lot of information to right your own grant!
- Update often your grant.
- Don’t wait until the last moment to submit your proposal. As you know, the servers are always very busy at the time of a deadline. As a result, the connections are very slow and sometimes…do not work at all.
- Use all the help you can! You are not a native English speaker? Try to find someone to help you with that!
- Choose carefully the labs where you want to go, this is a very important criterion. The more the lab/University/Department is known, the higher your rating will be.
8. What about you?
I am French, I got my PhD in Lausanne, Switzerland, from August 2005 to January 2010. I applied in August 2009 for an IOF. My outside host organization is in Bloomington, Indiana (USA) and my return host organization is in Lausanne, Switzerland. I started the outgoing phase in August 2010. I will go back in Lausanne in August 2012 to do my returning phase.
I had a total score of 89.80/100 on my application.
. Scientific and Technology: 4.4/5 (weight 0.25)
. Training: 4.7/5 (weight 0.15)
. Researcher: 4.4/5 (weight 0.25)
. Implementation: 4.3/5 (weight 0.15)
. Impact: 4.7/5 (weight 0.20)
Overall statistics of 2009:
.Number of a proposal submitted: 598
.Number of withdrawn proposals (F): 5
.Number of ineligible proposals (E): 3
.Number of proposals on status A: 120
.Number of proposals on status B: 35
.Number of proposals on status C: 304
.Number of proposals on status D: 131
Status A: Proposal recommended for funding; Status B: Proposal on the reserve list; Status C: Proposals above thresholds but not retained; Status D: Proposals failing one or more threshold.
9. Any more questions?
Contact me if you have more question or if you want advice. For example, the term of the grant (call, a scientist in charge, coordinator) can be a bit confusing.
If you finally obtain one of the grants, the bureaucratic process prior to your commencing research is really annoying, and you might have some questions regarding to that.