ATTRACT Mobility Program in Luxemburg
The ATTRACT programme is designed for researchers not yet established in Luxembourg, who demonstrate the potential to become leaders in their field of research. The scheme offers promising junior researchers the opportunity to set up their own research team within one of the country’s research institutions.
Researchers are eligible between 2 and 8 years after their PhD, they must have an outstanding track record in their field which has to fit strategically to the research agenda of the Luxembourg host institution.
Host institutions offer candidates the prospect of developing an own research line. ATTRACT fellows are offered a 1-year individual coaching and a career track towards a tenured position.
In order to be eligible for the programme, candidates must not have been employed by the host institution for more than a year at the time of the full-proposal submission deadline and must have proven experience of research in a professional context for a minimum of two years and a maximum of eight years following successful completion of doctoral studies (career breaks will be considered; see guidelines). Furthermore the candidate should have gained experience in several international research environments and demonstrated mobility in his/her career.
Amongst the applicants falling into this definition, the FNR distinguishes between two categories of target groups:
- Category 1 Starting Investigator: The starting investigators are postdoctoral researchers having made some outstanding contributions to their field of science (through high impact papers for example). They have not yet established (or only just started) their own independent research programme and group, but show great potential in their ability to set up and to establish a research programme and team capable of significantly advancing research in a relevant domain.
- Category 2 Consolidating investigator: Consolidating investigators are experienced postdoctoral researchers with proven track record in the field (high impact papers and acquired external funding for example). They have already established their own independent research line and with the ATTRACT grant they can further consolidate their research programme and group. These candidates may have already been appointed to their first established academic post or group leader position.
The FNR estimates that suitable ATTRACT candidates need to have reached the category 2 stage within 5 years postdoctoral experience barring specific circumstances that may have prevented them devoting time to research after their PhD (such as career breaks).
General conditions for application
Applicants submit their proposal to the FNR jointly with a Luxembourg public-sector research host institution (see section “How to Find a Host Institution for an ATTRACT Project”).
The application should describe a highly innovative research project that is central to a research programme that she/he seeks to establish at the host institution. The project description should be accompanied by a statement by the host institution on how the applicants work fits in the main scientific trust of the ‘department’ where the applicant will reside. The statement should also describe the framework conditions in terms of career perspectives, research and office space and other financial contributions offered to the candidate by the host institution within and beyond the timeframe of the project. A successful ATTRACT candidate (i.e. principal investigator) should be able to manage the research within the remit of the ATTRACT grant and ensuing research group with relative autonomy. The framework condition offered by the host institution should enable the ATTRACT fellow to:
- have full responsibility for the ATTRACT research project and the direction of their overarching research programme,
- be able to submit new projects to funding agencies and with the support of the host institution (i.e. expand their research programme),
- be able to interview and select the required personnel for the ATTRACT project as well as ensuing projects,
- manage the ATTRACT budget at his/her own discretion,
- supervise PhD students,
- initiate new scientific collaborations,
- have access or obtain dedicated lab space and infrastructure for the project-associated analyses and experiments,
- take part in inter-departmental strategic discussion and decision bodies,
- take part in teaching activities
In order to avoid overburdening of the ATTRACT candidates with high teaching and administrative loads during the initial phases of establishing their research programme, upper limits for the first 3 years should be negotiated with the candidate and given in the statement by the institution.
Application, Selection and Evaluation Procedure
The ATTRACT programme foresees one annual deadline and proposals will undergo two evaluation stages:
- Pre-proposal: Assessment of ATTRACT basic requirements concerning the candidate’s track record and strategic merit assessment (SMA) by the ATTRACT standing committee
- Full-proposal: assessment of candidate and research programme to be evaluated by the expert panel
- Funding recommendation by standing ATTRACT panel
All written pre-proposals that are submitted to the FNR before the annual deadline will be evaluated by the standing ATTRACT panel and assessed on their potential contribution to strengthening priority research domains in Luxembourg (see SMA criteria below). The ATTRACT standing panel is composed of members of the FNR’s Scientific Council and other evaluation panels of the FNR. Pre-proposals will also be used to test the eligibility of the applicants and if the general ATTRACT conditions for application are fulfilled namely that the applicant is not employed yet at the institution (or will have been employed for less than a year by the host institution at the time of the full proposal deadline) and that the host institution will provide the appropriate framework conditions in terms of starting position and career perspectives. Candidates retained in the preproposal stage will be invited to submit a Full-proposal.
Full proposal evaluation
Full-Proposals will be evaluated in writing by three independent and senior experts in the relevant field with regard to the criteria set out below (see Panel criteria). Reviewers will look in particular at the quality of the research project, the candidate’s knowledge and experience in the field of research, the level of quality of previous work (measured in terms of publications, previous and current funding etc) and his/her potential to lead and establish an independent research.
Following the written evaluation process, the ATTRACT standing panel will select a limited numbers (usually not more than five) of candidates who will present their projects in an interview session, which will take place in Luxembourg in May/June. The candidates will need to present the proposal in front of the scientific expert panel and representatives of the research institution during an interview session. The scientific panel is composed of experts from the particular field of research as well as members of the standing panel.
The panel may suggest several candidates for funding to the FNR’s Scientific Council. Should no proposals meet the criteria of excellence, the panel explicitly reserves the right not to propose any candidate for funding.
The panel’s proposal will be evaluated by the Scientific Council of the FNR and the final funding decision will then be taken by the Board of the FNR.
Monitoring and final evaluation
During the project monitoring by the FNR is light, but at the end of year 4 a joint evaluation by the host institution and the FNR is foreseen which decides on the tenure/promotion of the candidate (see above).
Scope and duration of funding
ATTRACT provides five year funding with a maximum FNR contribution of € 1,500,000 ‘Starting Investigators’ and €2,000,000 for ‘Consolidating Investigators’ respectively. The FNR also accepts projects which are co-financed by other research bodies, if the resulting construct conforms to the FNR’s general rules and conditions.
The scope of the ATTRACT goes beyond a mere project but seeks to establish a new research programme and group. The funding covers in part the ATTRACT project central to establishing the scientific programme but sufficient leeway should be given in the budget and personnel to be able to initiate several new research lines.
It is also understood that although most of the successful candidate’s working hours will initially be devoted to the ATTRACT project, financed essentially through the FNR’s contribution, the candidate is encouraged to submit additional grant applications to the FNR and other research funders on the international level (e.g. to the European Commission under FP7 or to other European or international programmes).
The candidate will be the scientist in charge of the ATTRACT project and should have a clear mission to establish his/her own research programme and group. He/She will manage both the project and the research team. This will contribute to the career development of the ATTRACT candidate as an independent established researcher.
The ATTRACT programme is not formally restricted to specific research fields. However, the scope of fields is naturally limited by the fields of research covered by the research host institutions in Luxembourg and the proposal should demonstrate that it will contribute in strengthening a focus research area of the host institution. The applicants are advised to consult with the public-sector research bodies well in advance of the submission deadlines to discuss their fit with the institutions' fields of research and internal selection processes of the institution.