Have you considered spending some time abroad, doing research in another European country? Alie Kwint explains the European Community's Marie Curie Mobility Programmes, offering practical hints and useful background information. This second article in our short series Marie Curie Fellowships in Profile focuses on individual-driven fellowships and is primarily directed at experienced researchers; the first article looked at host-driven fellowships.

Brain drain, or, as the European Commission prefers to call it, brain mobility, remains a hot issue for Europe. An EU conference last month on researchers' careers in Europe underlined that fact once more and also made it clear that brain mobility cannot be a goal for its own sake. But mobility schemes can help make Europe more attractive for researchers, the EC hopes. Currently, the EC's most important mobility schemes are the Marie Curie actions.

Individual-Driven Fellowships

The Marie Curie Fellowships include individual-driven actions: those initiated by researchers. The researcher submits a research proposal to the EC jointly with a host organisation. In most cases, there are already scientific contacts between the researcher and the host, and they jointly formulate an idea for a research project. It is also possible for researchers to formulate a project proposal and then contact a host institution where they would like to carry out the project. The project may be in any area of scientific and technological research of interest to the European Community. If the EC selects the proposal, the host receives funding to pay the researcher's (full) salary and part of the project costs.

Three Types

There are three types of individual-driven fellowships. First are the Intra-European Fellowships. A researcher from the European Union or Associated States submits a proposal for a research project to be carried out at a European host organisation. The project may last from 12 to 24 months.

Second are the Outgoing International Fellowships (OIFs). The prospective fellow submits a proposal for a research project to be carried out partly in a third country, meaning any country outside the European Union and Associated States, for 12 to 24 months. To prevent a permanent brain drain from Europe, individuals receiving OIFs must return to Europe for the so-called reintegration phase of their project, which lasts for half of the period spent in the third country (i.e., 6 to 12 months).

Third are the Incoming International Fellowships. Top-class researchers from third countries submit a proposal for a research project in Europe, in some cases followed by a reintegration phase in their home countries. These fellowships are for 12 to 24 months. If there is a reintegration phase, this will last half the time of the incoming phase.

Income

The EC pays the researcher's full salary, resulting in a net salary that is at least comparable to salaries of non-Marie Curie postdocs working in a specific country. The host institute also receives a contribution for the execution of the project.

Fellows

Individuals who wish to submit a proposal for one of these fellowships must be Experienced Researchers as defined by the EC (see box). There are no age limits; rather, it is the extent of the researcher's experience that counts.

"Experienced Researchers"

The EC distinguishes between Early Stage Researchers and Experienced Researchers. An Experienced Researcher, according to the EC's definition, is one who has acquired at least 4 years of research experience (full-time equivalent) since gaining a university diploma giving access to doctoral studies in the country in which the degree/diploma was obtained, or researchers already in possession of a doctoral degree (Ph.D.).

The Researcher's Career

The EC believes that the further along researchers are in their career, the more specific their training needs. This applies to both scientific and nonscientific skills, expertise, and knowledge. The EC also recognises that to have a successful scientific career, scientific knowledge and expertise alone will not suffice. Today's researchers also need to be well informed about business and management issues such as project management, intellectual property, and funding for research projects. Experienced researchers therefore can submit individual-driven research proposals that are tailored to their specific needs, which will give them the necessary boost to become independent researchers.

Promoting Mobility

Promoting mobility means also that fellows may not be nationals of the country in which their host institution is situated. In other words, a Dutch researcher cannot do a Marie Curie Fellowship in the Netherlands. Furthermore, a fellow may not have carried out his or her main activity (e.g., work, studies) in the host country for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the start date of the fellowship. Thus, a German who had recently completed a Ph.D. in the Netherlands would also not be eligible to apply for a Marie Curie Fellowship to carry out postdoctoral research in the Netherlands.

Hosts

In the Marie Curie program, a researcher applies for an individual-driven fellowship in liaison with a host organisation. Host organisations must be active in research or research training. These can be universities, research centres, commercial enterprises (from a one-person company to a multinational), or international organisations. For the Intra-European Fellowships, the Incoming International Fellowships, and the return phase of the OIFs, the host organisation must be located in a European Member State or an Associated State. Naturally, the host institution for the outgoing phase of the OIFs must be located outside of the European Member States and Associated States.

Deadlines

The deadlines for the following round of individual-driven fellowships will be 18 February 2004 for Intra-European Fellowships and 12 February 2004 for Incoming and Outgoing fellowships. Documentation and forms can be downloaded from Cordis. Evaluations from the first round of applications are being finalised, although initial results are published on the commission's Web site. New evaluation results will be added as they become available. Testimonials from fellows who received funding under the FP5 versions of these programs can be found on the same Web site.

The EC has set up a network of National Contact Points (NCPs) who can provide information and support to researchers and host organisations wishing to submit a Marie Curie proposal. There are NCPs for the Marie Curie programmes in all European states. For a list of NCPs, please see the help desk Web site.

Further information about the Marie Curie programme in general can be found here.