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\"POLONEZ is a Fellowship Programme supporting international incoming researchers working in the broad field of basic research regardless of their age and nationality. It has been implemented by the National Science Centre (NCN), a government agency funding basic research in...


\"POLONEZ is a Fellowship Programme supporting international incoming researchers working in the broad field of basic research regardless of their age and nationality. It has been implemented by the National Science Centre (NCN), a government agency funding basic research in Poland. The programme was awarded funding of nearly € 6 M by the European Commission within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Cofund under Horizon 2020.
The major objective of the POLONEZ programme has been to increase the international mobility of experienced researchers by providing them with an opportunity to work in research-focused Polish organisations in both the academic and private R&D sector.
To reach this aim, the NCN offers 12-24-month-fellowships with not only attractive working conditions but also the opportunity to move between academic and other settings. Apart from living, mobility and family allowances, which amount to ca. € 4 350 per month, the researchers are offered a grant to cover the costs of a research project in their discipline and a Polish host institution of their own choice. The grant covers expenditures of hiring co-investigators, purchasing small equipment, materials and publications, as well as reimbursement of the costs of field research and attendance at scientific conferences. In addition, the host institution guarantees access to its infrastructure, equipment, facilities and office/laboratory space necessary to complete the fellows’ research objectives. The host institution also ensures regular cooperation with a research partner - an excellent scientist with broad experience in the relevant field of research.
Another aim of the POLONEZ programme is to improve incoming researchers’ scientific and transferable skills and competences necessary for a successful international career, either in the public or private sector.
To facilitate this process, the host institution provides the fellow with short term cross-sectoral study visits in research organisations, NGOs and/or private companies while the NCN organises a custom-made training programme reflecting the fellows’ needs identified on the basis of a survey and consisting of:
• workshops covering a range of topics from strategic thinking & decision-making, to project and team management, negotiations, networking and public speaking skills, to stress management. The sessions also boost fellows’ knowledge about protection of intellectual property, transfer of technology and the commercialisation of research results;
• individual coaching sessions (offered to 10 selected fellows) which help to plan the fellows’ career paths;
• networking meetings allowing the fellows to come into contact with excellent practitioners, representatives of R&D businesses, which encourage the participants to build up inter-sectoral collaboration and discover new paths of carrier development.
Last but definitely not least of all the issues addressed by the POLONEZ programme is the \"\"widening participation\"\" of Polish researchers and institutions in Horizon 2020. The incoming MSCA fellowship scheme implemented by the NCN leads to increased international visibility of Poland as a European country with a very good potential to offer research infrastructures and new positions for international researchers. The POLONEZ programme has attracted 110 international researchers to 50 domestic institutions, which compared to only 16 researchers who successfully applied for MSCA Individual Fellowships in Poland (2014-2017) marks a considerable strengthening of the European Research Area and further bolstering of scientific excellence.\"

Work performed

During the first two years of the POLONEZ MSCA programme, three calls for proposals were implemented receiving a total of 1151 proposals submitted by academics from all 6 continents.
After the initial eligibility check performed by NCN scientific officers, the projects followed a two stage evaluation process by external specialists, over 90% of whom were international experts. The peer review evaluation was complemented by individual interviews with the applicants, via Skype videoconference. The panel discussion based on both external reviews and interviews was decisive in the final ranking.
The overall success rate in POLONEZ calls was 9,56%. Within the three calls, 110 scholars were awarded fellowships in 50 host institutions in Poland: 34 female and 76 male fellows, the majority of whom come from European countries. The international aspect of the programme is strengthened by the participation of 13 grantees from North America (USA, Canada), 5 from Asia (Singapore, India, Japan) and 1 from Australia. 93% of fellows applied for the 24-month project. The other 7% of successful candidates chose the 12-month fellowship.
The first fellowships started on 1st September 2016. By the 31st August 2017 all three calls for proposals had been concluded and 74 out of 110 POLONEZ grantees started their fellowships.
The average cost of the two-year project is € 196 206 (€ 133 204 without the fellow’s living and mobility allowance), whereas the cost of the one-year project amounts to € 93 121 (€ 61 620 without the fellow’s living and mobility allowance). A total amount of 84,75 M PLN (ca. € 20,23 M) was granted for all POLONEZ projects.
The NCN supports host institutions in their tasks by financing the costs of co-investigators and research and allocating an additional 20% of the total direct costs of each project as overheads.

Final results

In addition to the research grant and individual salary, each fellow is given an opportunity to participate in the POLONEZ training programme described above.
POLONEZ fellowships create an environment for fellows to become active in the dissemination of research results to both academic and lay audiences. The NCN expects different forms of dissemination of the 110 research projects, including papers in renowned scientific journals, presentations given both at conferences and during varied events. This will also bolster effective communication skills with the media or general public. The fellows are also obliged to reach the non-academic community by organising some activities promoting the research or its results.
Each POLONEZ grantee has been given a chance to create his/her own research team, supported by an experienced research partner. Thanks to the POLONEZ programme, new job opportunities have been created for the fellows’ co-investigators. Both formal and informal interaction within the ambitious and stimulating Polish research environment should help fellows to broaden their experience and consolidate their positions among excellent researchers. At the same time, this interaction will influence the Polish scientific community, enabling them to share interests and discus scientific problems with international colleagues. This interaction may lead to new joint projects and scientific collaboration.
Fellows who would like to continue their career in Poland after completing the POLONEZ fellowship will also be offered a wide range of funding schemes put forward by the NCN on a regular basis. A wide range of Polish funding opportunities, including those from the NCN, the Foundation for Polish Science and the National Center of Research and Development will be presented to fellows during a huge networking event, due to be held in Krakow in 2018.

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