Promoting young scientists in a targeted manner is necessary for attracting, training and retaining the best and most creative scientific talent. The FWF’s doc.funds programme for the promotion of doctoral students within the framework of a structured, high-level doctoral programme in line with international standards represents an important building block for enabling young researchers to obtain qualifications and secure optimal career opportunities.
The purpose of doc.funds projects, like the FWF Doctoral Programmes, is to set quality standards in doctoral education and training that comparable programmes can use as a benchmark. The doc.funds programme also makes an important contribution toward strengthening the research area and its human resources by providing targeted funding for doctoral positions.
doc.funds awards grants for structured doctoral programmes that have been in existence at a research institution for at least two years. This second call was also co-financed by the Nationalstiftung.
The FWF had received 28 applications with a volume of around EUR 45 million by the end of the submission deadline for proposals in mid-May 2018. On the basis of a written review drawn up by international experts, 13 consortia with very good to excellent reviews were invited to a hearing before the doc.funds jury at the end of February 2019.
The jury is made up of eleven renowned scientists from European and non-European countries in order to ensure the utmost objectivity in the decision-making process. The jury was chaired by Rick Rylance, Chairman of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council until 2015 and currently Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Dean of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.
At its meeting in early March 2019 the doc.funds jury issued clear recommendations on the basis of the hearings and the international expert reviews. The recommendations were endorsed by the FWF Board at its 72nd meeting and will enable funding for 56 doctoral positions. Together with the additional funds provided by the research institutions, more than 70 new doctoral students will be able to receive funding for a four-year period.
The doc.funds projects in detail
The six doc-funds projects receiving some EUR 11 million in funding are located at the Graz University of Technology, the University of Graz, the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna.
Graz University of Technology
University of Graz
CATALOX – CATalytic mechanisms and AppLications of Oxidoreductases
Coordinator: Robert Kourist
The doc.funds initiative CATALOX brings together ten young researchers to jointly study the mechanisms and applications of oxidoreductases. These biocatalysts make up the largest class of enzymes and play an important role in energy metabolism. The associated doctoral programme is part of a cooperation project between the Graz University of Technology and the University of Graz within the framework programme “NaWI Graz”. As part of their scientific training, doctoral students benefit from collaborating with internationally renowned research group leaders and from participating the focused research projects. Close cooperation with the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB) represents an additional added value for the doctoral students, especially with regard to possible fields of application for the findings reached. The interdisciplinary approach offers young researchers the opportunity to prepare for attractive career options in research and development. The unique environment allows for the acquisition of detailed knowledge in the core areas of biocatalysis and biotechnology, from organic synthesis, mechanistic enzymology, enzyme engineering and structural biology to process engineering.
University of Graz
Coordinator: Monika Oberer
“Molecular Metabolism” is an international and interdisciplinary training programme for doctoral students of the molecular biosciences at the University of Graz. The training programme is supported by ten scientists who study changes in metabolism caused by ageing, nutrition and bacterial infections. A special feature is the opportunity for young scientists to draw on a broad spectrum of different model organisms in studying their research questions. The research questions are of high scientific and social relevance, as the metabolic processes studied are associated with many clinical pictures. The programme aims to provide graduates with the highest level of education, enabling them to become leading experts in a knowledge-based society. A rotation scheme for students in different laboratories, a broad selection of further education opportunities and a strengthening of international visibility in the form of publications and stays abroad also contribute to the added value for doctoral students.
University of Vienna
PhD Program Cultural Mobility Studies
Coordinator: Alexandra Ganser-Blumenau
The interdisciplinary research platform “Mobile Cultures and Societies” at the University of Vienna was launched in 2014. Within the framework of this research and training programme, the seven participating scholars from the Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies and the Faculty of Social Sciences focus primarily on the interconnections between discourses and practices of mobility and immobility, and their aesthetic representations in media and other cultural forms. At the centre of the platform is the examination of global processes of social and cultural diversity. Case studies explore the question of how experience and the importance of mobility and perseverance are expressed and negotiated and to what effect. This unique and interdisciplinary research and training programme is aimed at doctoral students who are seeking a way to participate in the scholarly field and the public debate. This doctoral school model, supported by highly qualified scientists and international mentors, enables talented young researchers to embark on an international career both inside and outside the scientific community.
Medical University of Vienna
International PhD Program in Translational Oncology (IPPTO)
Coordinator: Gergely Szakacs
The international PhD programme in “Translational Oncology” (IPPTO) at the Institute for Cancer Research at the MedUni Vienna is based on the collaboration of fourteen scientists with broad and complementary expertise in the field of oncology research. The planned IPPTO projects cover three research priorities: cellular resistance factors, tumour plasticity and cancer microenvironment. The aim is to improve on the already well-established thematic PhD programme “Malignant Diseases (MADI)” at the MedUni Vienna and to enhance its focus. The IPPTO students benefit from the coherence of the projects, the existing cooperation network among the faculty members, the interdisciplinary approach, improved access to resources and supervision at team level. The commitment of the participating scientists to the training of excellent researchers, in addition to individualised ongoing training measures and the opportunity for active participation in national and international meetings and congresses all form the foundation for the project. The long-term goal is to strengthen the potential for cancer research throughout Austria and to support the transfer of scientific findings to improving the treatment of cancer patients.
University of Vienna
Microbial symbioses in dynamic environments: Metabolic interplay and novel interactions (MAINTAIN)
Coordinator: Matthias Horn, Jillian Petersen
All higher living beings, including humans, are dependent on microorganisms, which perform manifold, and in some cases vital, functions. The doctoral programme “Microbial Symbioses in Dynamic Ecosystems (MAINTAIN)” focuses on the question of how microbial symbioses have developed in the course of evolution, how they function and how they adapt to a constantly changing environment. The examination of these research questions in a number of different model systems provides students with a uniquely broad insight into current symbiosis research. The participants of the doctoral programme are involved in 14 projects, working with renowned researchers from the fields of microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics and chemical analysis. The interdisciplinary environment of the MAINTAIN programme and the thematically focused research topics in a highly topical area of the life sciences offer unique opportunities for young, talented young researchers. An international curriculum with various opportunities for exchanges with established scientists, as well as comprehensive supervision and monitoring ensure a high level of quality in the programme.
University of Vienna
SCORPION: Stem Cells, Tissues, Organoids – Dissecting Regulators of Potency and Pattern Formation
Coordinator: Florian Raible
The scientific work of this doc.funds consortium revolves around fundamental molecular and mechanistic questions of stem cell biology: Which mechanisms are responsible for stem cells becoming specialised cells? How can these mechanisms be reversed, for example during regeneration processes in which specialised cells become stem cells again? And how do stem cells communicate with each other in order to produce whole organs? The consortium includes researchers from the University of Vienna, the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), who study a range of model systems from sea anemones and marine anemones to salamanders, mice, and human organoids. The PhD students will be part of the international Vienna BioCenter PhD programme, which has been supporting innovative basic research across institutions for 30 years. In addition to introducing doctoral students to research work, they also receive intensive training in experimental and bioinformatics methods, bioethics, and concepts of stem cell research.
Austrian Science Fund FWF
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) is Austria's central funding organisation for the promotion of basic research and arts-based research. Applying international quality benchmarks, the FWF provides funding for outstanding research projects and excellent researchers who work to generate, broaden and deepen scientific knowledge.