Guidelines for the application process for Postdoc Stipends within the Returners Program of the Palestinian-German Science Bridge
The Palestinian-German Science Bridge is a pilot project financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF and implemented jointly by Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH and Palestinian Academy for Science and Technology PALAST. The main goal is the development of a joint research and education program between Forschungszentrum Jülich and Palestinian research institutes. The PGSB provides mobility scholarships to exceptional STEM students from Palestinian universities, granting them access to state-of-the-art equipment in Jülich for the experimental part of their BSc. or MSc. thesis or for a 3-year PhD project. After successful completion of their research project, PGSB alumni are expected to return to Palestine to establish their own research groups in science and technology and/or contribute to the development of new PhD programs, creating the nucleus of a Palestinian science and technology infrastructure.
Starting in 2020, the PGSB has funding available for 10 x 2-year Postdoc Stipends in the framework of a returners program. The purpose of this program is to assist our PhD alumni in returning to or becoming involved in research activities with a university or a research unit in Palestine, while simultaneously enabling them to establish themselves as experienced scientists in their field and increasing the strength of the research cooperations, knowledge transfer and the long-term sustainability of the PGSB -project in general. A model working plan during the Postdoc period is to be agreed upon between the Jülich institute and the Palestinian university/institution in advance and submitted as part of the application. This plan should be individually written in order to best meet the interests of the candidate, the Jülich institute, the research cluster (if applicable) and the Palestinian university/institution, but should at least involve some months actively working in Palestine.
All PGSB PhD Students are eligible to apply for this program after the submission of their PhD thesis to their respective university faculties and preferably after passing the doctoral exam, although an initial submission before the exam will be permitted. Due to the individual time plans of the PhD theses, there will not be hard submission deadlines for Postdoc applications and the decision process will not take place as part of the yearly PGSB workshop. PhD students at Palestinian universities who who performed parts of their PhD in Jülich and completed the degree at a Palestinian university (for example students in An Najah University’s physics and chemistry programs) and Palestinian students who have completed a PhD in Jülich but weren’t PGSB Fellows are also eligible to apply for PostDoc positions.
Note: this program is not an extension to the PhD time – students who need more time to submit their PhD thesis should inform both their supervisors and the PGSB project office to discuss an individual solution. This program is also not a guaranteed Postdoc position for PGSB Fellows. Only candidates who can clearly demonstrate scientific excellence and a project that will benefit all involved parties will be considered for a position in this program.
Application documents to be submitted
In order to be considered for a Postdoc Stipend, an applicant should send electronic copies of the following documents to the PGSB Project office, Cate Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org):
- Nomination from a Jülich Institute Director
- Complete CV
- List of publications, patents, awards won, conference participation (and poster/presentation)
- Copy of PhD thesis
- 2 suggestions for a non-biased external reviewer who will be asked to fill out an evaluation form to assess the scientific excellence of the candidate (only one review per candidate is necessary)
- Copy of PhD certificate as soon as possible (not necessarily with the initial application)
- Cover letter explaining what the candidate intends to do during the Postdoc period and why they are an asset to the returners program
- Letter of commitment from home university/institution in Palestine stating their commitment to hosting the Postdoc part-time over the next 2 years, and a proposal how absorbing the alumni beyond the postdoc time would be possible, signed by the Steering Committee Member of that university (Dean of Research or Graduate Studies or university/institution president). Optimally, the university would jointly develop a 5-year career plan with the candidate, to be signed by all parties.
- Supplementary documents if applicable: i.e. documentation that a Postdoc project will be forwarding the work of a research cluster, a signed MTA/other contract if necessary for completion of joint project between Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Palestinian University/institution
The advisory committee in Jülich will evaluate all applications in tri- to quarterly sessions. Since the PGSB Fellows have a wide range of scientific backgrounds, the nomination letter of the candidate’s institute director and the external evaluation will be an important basis for assessing the scientific excellence of a candidate.
The Palestinian members of the advisory committee will be asked to join the evaluation process remotely, either by video conference or by sending their evaluation per email.
All applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Scientific excellence – to be measured by standard indicators, such as publication record, patents, awards won and of nomination arguments
- Indication that the candidate is an established ambassador for PGSB – for example through shown participation in workshops, excellent track record of scientific activities during yearly networking visits or continuous cooperation or interest in research in Palestine during the PhD years
- Possibility of a sustainable research cooperation – the candidate successfully convinces the committee that their suggested research and teaching activities will make a lasting contribution to a sustainable research cooperation by becoming an active partner in the ongoing work of a research cluster or starting a new group/activity in a field that is important to solving societal challenges in Palestine and building a research infrastructure
- Strong, binding commitment by the Palestinian university/institution to support the career of the young scientist. This can be shown by:
- Committing to provide the Postdoc with adequate /research opportunities at the university during the Postdoc years. The extent of presence in Palestine and model of cooperation is to be planned individually. Examples of how the university could show support for the candidate during the Postdoc period include, but are not limited to, granting the candidate the authority to supervise undergraduate thesis projects, providing the candidate with lab space or a teaching position for several months per year, and allowing the candidate to take an active, leading role in their chosen research activities.
- A clear commitment regarding the long-term future of the young scientist and his/her research activities. This can be communicated via financial support, agreement to employ the scientist after the Postdoc period, establishment of new study programs or research laboratories in the relevant field (and therefore opening new teaching and research possibilities for the Postdoc), etc. . For an example of how this can be effectively shown, please see point (9) under ‘Application Document’.
The university must also show that they are taking clear steps to provide the necessary opportunities, infrastructure and environment to build up local research capacities.
We will be accepting applications at any time and evaluating them at fixed appointments 3-4 times per year. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding the returners program. We plan to award a maximum of five Fellowships in the years 2020 – 2021. Further Fellowships, up to 10 total, will be awarded in 2022.
We look forward to receiving many excellent applications and wish all PGSB Fellows the best of luck for their future, whether in Jülich, Palestine or elsewhere.
Goals of the returners program:
Benefit for PhD alumni
The returners program aims to benefit PGSB alumni in the following manner:
Short-term: In the short-term, the alumni is given two further years of direct access to the excellent research infrastructure at Jülich in order to further build his/her scientific career. Additionally, the alumni has the opportunity to spend several months of this time at their home university in Palestine. This allows them to:
- Give back to their home country in terms of knowledge-transfer
- Bring new ideas to Palestine and Germany and further develop the cooperation based on actual need and interest in Palestine
Long-term: The candidates should use these 2 years to build their research profiles and make contacts both in Palestine and elsewhere. This time should help them to determine if their professional goals can be met by furthering their career at a Palestinian university/research institution. If this doesn’t seem possible, they should explore alternative models to give back to the Palestinian society, for example by continuing their career in Europe and providing mobility options for Palestinian students, applying for joint research projects e.g. measurement times, etc.
Benefit for the Jülich institute/University and the Palestinian University
The returners program will benefit the Forschungszentrum Jülich in that it allows them to keep excellent doctoral researchers for two additional years as postdoctoral researchers. It also allows the Forschungszentrum Jülich to continue to grow international cooperations with Palestine in a dynamic and interactive way.
The returners program is an opportunity for Palestinian universities to reabsorb excellently qualified researchers into their research and education system. It is also a chance to maintain strong ties to Forschungszentrum Jülich while simultaneously building up their own research and education platforms and/or infrastructure. Using this opportunity to it’s full potential will require a certain level of commitment from the Palestinian universities, but could go a long way toward improving the quality of education and research, as well as competitiveness and visibility of the university, specifically in chosen areas of specialization.
As a long-term benefit for both Jülich and the Palestinian universities, the results of the returns program, combined with the work of the research clusters, will likely form the seeds of any follow-up project in cooperation involving infrastructure in Palestine (similar to the smart-lab solution in GGSB – we need PI’s to run such labs, and the successful returners/their hosts would be ideal candidates)
Contribution to the visibility of Palestinian Universities and research institutions in the scientific community
The teaching and/or research provided by returners at Palestinian universities would also directly impact the quality of education and/or research and, in the best case, open up new fields of study for interested students. It would also give researchers in Jülich a direct window to the needs and interests of Palestinian universities, allowing them to better identify relevant topics for successful research cooperations. This would be a critical advantage, for example when applying for further 3rd party funding.
Participants in the returners program could have two affiliations – Jülich/German University and the Palestinian university (note: all details to this need to be worked out in advance and would be dependent on, among other things, contract regulations and good scientific practice). This would increase the visibility of the participating Palestinian university via joint publications, conference participation, awarding of measurement times, proposals for 3rd party funding, etc.
All alumni are a valuable resource to helping the country establish itself in the scientific community via advocacy and future assistance/mobility efforts. This includes both people who stay in academic research and those who go into industry/management.
This combination of better visibility, better quality of education and research and more future opportunities should go a long way toward helping Palestinian universities and research institutions establish themselves in the global scientific community, especially those who see the importance of this step and are willing to make the necessary commitment to supporting research platforms in Palestine.