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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 9, 2008
Polish Science
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Grants for Young Scientists and Their Mentors
July 9, 2008   
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A wide range of grant programs are available to outstanding scientists in Poland to help them develop their talent and upgrade their research equipment.

The Foundation for Polish Science, a self-financing nongovernmental organization that was established in 1991 to support the country's scientific community, has launched a number of programs to support young scientists and their mentors.

The Start bursary program is one of the foundation's key projects for young scientists who can boast the biggest successes in research.

"The Start bursaries, awarded since 1993, are regarded within the scientific community as one of the most prestigious awards that can be obtained by a young Polish researcher," says Magdalena Kowalczyk, from the foundation's information and promotion department. The bursaries, each worth zl.24,000 per annum, are testament to young people's scientific achievements to date and motivate them to remain and develop further in the field of science. The foundation hopes that such a sum will provide the financial support Ph.D. students and young people with doctoral degrees need to carry out research.

Young people up to the age of 30 years-or 32 in the case of those who have small children and have taken child-care leave-can compete for the Start bursaries if they are either employees or Ph.D. student researchers in research institutions and have had their work published in renowned scientific periodicals. Start bursaries are financed from funds received by the foundation in 2003-2004 from the privatization of state-owned enterprises. A total of zl.51.7 million from privatization proceeds was earmarked for bursaries for outstanding young academics at the start of their scientific careers. This year 118 people received bursaries in April.

"The foundation strives to tailor its programs to the requirements of the Polish scientific community," says Kowalczyk. "International collaboration and stays in research centers abroad are currently the basis of career development for every scientist. This is why the foundation aids Polish academics with secondments to scientific institutions abroad. At the same time, it tries to ensure that the best young scientists want to return to Poland."

The foundation's key program is Kolumb (Columbus), which helps young Ph.D. graduates gain experience in scientific work abroad. Kolumb bursaries facilitate stays in the best scientific centers in the world for those people who have not yet worked on a long-term basis abroad.

The foundation nevertheless wants to encourage people to return to Poland and for this purpose created the Homing program in 2006. Participants in the Homing program receive a two-year bursary worth some zl.30,000 per year and additional funding to continue international collaboration and further research. "We hope that this funding improves scientists' working conditions in Poland to such a degree as to make them competitive vis-a-vis those offered by good scientific centers abroad," says Kowalczyk.

In a continuous effort to retain the most talented young scientists in Poland, the foundation is developing programs to ensure that scientific work in Poland is carried out to the highest global standards without the need to leave the country. Mindful of the best scientists who intend to develop their careers in Poland, the foundation recently launched several international Ph.D. programs such as Team and Welcome, which are financed from European Union structural funds. These two programs are designed to provide Polish scientists with research conditions that are similar to those offered by foreign universities. Team and Welcome bursaries fund remuneration, research, and collaboration with the best scientists and research centers in the world.

Grants for professors
Seasoned scientists are eligible for assistance under the Mistrz (Master) program that each year awards grants to professors. Last year 12 researchers received such grants. Each grant was worth zl.300,000 over three years. Each professor can take 30 percent of the sum for themselves and allocate the rest as grants for their coworkers and students and to finance participation in scientific conferences or new equipment.

The foundation's best-known program involves the "Polish Nobel" awards, as they are commonly called. The Polish Nobels are awarded to scientists for their achievements and discoveries during the last four years. Last year, each of the four winners received zl.200,000.

Yet another award is the Copernicus Polish-German Science Award, a joint initiative between the Foundation for Polish Science and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Germany's central public funding organization for academic research. An award of 25,000 euros every two years goes to one scientist from each of the two countries. This year the winners were Prof. Andrzej Sobolewski from the Polish Academy of Sciences' Physics Institute in Warsaw and Wolfgang Domcke from the Chemistry Department of the Technical University of Munich. Two years ago, the first time the awards were handed out, the winners were Prof. Barbara Malinowska from the Pharmaceutical Department of the Medical University of Bia³ystok and Prof. Eberhard Schlicker from the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department of the University of Bonn.

Marcin Rybicki
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