GUIDE FOR APPLICANTS
ASTRONOMY FELLOWSHIPS IN ITALY
CO-FUNDED BY FP7 MARIE CURIE ACTIONS
Disclaimer: This Guide has no legal value in itself and does not supersede the Call for Proposals (Bando)
AstroFIt is a co-funded project by the Marie Curie Actions of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (FP7) and INAF, the National Institute for Astrophysic
The programme is four-year long and it offers the chance to gain experience at INAF structures in the following sectors: galaxies and cosmology; stars, stellar population and interstellar medium; sun and solar system; relativistic and particle astrophysics and advanced technology and instruments.
AstroFIt aims at recruiting talented and experienced researchers that have carried out research in other countries. Incoming and Re-integration mobility are supported. AstroFIt will also implement a career development plan where training is provided also for non-scientific and complementary skills.
Fourteen (14) fellowships will be offered, with two calls, each one including three (3) Incoming mobility fellowships and four (4) Re-integration fellowships.
AstroFIt grants have a duration of two years.
At the relevant deadline for submission of proposals, researchers have to demonstrate transnational mobility (incoming or re-integration) and must have at least 4 years of research experience or be holders of a doctorate.
Applicants to incoming mobility fellowship have to be non-residents of the country of the host organization. It means that they have not resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Italy for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the call deadline. Short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
Applicants to reintegration fellowship must be Italian nationals who have carried out research in a Third Country for at least 3 years in the last 4 years prior to the deadline for submission of proposal. Short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.
Full professors, associate professors and “ricercatori” in Italian universities and employees of Italian research public institutions are all excluded from entering the competition.
The grant cannot be held contemporarily with attendance at academic courses, “laurea specialistica” academic courses, and “laurea magistrale” academic courses, as well as with attendance at PhD courses with fellowship.
The grant cannot be held contemporarily with other fellowships of whatever kind, except those awarded with the aim of integrating the training or research activity of the fellowship holder through a period spent abroad.
Aggregation of income from working activities, also part-time, carried out continuously is not accepted. Instead, limited self-employed occasional work is compatible with the grant, only if this is not prejudicial to the research activity carried out for INAF. This must be authorized in advance by the Director of the INAF structure where most part of the research activity of the grant is carried out.
When formally accepting the grant, the successful candidate will issue a declaration of absence of inadmissible cumulating of grants/fellowships.
Researchers who receive an AstroFIt grant are considered as a Marie Curie Fellows.
The research fellowship is awarded in order to carry out a research project freely chosen by the fellow. The project will be carried out at one of the INAF research structures, that include 19 Institutes broadly distributed in Italy and each candidate will identify the structure more suitable for her/his proposed project.
INAF Research Structures
The candidates will be free to choose within a scientific area (one or more in case of interdisciplinary projects) which INAF research activities are related to:
- Galaxies and Cosmology
- Stars, Stellar Populations and Interstellar medium
- Sun and Solar System
- Relativistic and Particle Astrophysics
- Advanced Technology and Instruments
- Living allowance
The employment contract for the Incoming and Re-integration fellows will fix a yearly reference rate for monthly living allowances of 40.000 EUR/year. This amount includes the provisions for all compulsory deductions under national applicable legislation (Law 20 December 2010, n. 240, art. 22).
- Travel allowance
Fellows are entitled to 2 travel allowances. The first travel allowance shall be paid first upon taking up appointment and yearly after. It amounts to 1500EUR/year and it is subject to national applicable deductions, irrespective of the actual travel costs incurred by the researcher.
- Research cost contribution
The host INAF structure will receive from INAF headquarters a yearly amount of 5.000 Euro for the benefit of the fellow. This amount will be used for any expense needed to carry out the research project, including travel expenses for annual meetings.
- Work accident insurance
Fellows work accident insurance will be provided by INAF to cover work accidents, occupational diseases and invalidity.
Each candidate should identify the most suitable INAF structure of carrying out her/his proposed project and may indicate a scientific staff member in the host structure as contact point and supervisor. If the application does not contain any indication, the local supervisor will be assigned by the Director of the hosting structure in agreement with the fellow, after the evaluation. In any case the indication of a supervisor do not have any impact on the evaluation results.
If useful for the research project, the fellow could spend periods of time working in different INAF structures. This option should be foreseen in the proposal application and will be evaluated by the Selection Committee (SC) or it could be agreed between the fellow and her/his supervisor during the preparation of the career development plan.
A researcher can apply just for one of the following fellowships types:
- Incoming mobility fellowship
- Reintegration Fellowship
If necessary, the applicant can replace a submitted proposal and send a new one before the deadline. In any case only the last proposal received will be evaluated.
The applications have to include the following documents:
- The application form, containing curriculum vitae and description of the research proposal;
- A copy of a valid identity document (ID card or passport);
- A letter of commitment signed by the Director of the selected INAF Research Structure, where it will be ensure the appropriate conditions (office, laboratory space, equipment etc) for the correct development of the proposed project, together with the necessary administrative support;
Templates of the application form and the letter of commitment are available on the AstroFIt website.
In the unlikely event of a failure of the INAF web service due to breakdown of the server during the last 24 hours of the call, the deadline will be extended by a further 24 hours from the date of the re-establishment of communications. This will be notified by e-mail to all the applicants who had submitted their proposal by the time of the original deadline and also by a notice on the call web page.
The INAF staff will send an acknowledgement of receipt to the e-mail address of the researcher given in the submitted proposal. The acknowledgement of receipt does not imply that the proposal has been accepted as eligible for the evaluation. After the deadline of the call for proposal, the applications will be analysed by the INAF administrative staff in order to check their eligibility. The rejection due to ineligibility will be promptly communicated to the applicants, explaining the reasons. The candidate can submit a request for redress within 20 days from the receipt of the communication.
The Selection Committee (SC) is composed by 5 members including the Chair and 2 substitute components are also appointed.
The SC (both members and substitutes) is appointed according to the following criteria:
a) A high level of expertise;
b) An appropriate and wide range of competencies in astrophysics;
c) A gender balance (at least one third);
d) Two experts non-resident in Italy.
Referees will perform evaluations on a personal basis, not as representatives of their employer, their country or any other entity. They are expected to be independent, impartial and objective, and to behave throughout in a professional manner. They will sign an appointment letter including a declaration on confidentiality and conflict of interests before beginning their work.
Conflicts of interests may include: a) family or other close relationship, b) previous close collaboration with the candidate; c) a direct involvement on the specific proposal.
The components with such conflicts will refrain to evaluate the proposal(s) of the candidate(s) concerned. In any case, each proposal will be evaluated by at least three members of the SC. In the cases for which this cannot be ensured (more than two SC members have conflict of interest versus a proposal/candidate), the substitutes will be involved in the evaluation.
The selection procedure will be the following:
A) Each SC member will view and/or download all the documents sent by the candidates, available in a site with restricted access.
The proposals will be assessed independently by each Committee member free from conflicts. They will read the applications and provide a preliminary grade for each evaluation criterion, accompanied by a short report. These preliminary grades will be collected by the chair of the SC and distributed among the members (Remote evaluation).
B) The SC will meet to discuss the evaluations for each proposal in order to reach a common view by consensus. Two initial ranked lists (one for each mobility type) will be created. (Consensus meeting)
C) Only in presence of a disagreement among the individual scores and of the impossibility to reach a common view, a candidate will be called for an interview (either in person or via teleconference). At the interview, all the SC members will be present.
D) A written evaluation for each candidate will be prepared and a final complete ranked list will be produced. (Final decision). The final qualified ranked list will include all the ranked candidates with a grade above the threshold. The fellowships will be offered to the candidates with the highest grades. In case of withdraw the position will be offered to the next in the final qualified ranked list.
Considering the bottom-up approach of AstroFIt, the first ranked proposals will be accepted regardless of the thematic area or the requested research Structure.
In case of even score, the gender balance, returning after a career breakas well as the provenience of the applicant from a less favoured EU region will be taken into account.
Scientific and technological quality of the proposal as well as the curriculum of the applicant and the content of the reference letters will be the main aspects to be evaluated, as indicated in the following table:
Scientific/technological quality, including the originality and innovative nature of the project
Research experience as research activities in public and private institutions including previous fellowships or appointments
Timeliness and relevance of the project as well as integration with the hosting structure
PI-ship/CoI-ship of scientific programmes, and capability of programme management
Research results including publications in international refereed journals, patents, invited talks at international meetings, international award/prizes etc
Each criteria, will be scored out of 10. A threshold of 6 will be applied to each criterion and an overall threshold of 70% will be applied to all proposals.
Proposals failing to meet the overall threshold will not be placed on the final qualified ranked lists.
The SC will take into account the career breaks possibly occurred for justified reasons, such as civil or military service, parenthood, or family care and/or unconventional research career paths, especially in the case of women.
In particular the SC will evaluate the research experience and results obtained by the applicant, referring to the time actually spent in the research activities and not simply to the time passed from the PhD fulfilment.
The selection procedure will be concluded not later than five months from the deadline for applications and the final qualified ranked lists will be published on the AstroFit website.
If an awarded researcher resigns after the beginning of the fellowship, it may be assigned to the following candidate on the condition that she/he may be appointed for at least 12 months.
The redress procedure may be submitted by a candidate:
- after the communication on his/her application ineligibility
- upon reception of the feedback on the outcome of the evaluation, if she/he thinks that there has been a shortcoming in the way a proposal has been evaluated.
The redress procedure is not meant to call into question the scientific judgement made by the SC; it will look procedural shortcomings and into factual errors. The request for redress will be raised within 20 days from receiving the related communication.
The Board of the Programme will examine all such complaints and does not itself evaluate the proposal. The Board may recommend the evaluation or the re-evaluation of the proposal. A reply will be sent to the complainants not later than one month after the deadline for redress request.
The final ranked lists (one for each mobility type) will be published on the AstroFIt website.
The highest ranked candidate will receive a notification of award of the research fellowship.
The awardees must declare their acceptance by registered mail within 2 weeks of the notification. In case of refusal or missing formal acceptance, the grant can be awarded to the following candidate in the ranking list.
INAF will appoint the researchers by an “Assegno di ricerca”. A contract will be signed between the director of the hosting Structure and the fellow. The fellows will be remunerated as indicated below.
Expected starting date of the research project is within 4 months from the award of the fellowship.
The fellow must devote himself full time to the activities for an extended period of 24 months, unless there are duly justified reasons connected to personal or family circumstances and subjects to prior approval of the Board of the Programme.
The fellow, however, may propose to suspend part, or all, of the project due to personal, family (including parental leave) or professional reasons. The request of suspension by the fellow must be accompanied by the necessary justifications. When such a suspension request does not result in an extension exceeding by 30% the duration of the project, the Board of the Programme will approve the request if duly justified and provided that the total duration of the project does not overcome the duration of the grant agreement.
During the appointment, each fellow, for her/his research activities, shall not be allowed to receive other incomes than those received from INAF according to the following allowances.
At the beginning of the appointment the fellow will prepare a development plan with the help of her/his supervisor. A copy will be send to the Board of the Programme for any suggestions. This plan has to be considered a live document that will be verified and eventually updated during the fellowship.
The development plan will include:
1) The development plan will include:
2) the acquisition of scientific skills needed for realizing the scientific objectives of the proposed programme;
3) the acquisition of technical and scientific skills of general use in astrophysics and in other scientific fields;
4) training in non-scientific areas.
The activities of point 1) will depend on the specific scientific program of the fellow and may include the study or development of theoretical models, instrumentation, experimental set-up, data analysis, etc.
The point 2) is more general and may foresee of getting some practice in using software typically adopted in astrophysics and in scientific context, the fellows may study specific programming language, develop their ability in statistical analysis, mathematical techniques, etc.
Finally the activities in 3) may include educational skills. The fellows may collaborate with the educational activities already ongoing at the host institutes. They may learn to manage a project of small/medium size, to prepare reports, to write new proposals both national that European.
Training in non-scientific skills can be suggested by the Board of the Program and INAF is also entitled to organize them for all the fellows.
The fellow will be fully integrated in the activities of the host institution. She/he will have the possibility to participate to seminars and conferences organized by the host, and is expected to give one or more seminars illustrating his scientific activities. She/he will have the opportunity to join national/international projects in which the host is involved, participating to large projects within big collaborations that are common in astrophysics. If interested, she/he may also collaborate on voluntary basis, as the other researchers in the hosts, on educational and didactic activities.
Each awarded researcher shall submit two scientific reports: an intermediate report at the end of the first year of activity and a final report within 1 month after the conclusion of their fellowship. Each report will be sent together with recommendations by the local scientific supervisor to the Board of the Program. The scientific reports must be countersigned by the Director of the structure and the local scientific supervisor.
In the reports each fellow will present her/his achievements gained in the previous period, comparing them with the originally proposed project and with the career development plan built by the fellow at the beginning of his/her appointment. The reports will include specific and general scientific activities, as well as non-scientific training activities, and in case of needs will be used to adjust the remaining activity plan.
At the end of the fellowship each fellow will be asked to answer to a brief questionnaire on the implementation of the programme, that will be used to improve the programme.
The annual meeting of the awarded fellows will give them the possibility to present their work to the relevant scientific community and will give to the Board of the program the opportunity to get directly in touch with the fellows and to monitor their experiences.
At the end of the fellowship, the awarded researcher will be invited to deliver a talk on the scientific results obtained in an official AstroFIt seminar organised by INAF.
In any time the fellow may contact the Board for any question or problem relevant to her/his fellowships.
During the AstroFIt programme any suggestion that a fellow would address to the Board to improve it will be welcome, the Board will give a reply to him/her, and will transmit to INAF the most relevant ones for a better future implementation of the program.
The scientific results of the fellows activity will be published in the main refereed international astrophysics journals, and will be presented to national and international meetings. The fellows will be free in choosing their publication strategies.
The supervisor and the host institution will assist fellows and past fellows in publishing and advertising (i.e. press release) their results and in protection of intellectual properties.
The scientific results of the fellowships will be displayed in a special section of the AstroFIt website and if they are of interests for general public, they will be advertised on the INAF media website.
All publications or any other dissemination relating to foreground shall include the following statement to indicate that said foreground was generated with the assistance of financial support from the Union: “The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 267251”.
Each fellow will be in contact with her/his supervisor for at least two years after the completion of the fellowship, allowing to monitor her/his career development.
The fellow will maintain the status of 'INAF associate' for at least two years after the completion of the fellowship, giving her/him the opportunity to continue scientific collaborations with the host team.
The official website of the AstroFIt programme will be maintained active and update for at least four years after the end of the project, giving the possibility to the fellows to maintain their contact with the Institute for a long time, keeping informed of the activities of INAF and allowing a continuous monitoring of their activities and career development.
The fellow shall commit her/himself to keep INAF informed for three years following the end of the project of any change in her/his contact details.
For the submission of a complete AstroFIf fellowship proposal, the following documents duly signed, have to be enclosed:
- application form;
- copy of a valid identity document (ID card or passport);
- letter of commitment of the hosting INAF Research Structure;
- two letters of reference to be sent directly by the referees to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Third countries are neither EU Member States nor Associated Countries.
The EU Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.
The Associated Countries are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Faroe Islands, FYR Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Republic of Moldova, Switzerland and Turkey.