Who is this programme for? Am I eligible to apply? Do I have to speak German?

The programme is designed for senior policy professionals, who are dealing with policy issues. We expect the fellows to have professional experience of at least 10 years. In addition, the fellows are required to lead teams or units within their organisation.

The fellowship programme is geared towards the following entities:

  • National governments: Head of unit or similar positions in ministries or other governmental organisations. Deputy heads of units in ministries are only eligible if they are going to become heads of units by the start of their fellowship.
  • European Union or international organisations: heads of units, deputy heads of units, team leaders or equivalent positions with a work experience of at least 10 years.
  • Media: editors in chief, chief reporters, and similar positions
  • Foundations and non-governmental organisations: directors, heads of units or similar positions
  • Members of parliament (national or regional)

The programme is not designed for senior policy professionals from administrative units like human resources or finance.

If you are not certain whether you qualify for the programme, please get in touch with the programme office at Goethe-University Frankfurt (science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de).

The meetings with professors can be conducted in English. Since the induction events are conducted in German, we require all fellows to have a basis proficiency in English.

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How many fellows are being accepted into the Fellowship Program?
What are the selection criteria?
Are there any restrictions for organisations?

Approximately 25-30 senior policy professionals can be admitted to the program each year.

Selection Criteria:

The quality of the letter of motivation, which must indicate why participation in the programme adds value to one's own work.

Topics of interest: we have to ensure that fellows will have the opportunity to conduct 16 face-to-face meetings with scientists over the course of the fellowship. The more similar the thematic interests, the fewer fellows will be included in the programme, otherwise we cannot ensure that there are enough researchers available for each fellow. Similarly, if there is a greater variance in thematic interests, more fellows can be included in the programme.

Diversity regarding the organisations backgrounds of the fellows: The fellowship cohort must include fellows from state institutions, EU and international organisations, media and non-profit organisations.

Size of the sending organisation: No more than one fellow should be accepted into the programme from organisations with up to 1,000 employees. Organizations with more than 1,000 employees can send up to two fellows to the programme, if they are approved by the selection committee. We therefore ask all applicants to inform the human resources unit at their organisation about their application in order to allow for a pre-selection in the sending organisation. The Directorates General of the European Union and the various organisations of the UN system ("UN family") are treated as independent organisations in the selection process. Thus, the European Union and United Nations can nominate more than two applicants if the applicants are working for different Directorates General or UN-Organisations.

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How can I apply?

The application package consists of:

  • The completed application form including a letter of motivation
  • A curriculum vitae
  • A letter of recommendation from a senior supervisor of the sending organisation

Applications must be submitted via email to science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de by April 9, 2019.

  • The call for applications is available here.

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How should I choose and describe the topics/questions I am interested in?

Please indicate a minimum of four and a maximum of six different themes that are of particular interest for you. Please add five subtopics or subquestions for each main theme. You can address all topics you are interested in - the only requirement is that scientists of the Rhine-Main Universities have to be able to talk about these topics. Every fellow is expected to meet with some 16 academics over the course of the fellowship programme. We therefore ask you not to include very specific topics. The main topics should have a clear policy dimension. Organisational questions (e.g. in the areas of hr and financial management) can also be asked, but should not constitute a stand-alone thematic priority, but should be integrated into the other themes as sub-questions. Please phrase your thematic interests in such a way that for the different thematic priorities, different scientists and scholars can also be considered as possible discussion partners. Example: "Political parties", "elections in Germany" and "political reforms" are different topics. However, the majority of the researchers conducting research on these topics are the same people. In such a case, it is therefore advisable not to list three very closely related thematic interest, but to select one overarching theme (e.g. "Politics in Germany") as the thematic priority and then add appropriate sub-questions or sub-topics.

It is also advisable to find overarching themes rather than specific ones in order to allow for scholars from different academic backgrounds to considered potential so that scientists from different disciplines can be addressed.

Example: The theme "current research in geriatric medicine" is a rather specific one with a small number of scientists in the Rhine-Main region. However, if you ask about "current developments in the research on aging", disciplines, such as economics, sociology, law, biology, engineering, psychology or media studies, can be addressed in addition to medicine. The fellows can then choose from a large number of potential discussion partners and will become acquainted with new academic perspectives on their interests. You can start with a specific question and ask yourself which questions/themes are related to your initial question. Example: You are interested in the question of which thermal insulation materials have been developed in recent years that can be used in the construction of building. In this case additional questions can be derived from the initial question. For example, the topic "Energy consumption in Germany" can be chosen as the main topic. Sub-questions or subtopics may look like:

"Thematic interest: Energy consumption in Europe” What technical options can be used to save energy in buildings? How can energy consumption be reduced in Europe? How do European countries differ regarding energy consumption? How can governments promote the construction of energy-saving houses? What does research say about the effectiveness of promoting technology and innovation in European countries? How can research results be transferred to business? How can energy-saving behaviour be promoted among different user groups (e.g. young people)? How do international climate protection agreements affect energy consumption in Europe? Under what social conditions do technological innovations emerge (e.g. in the field of energy)? Etc."

The face-to-face meeting vary depending on the interests of the fellows. Some fellows want to address specific questions. Others are more interested in receiving an overview on topics they are not familiar with.

If you have specific institutes, research projects or scholars in mind you would like to meet, you are very welcome to add them to your application. Many fellows ask about research trends in some areas (e.g. current research trends in life sciences) or are interested in concepts (e.g. “What do identity, or public value mean nowadays? What constitutes a successful innovation?”) or future trends (e.g. “How will demographic change affect European societies? Which technological developments will change European economies over the next 20 years? How will social media change forms of communication?”).

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Are certain topics particularly popular?

In recent years, the following topics featured very prominently in the applications:

  • Politics in Germany and Europe (political parties and political institutions, reforms and implementation of political decisions, elections, populism, migration)
  • Media and communication (role of the media in politics, fake news and hate speech, importance of social media, public relations)
  • Digital transformations and artificial intelligence (future of work, innovation, data protection, digital transformation of business, society and politics)
  • Science and education (science and higher education policies, issues of science and higher education governance (e.g. research funding, internationalisation, open science, technology transfer), education policy, learning in schools)
  • HR and organisational management (staff development, motivation in organisations, the management of complex organisation).

The above-mentioned topics can be included in applications. However, we strongly recommend fellows to not only confine their interests to these five topics but to include other topics as well. Questions relating to life sciences, engineering, and natural sciences were hardly included in the thematic interests in previous applications, although the Rhine-Main universities have a very strong track record regarding research in these areas.

Our office will be happy to help you if you would like to check in advance whether there is sufficient scientific expertise in the Rhine-Main region to suit your interests. You are welcome to contact Mr. Tome Sandevski (science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de, ++49 (0)69 798 12132).

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How much time am I going to spend at the Rhine-Main-Universities?

The fellowship consists of two stays at the Rhine-Main-Universities of 2-3 days each, which take place in autumn and spring/early summer.

We recommend attending the joint stays in order to liaise with the other fellows of the programme. However, fellows can also visit the Rhine-Main-Universities on an individual basis. Fellows are welcome to spend more than 2-3 days at the Rhine-Main-Universities. We are also offering additional events like workshops, which can be attended by the fellows.

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How is the fellowship programme structured? Do I have to be able to speak to German?

This is a tailor-made programme consisting of approximately 16 meetings with researchers at the Rhine-Main Universities. Each meeting is scheduled for an hour.

After having been accepted into the programme fellows will receive comprehensive lists of up to 30 researchers at the Rhine-Main universities among which they choose 16 researchers whom they would like to meet. In addition, fellows are free to suggest researchers which they already have in mind and whom they would like to meet.

The fellows will meet with approximately four researchers per day. Meetings with the researchers can be held in English. However, joint events like the opening events or visits of research projects are held in German. Fellows should therefore have basic proficiency in German.

After the completion of the fellowship fellows will become alumni of the Rhine-Main-Universities. The alumni-fellows will be invited to events at the Rhine-Main-Universities or in Berlin or Brussels. We will stay in close contact with the alumni after completion of the programme.

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What are the costs? Are there any fees?

We do not charge any fees for the programme. The fellows have to cover for their own travel and accommodation. All other costs are being covered by a grant of the Mercator Foundation.

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What is special about the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme?

We aim at establishing networks between academia and the policy-world. Fellows will receive a tailor-made programme consisting of meeting with accomplished scholars giving them access to the academic community at the Rhine-Main-Universities.

Furthermore, they will greatly benefit from the exchange with the other fellows from various professional and thematic backgrounds.

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How is the programme funded? Which institutions are involved? Why is the programme located in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area?

The fellowship-programme is funded by Stiftung Mercator (Mercator Foundation), which is an independent private foundation. The foundation wants to strengthen Europe, improve integration through equal educational opportunities for everyone, drive forward the energy transition as a trigger for global climate change mitigation and firmly anchor cultural education in schools.

The programm is administered by the strategic alliance of the Rhine-Main Universities, Goethe University Frankfurt, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Technische Universität Darmstadt.

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The Rhine-Main area is one of the most important metropolitan regions in Europe. The Rhine-Main area is

    • one of the leading regions in Europe for business and finance
    • one of the most prolific academic regions in Germany hosting the universities in Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt as well as numerous independent research institutes

Only few regions in Germany can offer the wide range of available expertise in both academic and policy-oriented research.

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