Frequently Asked Questions

​What are the aims of the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme and the ENGAGEgreen Policy Fellowship? What are the differences between the two fellowship programmes?

The programmes foster dialogue between researchers and professionals from policymaking organisations, NGOs and media. The programmes are structured around face-to-face meetings between researchers and professionals. While the professionals get access to scientific expertise on the policy issues they are working on, the participating scientists learn policy perspectives on their research. 

The face-to-face meetings are intended to create long-term networks between the researchers and the policy-professionals.

The Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme is a dialogue project funded by the Mercator Foundation and the Rhine-Main-Universities.

The ENGAGEgreen Policy Fellowship is part of the Erasmus+ funded project Enhancing Institutional Capacities and Researchers' Competencies for Policy Engagement for Green and Digital Transitions, which is carried out in cooperation with partner universities in the Czech Republic, France, Italy and Spain. The ENGAGEgreen Fellowship project focuses on green and digital transition issues. In addition to the face-to-face meeting, the ENGAGEgreen policy fellows will be invited to policy events in the Rhine-Main region and Brussels and to virtual events on green and digital transition topics. ENGAGEgreen policy fellows also have the opportunity to publish articles as part of a blog series. 

Both fellowship programmes cooperate. Assignment to the programmes is made directly via the application. Successful applicants interested in green and digital transition will be assigned directly to the ENGAGEgreen fellowship programme and the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme. Successful candidates with no interest in green and digital change will only be assigned to the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme. 

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​How do the fellowship programmes work?

The programmes are based on your individual questions and thematic interests. We will put together a tailor-made programme for you. After acceptance into the programmes, the policy fellows will receive extensive lists of potential discussion partners at the Rhine-Main universities. The policy fellows can select the academics they would like to meet during the joint visits.

The policy fellows will conduct two joint visits to the Rhine Main Area during their fellowship. The exact dates of the visits are available here (TBA). Each policy fellow will conduct up to four face-to-face meetings/day. Some meetings might also be conducted as joint meetings with other policy fellows. We are also happy to organise additional face-to-face meetings apart from the joint visits. During the joint visits, events such as panel discussions or visits to research labs can be organised in addition to the face-to-face meetings with academics.

If you have any ideas for workshops, events and projects, please let us know. We are open to suggestions and happy to support them. 

Upon completing the policy fellowship, you will become a member of our Alumni programme. We will happily keep inviting you to events in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Area, Brussels or Berlin. 

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​Who is this programme for? Am I eligible to apply? 

The following groups are eligible to apply:
  • Policy professionals in ministries and agencies on the national, regional, or level level, EU institutions and international organisations with at least five years' work experience.
  • Staff of NGOs and journalists with at least five years' work experience.
  • Members of parliament.
The target group are:
  • Applicants who work in policy units or similar entities. Applicants should work on the core topics of their organisations in their day-to-day work (e.g. environmental issues in the case of environment ministries, educational issues in the case of ministries of education, economic issues in the case of ministries of economics, etc.).
The programmes are NOT aimed at employees from units or departments which primarily perform administrative or communication tasks including the following types of units:
  • Human resources and organisational management
  • IT Administration
  • Press and public relations
  • Controlling and financial administration
  • Property management
  • Protocol and events.

The programmes aim at professionals who require scientific expertise for their daily work and are interested in a long-term exchange with scientists.

We ask all applicants to check in advance which tasks determine their day-to-day business. The fellowship programmes are particularly suitable for professionals working on policy issues. The programmes are unsuitable for representatives mainly working on HR, IT or process management. The fellowship programmes are not about providing consultancy for HR or management issues. There must be a recognisable benefit for the sending organisations regarding policy issues. 

Please contact us at science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de if you are unsure whether you fulfil the eligibility criteria.

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How does the trasnational fellowship option work?

The Rhine-Main-Universities are currently developing a transnational fellowship scheme for policy professionals of EU Institutions and international organisations in cooperation with the University of Granada, Lumière University Lyon 2, and BETA Technological Centre (University of Vic/Central University of Catalonia)

This transnational scheme will enable policy professionals of the 2024/2025 fellowship cohort who are interested in issues of green and digital transitions to meet researchers in Granada, Lyon, Barcelona, or Vic in 2025. 

Interested applicants can indicate on the application form if they are interested in this option. Our partner universities will send lists of possible conversation partners at their universities to accepted applicants in the second half of 2024. 

Since the joint fellowship scheme is under development, accepted policy professionals from EU Institutions and international organisations can decide by early 2025 whether to visit one of our partner universities in 2025 or conduct another round of meetings at the Rhine-Main-Universities in 2025.

Please tick the boxes on the application form if interested in the transnational track.

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Do I have to speak German?

No, German language skills are not required. The face-to-face meetings can be conducted in English or any other language the researchers and policy fellow agree upon. 

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​How many candidates do you accept into the fellowship programmes? Are there any restrictions for sending organisations? How competitive are the programmes? Are reapplications possible?

We select about 20-30 professionals, who only want to visit the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main-Universities. The following stipulations apply for policy professionals, who only want to visit the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main-Universities.

Organisations with

  • up to 1,000 employees should not submit more than one application,
  • up to 2,000 employees no more than two applications and
  • more than 2,001 employees no more than three applications

Please inform your HR department about your application. Some organisations require their staff to submit their application to their HR departments to pre-select candidates. 

The Directorates-General of the European Commission and the various UN system organisations ("UN family") are considered independent organisations in the selection process.

The number of applications exceeds the number of places available. In the event of rejection, reapplications are possible. 

These limitations do not apply to organisations which want to send their staff to the transnational fellowship track involving the universities Frankfurt, Darmstadt, and Mainz, as well as our partners in Granada, Lyon, and Vic. Organisations can submit multiple applications for the transnational fellowship track regardless of the number of staff.

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What are the selection criteria?

Motivation: It must be demonstrated that participation in the fellowship programmes will bring long-term added value for the professional development of both the applicants and the sending organisations. Elaborating on (initial) ideas for possible follow-up activities is very important. 

Participation in the fellowship programme is the first step towards establishing networks with researchers. Therefore, we prefer candidates interested in a long-term dialogue with the researchers.

Policy questions/policy issues

The areas of interest must be clearly connected to the central areas of work of the respective organisations (e.g. environmental topics for ministries of environment, educational issues for ministries of education, economic topics for ministries of economics, etc.). Also, we must be able to identify enough experts in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area. The more similar the applicants' interests are, the fewer fellows can be included in the programmes; otherwise, we cannot ensure enough researchers are available for each fellow. Similarly, the greater the variance in interests, the more fellows can be accepted onto the programme.

Diversity regarding the fellowship cohort: 

We want various types of organisations to be represented in the fellowship programme (federal and regional ministries/agencies, EU institutions and international organisations, media and non-profit organisations).

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How do I apply for the programmes?

You can find all the information here.

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How should I develop my questions or areas of interest?

Please indicate at least two and up to six different overarching questions or areas of interest. Please add at least five sub-topics or sub-questions to each overarching question or area of interest. The overriding questions or areas of interest must align with your organisations' policy issues. 

About 16 face-to-face meetings are planned per fellow. Therefore, the questions/areas of interest topics must allow for including much research.

Please phrase your questions/areas of interest, including sub-topics/sub-questions, in such a way that researchers from various academic disciplines can be approached. 

1. Area of interest: Reduction of energy consumption
1.1 What technical options can be used to save energy in buildings? 
1.2 How can energy consumption in road transport be reduced? 
1.3 What impact do energy taxes have on energy consumption in companies? 
1.4 How can energy-saving behaviour be encouraged in children? 
1.5 What role does the issue of energy consumption play in party programmes and election campaigns?

Researchers from various academic disciplines (e.g. architecture, engineering, economics, education, political science) can be contacted for such complex questions.

Please avoid sub-questions that are very similar and address a single scientific discipline.

1. Effectiveness of energy taxes
1.1 What are the advantages of energy taxes?
1.2 What are the disadvantages of energy taxes?
1.3 What impact do energy taxes have on companies?
1.4 What impact do energy taxes have on consumers?
1.5 How can energy taxes be improved?

The number of possible experts is minimal for such a question as the expertise is focused on a single academic discipline (in this case, economics). If another overarching topic (e.g. economic policy in Germany) is also focused on the same academic discipline, it can be challenging to identify enough conversation partners. 

We understand the interest in specialised expertise is exceptionally high in specialist units. It is difficult for applicants to assess whether sufficient scientific knowledge is available in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area. You are, therefore, welcome to send us your questions before submitting a formal application. We are happy to provide feedback on your questions. You can contact Mr Sandevski at science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de or +49 (0)69 798 12132 by 28 March 2024.

Please number the main topics and sub-questions according to the principles 1.1., 1.2, 1.3, etc.

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Are certain subject areas or subjects prevalent?

In recent years, the following key topics have been exceptionally well represented in the applications:

  • Politics in Germany and Europe and international relations (political parties and political institutions, reforms and implementation of political decisions, elections, populism, migration, international security).
  • Media and communication (role of the media in politics, debates about fake news and post-factuality, importance of social media, political communication).
  • Digitalisation and artificial intelligence (future of work, applications and potential of artificial intelligence, effects of digitalisation on the economy, society and politics).
  • Science and education (science and university policy, issues of science and university governance (e.g. research funding, internationalisation, open science, technology transfer, education policy, learning in schools).

When selecting fellows, we must assess whether sufficient scientific expertise is available to serve the fellows' interests. We therefore recommend that potential fellows not only ask questions on the above-mentioned key topics. 

Experts from economics and political science, sociology and journalism/communication studies are very much in demand. STEM subjects and life sciences were significantly underrepresented in the topics of interest in previous fellowship years, although these subject areas are very well represented at Rhine-Main universities. 

We welcome applications from policy professionals who are interested in STEM subjects!

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Are certain areas of interest not so suitable for the programme?

The scientific institutions in the Rhine-Main area can provide expertise in many subjects, 

However, there is hardly any research on the following topics in the Rhine-Main region:

  • Public administration, in particular administrative reforms and modernisation.
  • Nutritional sciences. 

We therefore advise against asking questions in these areas.

Please ONLY include questions on issues related to human resources and organisational management (e.g. leadership, employee motivation, home office, financial management and IT management in organisations) if you work in organisations that conduct policy analyses or draft policy recommendations, policy strategies, funding programmes or legislation (e.g. ministries of labour, trade unions, OECD, ILO, etc.). 

Questions in the areas of human resources and organisational management must show a precise policy dimension (e.g. "What impact does a lack of employee motivation have on the economies in OECD countries?") and differ from questions about internal organisational management processes ("How can I motivate my employees?"). Our policy's rationale is that few researchers are working on these topics. Therefore, we only approach experts on human resources and organisation management if the area of interest of the policy fellows has a clear policy dimension.

Applicants interested in science management and policy should remember that there is little research on these topics in the Rhine-Main region. These topics can nevertheless be listed as areas of interest in the application. Many researchers have a good overview and practical experience in the areas of science management and science policy through their committees or review activities.

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What should I bear in mind when developing the areas of interest? Should I ask rather general questions, or do you prefer precise questions? 

We recommend phrasing the areas of interest in such a way which allows for addressing scientists from various academic disciplines.  

Example: The thematic focus "Research trends in geriatric medicine" covers a scientific (sub-)discipline with a manageable number of scientists in the Rhine-Main region. If, on the other hand, "Developments in research on the topic of ageing" is specified as the focus, disciplines such as economics, sociology, law, biology, engineering, psychology or media studies can be addressed in addition to medicine. In the latter case, the fellows can choose from a large pool of possible conversation partners and thus get to know new scientific perspectives on their interests.

If you have a specific initial question you are particularly interested in, consider which other questions/topics relate to your initial question.

Example: You are interested in the question of which heat-insulating materials have been developed in recent years that can be used for the construction or renovation of buildings. Further questions can be derived from this. For example, "Energy consumption" can be chosen as a focal point. The main topic and sub-questions could be phrased as follows:
1. main topic: Energy consumption 
1.1 What technical options can be used to save energy in buildings? 
1.2 How can energy consumption in road transport be reduced? 
1.3 What impact do energy taxes have on energy consumption in companies? 
1.4 How can energy-saving behaviour be encouraged in children? 
1.5 What role does the issue of energy consumption play in party programmes and election campaigns?

Please check whether your questions can be phrased in more general terms to identify many possible experts. Consider whether geographical, temporal or thematic restrictions can be omitted.

Example 1: "Environmental protection in Frankfurt since 2010" is a particular topic. It is advisable to formulate the topic more openly, e.g. "Environmental protection in cities", in order to enlarge the pool of possible experts.

Please number the main topics and sub-questions.

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Can I ask for policy recommendations? How knowledgeable are the researchers about policy issues?

You are welcome to ask the researchers for possible recommendations. Our surveys show that the majority of fellows do so. Please note that the knowledge about policymaking varies among the researchers. We have researchers who follow policy issues very closely. Many have already conducted commission research for ministries or other policymaking institutions. Some might be members of expert bodies. However, for many researchers, the face-to-face meetings constitute the first time that they talk to policymakers.

To reach many researchers, we recommend not phrase the questions from the perspective of your organisations.

Example: Instead of "How can my ministry make better use of social media to inform young people about financial products?", we recommend asking more general questions such as "How do young people use social media?" or "What should young people know about financial products?". Instead of "How can my ministry specifically promote the use of energy-efficient technologies in companies?", it is better to ask questions such as "What factors explain the use of new (energy-efficient) technologies in companies? How can the use of energy-efficient technologies be promoted?" 

Background: The researchers only sometimes know the specific contexts in which the fellows' organisations operate and are more likely to decline requests for meetings if they lack prior knowledge of the specific policy contexts. It is, therefore, better to phrase the questions in more general terms. During the meeting, you can inform your conversation partners about your policy-related work and move from general to specific questions.

We also ask Fellows to remember that university research usually differs significantly from policy analyses conducted by think tanks and consultancies. The question "How can a ministry/agency/general directorate, etc., do something better?" is usually not the starting point for university research projects. The topicality of research questions also plays a different role in universities than in think tanks or consultancies. Suppose researchers have not already developed policy recommendations as members of expert bodies or via policy reports in the past. In that case, they may do so for the first time during the face-to-face meeting with the policy fellows. 

The researchers participating in the programme are a very diverse group. Many are familiar with the work and policy challenges of ministries, agencies or the European Commission due to their participation in expert bodies or hearings. They might also meet policymakers regularly. However, for many researchers, face-to-face meetings constitute the first exchange with policymaking professionals. The knowledge about the policymaking process varies among the researchers.

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Do I need relevant scientific knowledge to participate in the face-to-face meetings with the researchers? How do I prepare for the face-to-face meetings?

We do not expect the policy fellows to have scientific knowledge. Face-to-face meetings are often the first contact with various academic disciplines. In the run-up to the interviews, all fellows receive brief information about their conversation partners and a handout with tips on preparing for the interviews. We ask all fellows to visit the websites of their conversation partners before the meetings to gain an overview of their interlocutors' expertise. We recommend asking the following three to prepare for the meetings: How does my conversation partner relate to my areas of interest? What questions would I like to ask? What can my conversation partner learn about the policy issues I am dealing with daily? Consider setting aside 30 minutes to prepare for each meeting.

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How do the face-to-face meetings work? Can I communicate my preferences regarding possible conversation partners? 

The meetings with the researchers occur in different constellations: Some fellows like to cover specific questions during the meetings (e.g. "How do smartphones affect the reading skill of kids in primary schools?"). Other fellows prefer focusing on "big questions" (e.g. "How is digitalisation changing our daily lives?"), Some fellows like to gain an overview of new topics they are not familiar with (e.g., "How do algorithms work?"). 
You are also welcome to name specific institutes, research projects or scientists in the topics that interest you. It is also possible to talk about current research trends in certain subject groups (e.g. current research trends in the life sciences) or future developments (e.g. “What technological developments can be expected in the next 20 years? How will we live in 50 years?") during the face-to-face meetings.
If you are accepted into the programme, you will receive an extensive list of researchers for whom you could indicate preferences. The areas of interest must be phrased in such a way that we can identify about 35 possible conversation partners.
We understand that it can be challenging to assess how many of our researchers have expertise on your areas of interest. Therefore, feel free to send us your areas of interest in advance. We are happy to assess the potential of your areas of interest in terms of conversation partners. The final decision is up to our steering committee, which selects the policy fellows. 

I am only interested in having 2-4 meetings with researchers because my areas of interest are very specific. Do I still have to submit a proper application? 

You do not need to submit a proper application if you only want to conduct 2-4 virtual or in-person meetings. We can consider putting you in touch with the respective researchers. Such virtual or face-to-face meetings must occur in the weeks we do not expect joint visits from our fellowship cohort. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us via science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de or 069/798-12132.

Will the meetings also take place if they cannot be held in person (e.g., during strikes or pandemics)? Can I cancel the meetings at short notice? Can I conduct the meetings on other dates?

Since we put together a tailor-made programme for each policy fellow, each fellowship is worth a couple of thousand euros. We cannot, therefore, afford to cancelling meetings. We fully understand that policy fellows might have to cancel meetings. In such instances, the policy fellows have to reschedule the meetings unless reasons like prolonged illness prevent them from doing so. If face-to-face meetings cannot occur due to strikes, pandemics or other reasons, the meetings will be conducted virtually.

The cancellation of the meeting without substitution will result in a ban from the respective organisation for future fellowship cohorts.

Can the meetings result in follow-up activities? What happens after the two joint visits?

We regard the face-to-face meetings as a first step in establishing networks with our researchers. Policy fellows have previously invited researchers to give lectures or workshops at their ministries. Policy fellows have often remained in touch with their conversation partners. Fellows have also contributed short articles to our publication series and participated in panel discussions and workshops. Of course, if alum fellows want to conduct additional meetings with researchers, we are happy to organise additional meetings after the fellowship year.

Upon completing the fellowship year, we will invite the policy fellows to exciting events in the Rhine-Main area, Berlin and Brussels and virtual events. Of course, participation in possible follow-up activities or alums events is voluntary. 

How much time should I spare for the fellowship? When do joint visits take place?

You should participate in the two joint visits in autumn 2024 and spring 2025. The dates for the attendance phases in autumn 2024 and spring 2025 are available here. If participation in the joint visits is not possible, visits to the Rhine-Main universities can also occur individually.

At the start of the programmes, the fellows will receive a comprehensive list of potential discussion partners in the Rhine-Main region, from which they can select their preferences. Before the meetings, the fellows receive information about their conversation partners to help them prepare for the interviews. We recommend sparing 30 minutes for each meeting.

What are the costs of the fellowship programmes?

We do not charge fees. Fellows have to cover the costs of travel, accommodation and dinners.

Who is organising the programmes? How are the fellowship programmes funded? 

Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and the Technical University of Darmstadt form the RHEIN-MAIN UNIVERSITIES (RMU) strategic alliance. With 100,000 students and 1,460 professorships, they cooperate closely in research, study and teaching. In addition to the Rhine-Main-Universities, numerous other scientific institutions participate in the programme. 

The Rhine-Main Universities, the EU's Erasmus+ programme, and the Stiftung Mercator fund the fellowship programmes. Stiftung Mercator is a private, independent foundation that stands for the combination of scientific expertise and practical project experience. As a leading foundation in Germany, it is active both nationally and internationally.

Will I also meet the other policy fellows? Are there opportunities to connect with the other policy fellows?

You will meet the other policy fellows during the joint visits. You can network with the other policy fellows during the induction day and joint lunches and dinners if they do not conflict with the meetings with the researchers. 

Networking opportunities with alum fellows are also available at alum events in the Rhine-Main region, Berlin or Brussels. 

Who can I contact regarding questions that are not covered in the FAQ list?

Please contact Tome Sandevski via science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de or +49 (0)69 798 12132.