Frequently Asked Questions regarding the international track of the fellowship

Who ist the programme for? Am I eligible to apply? Do I have to speak German?

The international track of the Mercator Science Policy Fellowship programme is designed for senior policy professionals, who are heads of unit or deputy heads of unit in EU institutions or international organisations. Senior policy professionals who lead teams of more than 10 employees are also eligible to apply.

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 fellows of the international track do not have to be proficient in German, since the face-to-face meetings with the researchers will be conducted in English.

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How can I apply? What is the application deadline?

Please submit 

by 30 June 2021. All information on the application process including the call for applications is available here.

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What are the selection criteria? Are there any restrictions for organisations?

Selection Criteria:
The quality of the letter of motivation: the letter of motivation has to show why the participation in the programme adds value to one's own work as well as to the sending organisation.

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 of the fellows, the fewer fellows will be included in the programme, otherwise we cannot ensure that there are enough researchers available for each fellow. Conversely, if there is a greater variance in thematic interests, more fellows can be included in the programme.

Diversity regarding the organisational background of the fellows:
The fellowship cohort should include fellows from various DGs of EU institutions and international 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. Organisations with more than 1,000 employees can send up to two fellows to the programme, if 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 within the sending organisation. The Directorates General of the EU institutions are treated as independent organisations in the selection process.

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How should I choose and elaborate on the topics I am interested in?

Please provide a list of four to six different overarching topics or questions that are of particular interest for you. Please add five sub-topics or sub-questions to each overarching topic. This list of topics will be forwarded to academics in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area who are asked to participate in face-to-face meetings. 

You can ask every question you are interested in as long as scientists in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area conduct research on these topics/questions. The only exception being questions which solely focus on internal management processes like “How can I motivate my staff? How can I improve the IT-, HR-, financial reporting, or knowledge management systems in my organisation?". These questions will not be considered.

Futhermore, the main topics should address different issues. Try identifying topics/questions which can be addressed by researchers from different disciplinary angles. Do not ask questions which are too specific.

The topic "current research trends in geriatric medicine" is a rather specific one which can only be addressed by a few scientists in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main are. However, if you ask about "current trends in the research on aging", disciplines, such as economics, sociology, law, biology, engineering, psychology or media studies, can be addressed in addition to medicine. You can then choose from a large number of researchers to talk to.

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.

"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 be considered.

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 buildings. 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 be:
"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."

We are happy to provide advice on possible questions. Please contact Mr Sandevski at science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de or +49 (0)69 798 12132 no later than 14 June 2021 if you like to receive feedback on topics you are interested in.

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What are the face-to-face meetings like? Can I decide whom I am going to meet? Can I make suggestions?

The face-to-face meetings vary depending on the fellows' interests. 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 which 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?"). 

Once accepted into the programme each fellow receives a list of some 40 scientists in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area. Each fellow is more than welcome to inform us on his/her preferences regarding the scientists he or she would like to meet.

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Are certain topics particularly popular?

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, foreign and security policy).
  • 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, robots, importance of algorithms, 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, transformation of schools, open science).
  • Covid-19 pandemic.

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.

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.

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What are the costs of the fellowship?

We do not charge any fees. Fellows have to cover the costs for travel to the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area as well as accommodation. Fellows benefit from a discount if they choose to stay at the hotels we have made arrangements for the programme. However, the fellows are free to arrange their own accommodation. Meals and travel in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area will be covered by the programme.

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How much time does it take to participate in the fellowship? What happens after the fellowship-year?

Fellows are expected to participate in the joint session in autumn and spring. Please refer to our Call for Applicatons for the exact dates. Each session comprises 2-3 days.

Fellows should also factor in several hours to prepare for the face-to-face meetings.

In addition to the joint visits we also regularly organise workshops and other events in Berlin, Brussels and the Frankfurt/Rhein-Main area. All (alumni-)fellows are invited to these events.

After visiting the research institutions in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main the fellows will become Alumni. Once a year our Alumni are invited to an Alumni event in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area, which enables them to conduct further face-to-face meetings. 

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Do I meet other policy fellows? Where do the fellows come from?

Yes! The fellowship programme has numerous components like evening events, joint meals, campus tours or visits of research facilities, which allow for networking with other policy fellows.

So far, fellows from national and regional ministries from Germany have accounted for about 57 per cent, those from EU institutions and international organisations for about 17 per cent, and those from media and non-profit-organisations for another 26 per cent of all fellows. 

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How does the fellowship programme work during the Covid-19 pandemic? What if I have to cancel my meetings on short-notice?

Since the beginning of the pandemic we have been operating in a virtual mode, i.e. we have organised video conferences and virtual networking formats, which have worked very well. Of course, we are looking forward to soon hosting our fellows in person in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area!

If fellows have to cancel their meetings on short-notice, we will organise alternative dates for virtual or face-to-face meetings no longer than three weeks after the originally scheduled events. 

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How does the fellowship programme work during the Covid-19 pandemic? What if I have to cancel my meetings on short-notice?

Since the beginning of the pandemic we have been operating in a virtual mode, i.e. we have organised video conferences and virtual networking formats, which have worked very well. Of course, we are looking forward to soon hosting our fellows in person in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main area!

If fellows have to cancel their meetings on short-notice, we will organise alternative dates for virtual or face-to-face meetings no longer than three weeks after the originally scheduled events. 

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Do the meetings with the researchers result in follow-up activities? Is there any support for follow-up activities?

In the past, fellows have already invited researchers to their ministries for lectures or workshops. In many cases, fellows have remained in contact with researchers. Fellows have already contributed short articles to our publications and participated in panel discussions and workshops.

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What is the Alliance of the Rhine-Main Universities? Am I only going to meet researchers from the Rhine-Main Universities? How is the programme funded?How is the programme funded?

The programme if mainly funded by the Stiftung Mercator (Mercator Foundation), which is one of the largest foundations in Germany.

The Rhine-Main Universities is a strategic alliance of Goethe University Frankfurt, the Technical University  of Darmstadt, and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. About 90 per cent of all meetings take place pace with researchers from the Rhine-Main Universities. 

Funded by

Organised by



Mercator Science-Policy
Fellowship-Programme Office

Research Support
Goethe University Frankfurt

Eschersheimer Landstr. 121
D-60322 Frankfurt/Main
IKB-Building (room 5330)

Mailing address:
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1 D-60629 Frankfurt/Main

Phone: +49 (0)69 798 12132 / 12135
Email: science-policy@uni-frankfurt.de