Research Fellowship FAQ - Science Faculty
Questions around "Can I apply?"
Yes, but you do need to have obtained your PhD before starting the Fellowship.
The programme is aimed at early career scientists, having received the PhD recently. However, the research environment at ESA requires a high degree of independence, and the experience of one post-doc might be helpful. There is no formal limit on seniority or age.
As a general guideline, candidates within 5 years of the completion of their PhD are the target group for the Research Fellowship programme.
In general we expect research fellows to start in September/October, but we can adapt to your needs within a few months.
The purpose of requiring the association with one or more ESA mission(s) is to strengthen the science return of ESA missions and to foster collaborations with active ESA scientists. The first step is thus to search for ESA scientists working in a mission of your interest and to contact them (see below) to discuss a possible project that is both beneficial to the mission and feasible within the given resources. That would also include access to data which are not automatically included when granting a fellowship (see below).
Questions around "Is this interesting for me?"
Research Fellows typically use their research fellowships to expand their network and usually continue their academic career outside of ESA after completion of the fellowship.
An idea of typical post-fellowship careers can be seen from the ESAC Alumni Portal.
No. As with any ESA employee working on a science project, Research Fellows need to compete for data like non-ESA employees, e.g., write observing proposals in response to Announcements of Opportunity (AOs) or join a PI team with privileged data access. It is recommended to consult with a Faculty member from the mission you plan to work with about data rights policies.
Conference attendance is funded from a shared faculty budget allowing each Research Fellow to attend three conferences per year.
The Fellowship Mentors are guides providing ESA-specific and career information, rather than being scientific advisors. Therefore, the Mentor does not need to be an expert in your field. One important role of the Mentor is to give guidance during the job search after the fellowship. We recommend reading this article: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2012/02/mentoring-advice
In addition to the Mentor, Fellows will have a formal Line Manager, who has the overall responsibility of a successful Research Fellowship. The Line Manager controls the budget and thus approves travel, leave etc.
The Mentor and Line Manager do not have to be involved in the scientific activities of the Fellows. It is desirable to seek suitable collaborative relationships with many Faculty members working in your research field (and beyond).
Asking for more Background Information
For further inquiries, feel free to contact the fellowship coordinators.
All members of the ESA faculty in SCI are listed: https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/science-faculty/people
To contact any person by email, please use the address given in their profile page, or use:
Current fellows in SCI can be found under:
They will be happy to share any experience with you.
It is highly recommended to contact one or more ESA scientists who work in your area. They can give you much more detailed information about their research and the research you can conduct during the Fellowship. Information about research activities at ESA can be found in the main Application page.
The current fellows can be found under:
They will be happy to share any experience with you.
Tips and Tricks
The review board has to review several dozens of applications from a large range of research fields (e.g., 80 in 2019). The review panel will be very small, containing very few (if any!) experts in your specific field. The large majority of reviewers will be specialized in other fields, and in order to get the majority of the board behind you, you need to focus on impressing the non-specialists in your field, e.g. by highlighting the relevance of your research in the general sense (big picture). Technical details are important in moderation, but will only impress the minority of specific experts.
The technical feasibility does need to be established, so a balance must be found to emphasize the scientific importance to a general audience, while also demonstrating that you are in command of the required expert abilities. An important element of feasibility is a realistic schedule, showing that the anticipated goals can be achieved within 2 years.
Recommendation letters do not need to be sent at the time of application, but names of three people who can be contacted for references need to be provided. We will contact them if you are shortlisted. For some tips on selecting the right people, we recommend e.g., the article: How to choose the right person to provide a reference letter.
There are no requirements, but there are certainly ways to make a CV more (or less) effective. We recommend to research effective CV writing, e.g.:
How to Write an Academic CV.
Not required but recommended. One element of the review is the assessment of scientific productivity, partly measured by publications. While a publication list needs to be attached to the CV, most applicants also choose to provide their ORCID, allowing an assessment of the most recent publication status. A NASA/ADS search by name may be ambiguous, while the equivalent search on ORCID should lead to unique results. Note, however, that you need to make sure that all your publications can be found via a search on your ORCID which is often not true. You can use the "Claim Papers" functionality in ADS, to include any missing articles. (See instructions: https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/orcid-instructions/).