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International Networking for Young Scientists

International Networking for Young Scientists is an initiative that supports the British Council’s purpose of ‘nurturing mutually beneficial relationships with other countries’, by encouraging and facilitating the mobility of, and direct contact between, young researchers. It supports face-to-face meetings between young scientists and engineers from the UK and other countries, for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and information and the building of international connections that assist the innovation process.

By supporting the mobility of young scientists, the British Council has a key role to play in helping to create and maintain the lasting relationships that are needed to support electronic communications between them after the meetings.

Other organisations fund international mobility of scientists and engineers in relation to specific research work, but none has an initiative that is, effectively, an exploratory and preparatory measure for support from international, longer-term mobility programmes. The Council initiative is a mechanism for encouraging researchers to travel and be mobile, with the aim of gaining knowledge and ideas that help in applying for international fellowships or scholarships under e.g. the Sixth EU Framework Programme (FP6).

The initiative models itself on the N+N concept (where N+N refers to a workshop involving a number of researchers from the UK and an equal number of local researchers; ideally eight or more from each country). It is specifically targeted at post-doctoral researchers or people who have been tenured for five years or less. The intention is to avoid established collaborations and concentrate on new faces and encouraging new links. PhD students can be included, to encourage them to have direct contact with researchers in other countries, put forward original research ideas and contribute to the development of links, with a view to applying for postdoctoral fellowships. The workshop location can be in either country, but more commonly outside the UK.

An annual call for proposals from our overseas offices will be made at the end of March to organise and run workshops and set up means of virtual networking. A maximum of £7,000 - £10,000 will be available to the overseas offices for each successful proposal, from a central budget. Our offices should have, between January and the call date, held in-country discussions with potential partner organisations to identify and agree:

a) The priority topic, which must be a national priority and a priority for one of the seven UK research councils
b) A senior national scientist to be the local co-ordinator (working with the young national scientists as a mentor)
c) A senior UK scientist to be the joint co-ordinator (working with the young UK scientists as a mentor)
d) Initial discussions and meeting between the local and UK co-ordinators to refine the topic and shape expectations, or planned action for this
e) Matched or significant co- funding from the partner organisation, in cash or in kind (e.g. facilities, transport, accommodation), normally including costs of national participants
f) A media plan for the workshop
g) A follow-up plan, in terms of real and virtual networking to sustain the contacts made
h) Routes for funding subsequent collaboration from other sources
i) A reporting and evaluation plan

The proposals will be reviewed against UK research priorities by asking the research councils or other leading bodies to comment on the suitability of the topic and co-ordinators, after initial filtering.

To be equal and fair, helping young, excellent researchers outside the well established networks and channels, an open call for participants on both sides will be made, asking for a brief justification in terms of research in the area and a follow-up plan (e.g. bids for mobility awards). The co-ordinators and the Council will make the selection of participants. Where an open call is impractical, the co-ordinators can recommend participants from national institutions (but always more than three).

Call for participants and selection of the applicants will take place between June and August. The UK Research Office in Brussels (UKRO) has agreed to raise awareness of the scheme, both for general introductory information on the programme and also for disseminating details of the calls as they are issued. All research-active universities in the UK subscribe to UKRO. N+N+N workshops (or sigmaN, i.e. N+N+N…) are not ruled out, for example a workshop involving young researchers from UK, Canada and Spain.

Last year we run successful pilot workshops in Cuba, Kazakhstan, France, Spain, New Zealand and Ukraine.

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