For the 25th year, the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) has awarded the START stipends to the most talented young scientists from all over Poland. This year 100 young researchers received START stipends. The annual stipend is worth PLN 28,000, and the total amount of START stipends awarded by the Foundation in 2017 is nearly PLN 3 million.
START is Poland’s largest stipend programme for talented young researchers under age 30, representing all scientific disciplines. It is also the Foundation’s longest-running programme. The total number of winners of all competitions, including this year’s, includes more than 2,800 people. The stipends, which can be used for any purpose, are designed to provide financial support for young scientists during the difficult beginning of their research career and to enable them to devote themselves entirely to science.
The winners of this year’s competition were selected from among 1,152 candidates. The average age of the winners is 28, and 48% of the winners hold a doctorate (in Poland the average age for earning a doctorate is about 35).
Since 2009 the Foundation has also awarded distinctions to candidates whose research accomplishments are rated the most highly by the competition reviewers. The main criterion for achieving distinction is the outstanding quality of the candidate’s achievements. This year distinctions were awarded to three winners. Their stipends will be increased accordingly to PLN 36,000 each out of funds obtained by FNP from assignments of 1% of individuals’ personal income tax.
In 2017 distinctions were awarded to:
- Michał Jachura from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw
- Mateusz Konczal from the Faculty of Biology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
- Dr Joanna Kułaga-Przymus from the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.
The Prof. Barbara Skarga Honorary Fellowship is also awarded as part of the START programme, to a person whose research is distinguished by boldly crossing the boundaries between various fields of inquiry, opening up new research perspectives, and creating new values in science. This year’s winner of the Prof. Barbara Skarga Honorary Fellowship is Dr Hanna Wojewódka from the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at the University of Silesia in Katowice. Her stipend will be increased accordingly to PLN 36,000.
The award ceremony for the winners will be held on 27 May 2017 at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.
2017 START competition in numbers
- PLN 3,000,000—total amount earmarked by FNP for stipends in the 25th START programme
- 1,152 applications filed in the competition
- 100 winners (8.68% of applicants)
- 60 men and 40 women among the winners
- 48% of the winners (48 people) hold a doctorate—21 women (51%) and 27 men (17%)
- Disciplines most heavily represented among the winners: chemical sciences and biological sciences (15 winners each), physical sciences (9)
- Institutions generating the greatest number of winners: the University of Warsaw (18 winners), Jagiellonian University, Kraków (14), Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań (7), the University of Gdańsk and the University of Wrocław (6 each)
- The greatest number of winners hail from the cities of Warsaw (31), Kraków (17), Gdańsk, Poznań and Wrocław (11 each)
- The research institutions most winners are affiliated with are universities (81,
including 15 polytechnics) and institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences (17).
START stipends have been awarded by the Foundation for Polish Science since 1993. Through 2017 FNP has awarded a total of 3,436 START stipends (in 2002–2015 a candidate could win a START stipend twice) in a total amount of PLN 75,500,000.
START stipends serve as recognition for young scientists who are just beginning their scientific careers but can already show significant research achievements. Young researchers up to age 30 (or older if they qualify for an extension provided for in the programme rules) are eligible to apply for stipends. The candidates’ accomplishments—documented by patents or publications in recognized Polish and foreign scientific journals—are assessed by scholars who are authorities in their field. Applications that are formally in order are first assessed by a panel of experts, who forward on the best applications for further review. Each application qualifying for this stage is studied by three more reviewers. The final decision on awarding of stipends is taken by the Foundation Board and confirmed by the Foundation Council. The START programme also offers additional funding (outgoing stipends) for study trips to foreign research centres, and the opportunity to represent Poland at the annual meeting with Nobel laureates in the German city of Lindau.
Since 2004 START stipends have been financed out of funds transferred to the Foundation under the Privatization Act of 2000 (pursuant to which 2% of the proceeds from privatization of state-owned enterprises was transferred to the Foundation in 2003–2004; following amendment of the act, 2% of the proceeds from further privatizations was transferred instead to the now-defunct State Committee for Scientific Research).