Annual Report 2019

The Wenner-Gren Foundations (WGF) seek to promote international cooperation in the area of scientific research. To this end, WGF provide housing for visiting researchers at the Wenner-Gren Center in Stockholm, and awards grants both to Swedish researchers who wish to travel abroad, and to visiting scientists who would like to come to Sweden. Further, WGF organize international symposia, usually located at the Wenner-Gren Center, and provides grants to external international symposia in Sweden. Travel grants are provided for young researchers to participate in conferences, workshops and symposia. Finally, WGF organize Wenner-Gren Distinguished Lectures and provides financial support for foreign guest lecturers to be invited to Swedish universities and colleges. The Foundations’ administrative office is located at the Wenner-Gren Center in Stockholm.

Visiting scholars residences are located in Helicon, a semi-circular, three-story building in the Wenner-Gren Center. From an academic standpoint,
the Wenner-Gren Center is centrally located in Stockholm, and all resident scientists are close to their workplace, be it Karolinska Institute, Stockholm University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology or Stockholm School of Economics. In total, 156 apartments are available for visiting scientists for a maximum period of two years, and rents are subsidized via specific housing grants. In 2019, resident researchers came from 42 different nations, with Spain, India, Italy and Germany best represented, in that order. The CEO of WGF hosted a special reception for guests in the banquet room at the Wenner-Gren Center, on May 6 and 7.

WGF offer a comprehensive program for international scientific exchange of researchers. After completion of their doctorate, especially promising young Swedish scientists may obtain postdoctoral fellowships for study abroad and repatriation to Sweden (Wenner-Gren Fellows). Senior Swedish researchers can apply for sabbatical grants for visits abroad. For visiting foreign scientists, young researchers from abroad may work at Swedish universities supported by postdoctoral fellowships, while senior researchers from abroad may apply for guest researcher grants.

During 2019, a total of 97 scholarships were granted within the international scientific exchange program. The grants were distributed as follows:
Wenner-Gren Fellows (16), Swedish postdoctoral fellowships (1), sabbatical fellowships (11), foreign postdoctoral fellowships (58), and senior visiting scientists (11). It may be added that WGF examine the distribution of fellowships by gender when the material is sufficient and there were in general no disfavor of female applicants. The Scientific Committee continuously follows the gender balance among granted applications.

During the course of the year, the Wenner-Gren Fellowship program involved 22 scientists, of whom 16 were conducting their postdoctoral education abroad, and 6 led their own research group in Sweden. The WG Fellowship program is designed to give fellows the opportunity for a three-year visit abroad and to facilitate their establishment as an independent researcher on their return to Sweden. To this end, each returning Fellow receives a grant to cover a two-year position in Sweden and a freely disposable one-time research grant of SEK 400,000, may recruit a postdoctoral researcher from abroad, and can apply for a planning grant of up to SEK 30,000 to establish collaborations with foreign research groups. Feedback from this repatriation program has been very positive.

Each year, all WG Fellows are invited to a meeting at the Wenner-Gren Center, which was held on September 13 this year, where a majority of the fellows participated. Two of the active Fellows and two previous Fellows recounted their experiences abroad, their current research activities and their plans for the future. The presentations were followed by a discussion on stress management led by Anna Bennich, and then the WG Fellow program was discussed in general terms.

For the 10th time, WGF arranged a homecoming information event (Hemvändardagen) at the Wenner-Gren Center on September 12 this year. The event is intended primarily for postdoctoral fellows who are currently overseas or recently returned to Sweden, and is announced via Swedish universities. In addition to the Foundations postdoctoral fellows, postdoctoral fellows funded by the Swedish Research Council, Ingvar Carlsson Awardees supported by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and young scientists supported by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond were also invited to attend. In total approximately 60 young scientists participated. As in previous years, the goal was to inform young scientists about the Swedish academic system (employment opportunities, how to apply for grants, etc.) in order to make it easier for them to plan their return to Sweden. Ten research-funding bodies presented their respective programs for supporting young researchers, and at the end of the day the WGF’s CEO led a discussion on career planning. A joint lunch offered networking opportunities for the participants.

Senior Swedish researchers (sabbatical fellows) primarily choose to visit universities in the US and in Europe. The phased out program for Swedish postdoctors abroad still had one participant this year.
Foreign postdoctoral fellows sought to visit universities across the country, but Stockholm was overrepresented among the scholarships awarded (60%). No less than 22 countries were represented among the grantees, and several fellows came from France, India, Spain, Great Britain, Spain and the US, in that order. Well-educated young researchers from abroad are a very important addition to Swedish research, and possibilities to apply for this type of scholarship within Sweden is limited. The foreign postdoctoral fellowships have proven to be one of the Foundations’ most popular programs.

The usually very highly qualified senior visiting researchers receive grants to cover their increased living costs in Sweden, and typically they retain their salary from their home institution. As before, most of the senior fellows came from the US, Europe and Asia, and the host institutions were primarily in the Stockholm region.

In 2019, WGF hosted three Wenner-Gren symposia, namely ”Mind the Gap - Bridging Secondary and Higher Education” (organizing committee: Academia Europaea, and Jan-Eric Gustafsson and Mikael Oliveberg), ”Amyloid diseases: from biochemistry to clinical applications” (organizing committee: Astrid Gräslund, Agneta Nordberg, Per Roos, Pernilla Wittung Stafshede and Sebastian Wärmländer) and ”Mechanistic Homogeneous Catalysis - A meeting between theory and experiment” (organizing committee: Fahmi Himo and Kálmán J Szabó).  The symposia were all held at the Wenner-Gren Center in Stockholm.

WGF also awarded grants for the organization of external seminars, usually with a distinctive theme and with a clear international character. In 2019, 14 applications for this form of symposium support were granted.

Guest lectures supported by WGF are of two types: Wenner-Gren Distinguished Lectures and regular guest lectures at universities and university colleges. This year’s invites Distinguished Lecturer wished to postpone the lecture to next year. WGF also gave a number of researchers and institutions funding to invite 10 guest speakers during the course of 2019. It may be noted that even smaller universities and university colleges use this form of support for international scientific exchange, and guest speakers were from Australia, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

WGF award travel grants for study trips abroad to younger postdoctoral researchers working in Sweden. Requirements include the researcher´s active participation in a conference, symposium or workshop; that is, to give a lecture, participate with a poster or be chairperson. WGF funded 113 travel grants in 2019.

WGF allocate funds (Special grants) for the dissemination of knowledge about research and research training, which in the long term may be expected to promote the Foundations’ objectives. This year, grants have been awarded to Science Research School in Karlskoga, the Researcher’s Night in Stockholm, the Federation of Young Scientists’ exhibition 2019, development of physics education at Gothenburg University, and the CoRS group’s research within discrete mathematics in East Africa.

Stockholm, March 4, 2020

Britt-Marie Sjöberg
The Wenner-Gren Foundations