Annual Report 2016

The Wenner-Gren Foundations (WGF) seeks to promote international cooperation in the area of scientific research. To this end, WGF provides 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 organizes 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 organizes 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 2016, resident researchers came from 49 different nations, with Germany, China, Spain, India, Italy, Japan, Australia, France, Russia, the US and Portugal 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 9 and 10.

WGF offers 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.

In 2016, a total of 112 scholarships were granted within the international scientific exchange program. The grants were distributed as follows: Swedish postdoctoral fellowships (9), Wenner-Gren Fellows (29, including repatriated researchers), sabbatical fellowships (10), foreign postdoctoral fellowships (52), and senior visiting scientists (12). It may be added that WGF examines the distribution of fellowships by gender when statistically sufficiently substantial 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 29 people, of whom 13 were conducting their postdoctoral
education abroad, 1 in Sweden, and 15 led their own research group in Sweden. Five new Fellows were selected this year, and had chosen internationally outstanding research groups in Australia, the Netherlands, and the US for their foreign postdoctoral education. The WG Fellowship program is designed to give these 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 16 this year. More than half of the Fellows attended the meeting. Three of the active Fellows and two previous Fellows recounted their experiences abroad, their current research activities and their plans for the future. The WG Fellow program was discussed in general terms after the presentations.

For the eight time, WGF arranged a homecoming information event (Hemvändardagen) at the Wenner-Gren Center on September 15 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 ca 60 fellows 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) applied to visit the foremost universities, in mentioned order, in the US, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Great Britain and Germany.
Foreign postdoctoral fellows sought to visit universities across the country, but Stockholm was overrepresented among the scholarships awarded
(45%). No fewer than 21 countries were represented among the grantees, and several fellows came from France, Finland, China, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany 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 Great Britain and the US, and the host institutions were primarily in the Stockholm region.

In 2016, WGF hosted three Wenner-Gren symposia, namely ”Brown adipose tissue and euthermia” organized by Barbara Cannon, Jan Nedergaard,
Sven Enerbäck and Stephan Herzig,”Host-microbe interactions in the gut – from model systems to human disease” organized by Ylva Engström, Peter Bergman and Fredrik Bäckhed, and ”Research and policymaking in education” organized by Framtidens skola, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS). The symposia were all held at the Wenner-Gren Center in Stockholm, plus half a day at the RSAS for the latter symposium. WGF also awarded grants for the organization of external seminars, usually with a distinctive theme and with a clear international character. In 2016, 15 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. In May 2016, WGF organized a Wenner-Gren Distinguished Lecture by Professor Nancy Moran, University of Texas at Austin, USA, at Stockholm University and Uppsala University. Professor Moran is a world-leading scientist who studies symbioses between insects and microorganisms, which contributes fundamentally to the survival of insect communities and our ecosystem. WGF also gave a number of researchers and institutions funding to invite 13 guest speakers during the course of 2016. It may be noted that even smaller universities and university colleges use this form of support for international scientific exchange, and guest speakers were mainly from the US, Italy, Israel, Poland and Great Britain.

WGF awards travel grants for study trips abroad for younger postdoctoral researchers working in Sweden. Requirements include the researcher´s active participation in a conference, symposium or workshop; that is, to be chairperson, give a lecture or participate with a poster. In 2016, 78
applications were successful, including 2 financed by Torvard Laurent’s Memorial Fund.

WGF allocates 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 Sonja Kovalevsky Days, the Researcher’s Night in Stockholm, and the Federation of Young Scientists 2016 exhibition, as well as a project on homeopathy within the Academy organization EASAC and a printing donation for the monograph ”The Kalligerges Pindar: A Study in Greek Renaissance Scholarship”.

Stockholm, January 31, 2017

Britt-Marie Sjöberg
Wenner-Gren Foundations
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