Annual Report 2020

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 centrally located in Stockholm. 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 2020, resident researchers came from 38 different nations, with India, Spain, China, Germany and France best represented, in that order.

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 2020,a total of 106 scholarships were granted within the international scientific exchange program. The grants were distributed as follows: Wenner-Gren Fellows (19), sabbatical fellowships (14), foreign postdoctoral fellowships (66), and senior visiting scientists (17). Approximately a fourth of these scientists, primarily senior scientists, had to postpone their visits to 2021 due to the covid pandemic. 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 23 scientists, of whom 17 were conducting their postdoctoral education abroad, 2 were scholars in Sweden and 4 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 digitally on September 17 this year, where a majority of the fellows participated. Two of the active Fellows recounted their experiences abroad,their current research activities and their plans for the future. All participants reported that they despite the covid pandemic had managed to pursue their research projects with some modifications. Only one of the new Fellows had to postpone the start of the scholarship to 2021.

Senior Swedish researchers (sabbatical fellows) primarily choose to visit universities in the US and in Europe. However, more than 60% of the fellows had to postpone their visits to 2021 due to the covid pandemic.
Foreign postdoctoral fellows sought to visit universities across the country, but Stockholm was over represented among the scholarships awarded (49%).Four scholars have postponed their visits to 2021 due to the covid pandemic. No less than 23 countries were represented among the grantees, and several fellows came from India, Germany, Australia, Great Britain, China, France and Spain, 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, South America and Asia, and several Swedish universities were represented among the hostinstitutions.

WGF awarded grants for the organization of external symposia, usually with a distinctive theme and with a clear international character. In 2020, 15 applications for this form of symposium support were granted, but nine were postponed to 2021 due to the covid pandemin and one changed format to digital. The planned three Wenner-Gren symposia were all postponed to 2021 due to the covid pandemic.

Guest lectures supported by WGF are of two types: Wenner-Gren Distinguished Lectures and regular guest lectures at universities and university colleges. WGF supported a number of researchers and institutions with funding to invite 3 guest speakers during the course of 2020,one of which was postponed to 2021 due to the covid pandemic. No Wenner-Gren Distinguished Lecturer was invited this year.

WGF award travel grants to 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 give a lecture, participate with a poster or be chairperson. WGF funded 116 travel grants in 2020, but 9 planned conferences were cancelled, 23 have been postponed to 2021, and 6 have changed to digital format.

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, the Sonja Kovalevsky Days, a book about young researchers as children,and a project about media reports and faith in connection with the covid pandemic.

Stockholm, March 8, 2021

Britt-Marie Sjöberg
The Wenner-Gren Foundations