Annual report 2023

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 award 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 provide grants to external international symposia in Sweden. Travel grants are provided for young researchers to participate inconferences, workshops, and symposia. Finally, WGF provide 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 and 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 2023, resident researchers came from 47 different nations, with China, India, Italy, France, and Iran 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 15 and 16.

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 2023, a total of 91 scholarships were granted within the international scientific exchange program. The grants were distributed as follows: Wenner-Gren Fellows (23), sabbatical fellowships (10), foreign postdoctoral fellowships (50), and senior visiting scientists (8). 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 2023, the Wenner-Gren Fellowship program involved 35 scientists, of whom 23 were conducting their postdoctoral education abroad, and 12 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, returning Fellows receive 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 digital meeting in the spring and a physical meeting at the Wenner-Gren Center in the autumn. A number of active Fellows recounted their experiences abroad, their current research activities and their plans for the future. A few earlier Fellows presented more long-term experiences of the program and gave concrete advice concerning researchers’ career. The autumn meeting also included a presentation by board member Prof. Arne Jarrick, Stockholm University. Most of the active Fellows participated in the meetings.

WGF arranged a homecoming information event (Hemvändardagen) at the Wenner-Gren Center on September 15 this year. The event is intended primarily for WG Fellows who are currently overseas and postdoctoral fellows who recently returned to Sweden and is announced via Swedish universities. Around 90 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.) to make it easier for them to plan their return to Sweden. Eleven research-funding bodies presented their respective programs for support to 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, UK, Australia, and New Zeeland this year.
Foreign postdoctoral fellows choose to visit universities across the country, but two thirds of the scholarships were awarded to researchers in the Stockholm/Uppsala region. No less than 18 countries were represented among the grantees, and fellows came primarily from India, China, Brazil, and France, 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 highly qualified senior visiting researchers received grants to cover part of 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 Europe, US, and Australia, and the host institutions were at several Swedish universities.

In 2023, WGF hosted two Wenner-Gren symposia, namely “Small molecule signaling across the tree of life with focus on nucleotide signaling” (program committee: Ute Römling, Nelson O. Gekara, Erik Holmqvist, and Christopher M. Waters), and “Publishing in Academia: Digital Challenges” (program committee: Lars Engwall, Kirsten Drotner, Theo D'haen, and Marcel Swart, all members of Academia Europaea). Both symposia were 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 2023, 13 applications for this form of symposium support were granted.

WGF gave 3 researchers and institutions funding to invite guest speakers during 2023. Even smaller universities and university colleges used this form of support for international scientific exchange, and guest speakers were from Brazil, UK and US.

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 73 travel grants in 2023.

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 were awarded to the Federation of Young Scientists’ exhibition 2023, the Research School in Karlskoga, the Researcher’s Night in Stockholm, the International Young Physicists' Tournament 2025, and European National Young Academies Meeting 2023.

WGF awarded 2 tax-free stipends from the Inge Jonsson Fund to young researchers with a PhD in humanities who wish to initiate a well-defined scientific project requiring interdisciplinary contributions. The year-long one-time support to researchers from Ukraine that was initiated in 2022 has in total been awarded to 15 scientists in research groups at Swedish Universities during 2022 and 2023.

Stockholm, January 19, 2024
Britt-Marie Sjöberg
Science Secretary
The Wenner-Gren Foundations