Funding to Become an American (Scientist) in Paris

To help American scientists plan for their research experience in France, Science's Next Wave has compiled a collection of funding programs supporting exchanges between the two countries. This list is meant to illustrate the kinds of funding opportunities available to American researchers considering an exchange visit to France; it is not meant to be exhaustive.

The list below includes programs specifically for American scientists going to France, two-way exchange programs, and programs available to scholars in any field of study. The list also includes a few programs that are open to scientists from countries other than the United States.

The 2006 submission deadlines for some of these programs have already passed, but most of these opportunities are offered annually. Researchers making plans for 2007 and beyond should check the organization's Web sites periodically to find their next deadlines.

Fulbright Scholar Program

One of the preeminent educational exchange programs in the United States is the Fulbright Program, which sends American students and faculty members overseas and brings visiting scholars to American universities. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State but administered by a nonprofit organization, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars.

U.S. Fulbright Scholar awards go to some 800 American faculty members and postdocs each year to support work and study in 140 countries. In most of the countries receiving Fulbright Scholars (including France), a bilateral commission of American and host-country academics selects grantees from among the applicants. The awards cover a wide range of disciplines, including the sciences. The submission deadline for the 2007-08 academic year is 1 August 2006.

Fulbright Scholar awards in France range from 3 to 12 months, depending on the specific discipline and program. Scholars receive a grant of €2000 to €2500 a month, the precise amount depending on location and the number of accompanying dependents. Awards for study in France include grants for scholars in a broad array of disciplines as well as a few awards for multidisciplinary studies.

In addition to the national awards in France, the Fulbright program has grants to conduct scientific research in three French regions: the Alsace Regional Award (one award), which seeks candidates with backgrounds in medical imaging, computer-assisted surgery, and medical robotics; the Aquitaine Regional Awards, which award three grants in 2007-08 and emphasize functional genomics, viticulture and wine-related disciplines, biochemistry, optics, lasers, and physics; and the Nord Pas-de-Calais Regional Council Awards (four grants in 2007-08), which seek researchers for multidisciplinary projects covering a wide range of life, physical, and social sciences.

The Fulbright program also funds graduate-student predoctoral fellowships. The early rounds of the selection process are administered by home academic institutions, so procedures and timetables vary from campus to campus. Prospective candidates should consult the Fulbright Program Adviser on their campuses for details. Prospective students not currently enrolled at an academic institution (i.e., recent graduates) can still apply, but they must do so through the last institution they attended, so they should consult the Fulbright Program Adviser there for information about procedures and deadlines.

Pasteur Foundation

The Pasteur Foundation is the American nonprofit affiliate of Paris's Institut Pasteur, which conducts research into infectious diseases. The Pasteur Foundation promotes exchanges between the Institut Pasteur and American scientists pursuing research in biomedical disciplines such as microbiology, immunology, and neuroscience. The organization offers two types of opportunities for early-career scientists: postdoctoral research fellowships and undergraduate summer internships.

In postdoctoral fellowships, researchers work in one of the Institut Pasteur’s Paris labs for 3 years. Caitlin Hawke, executive director of the Pasteur Foundation, says the organization tries to award four fellowships annually. The award provides a stipend of $45,000 and a "bench fee," which pays some lab expenses, of $15,000 a year for each of the 3 years. The next deadline for applications is 2 February 2007.

The first group of postdoctoral fellows, says Hawke, began work in 2002 and is now returning. The program “has attracted fabulous American candidates,” she says, adding that fellows “can have a rich scientific experience abroad and still have no problem coming back” to careers in the United States. Two of the first batch of returning postdoctoral fellows have secured academic positions in the United States, and one has become an entrepreneur.

The foundation also funds summer internships for undergraduates. Hawke says the foundation has been supporting the internships for 3 years but recently secured funding for the program through 2009. Like Pasteur Foundation postdoc fellows, summer interns work at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and receive the equivalent of $400 a week. The submission deadline for the 2007 program is 15 December 2006.

U.S. National Science Foundation--International Research Fellowship Program

NSF established the International Research Fellowship Program (IRFP) "to introduce scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers to research opportunities abroad." Unlike the standard NSF grant, this program is for individual researchers rather than institutions. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and have received a Ph.D. degree no more than 3 years before the award is made. NSF awards 30 to 35 of these fellowships annually.

NSF International Fellowship support runs from 9 to 24 months. Researchers are expected to work full-time at an academic, government, or industrial lab overseas. Among the factors considered in making the awards is "detailed and enthusiastic" support from host institutions, which suggests that prospective applicants should secure backing from collaborators well in advance. NSF’s list of international scientific organizations provides links to France’s leading science labs and ministries.

NSF makes IRFP awards annually. The next deadline for submissions is 12 September 2006.

Human Frontier Science Program

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) is a private international organization that funds innovative and interdisciplinary basic research in the life sciences and biomedical fields. HFSP considers applications from any country, but some of its grants restrict at least some of its funds to principal applicants or labs from member countries. Its 30 member countries are mainly from Western Europe (including France), but the list also includes the United States, Australia, and South Korea.

HFSP’s funding begins at the postdoctoral level; the organization does not fund graduate student research. Its Long-Term Fellowships are designed to encourage new and innovative basic research--and mobility. The grant provides up to 3 years of funding at a lab in a country different from the researcher’s own, with funding up to $49,800 per year covering stipend, travel, research expenses, and a one-time language-training allowance.

HFSP has a related Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship program for scientists with Ph.D.s in the physical sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and material sciences) who seek additional training in the life sciences. The 2006 call for applications for Long-Term and Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships has closed, but HFSP expects to post the 2007 guidelines for these programs in May 2006, with the deadline set for 31 August 2006.

HFSP also funds Short-Term Fellowships that run from 2 weeks to 3 months, for conducting specific experiments, learning new techniques, or establishing new collaborations among other short-term scientific objectives. Like their longer-term counterparts, the Short-Term Fellowships must be conducted in a lab in a different country. And like the other HFSP programs, these grants encourage mobility and new collaboration, with specific rules against working with previous supervisors or article co-authors. HFSP considers applications for Short-Term Fellowships throughout the year and announces awards 3 to 4 months after receipt. Applicants are encouraged to allow enough time for the review process between the time of their application and the start of the proposed travel.

Eiffel Doctorate Scholarships

France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country's equivalent of the U.S. State Department, also funds exchange programs open to American faculty members and students. Eiffel Doctorate Scholarships are awarded to scientists from any outside country for Ph.D. study and research in France. The grants cover a wide range of disciplines, including the life, physical, and social sciences, and engineering. The program is aimed at younger candidates; the age limit for applicants is 35.

Getting Ready for Your Research in France

The Pasteur Foundation’s Caitlin Hawke recommends the following Web sites as excellent resources for scientists considering France as a venue for their research:

Kastler Foundation. The Kastler Foundation was established by the French Academy of Sciences to ease the transition of scientists from outside France and to maintain contact with them after they return. See also this week’s article in Next Wave, “A Troubleshooting Guide to Landing in France”.

France Contact. France Contact helps researchers from outside France find collaboration partners and financial support; it can also provide a personalized Web page with links to essential services based on a registrant’s preferences.

A useful networking opportunity for American scientists and engineers considering a move to France is Forum USA , an annual conference and expo conducted in the spring by the Embassy of France. The 2006 event was held in early April, with sessions in Boston and San Francisco.

Eiffel Doctorate Scholarships are awarded to students who have completed their master’s degrees. The grantee joins a doctoral-thesis program with a French institution but remains officially enrolled in the home institution during the time of the scholarship. The award provides €1400 a month for up to a year; most grants run about 10 months. The program does not cover tuition, but according to the program’s Web site, state-run institutions waive tuition for Eiffel Doctorate Scholars, and private institutions are encouraged to provide further financial assistance.

In 2005, the program awarded some 80 Eiffel Doctorate Scholarships worldwide. Applications are first reviewed by the French Ministry of Education, then considered by panels of experts from French universities. Applications for the 2006-07 academic year closed in February 2006, and the 2007 schedule, at the time of this writing, has not been published. Égide, the organization that administers the scholarships, posted the 2006 application forms in October 2005, so potential applicants should check the Web site during the fall of 2006.

Chateaubriand Fellowship

The Office for Science and Technology of the Embassy of France in the United States offers an annual Chateaubriand Fellowship program that allows Ph.D. candidates and postdocs to conduct research in a French lab. The grant provides €2055 per month for doctoral students, and €2466 a month for postdocs, for a period of 6 to 12 months, as well as round-trip travel and health insurance.

Candidates for Chateaubriand Fellowships must be doctoral students or have received their Ph.D.s in the previous 3 years. Grantees do not need to be U.S. citizens but must be attending a university in the United States. Applications must include an invitation from a French lab affiliated with a university, research institute, or private company. Applications are due 31 December for fellowships in the following year.

Specialized Opportunities

A few funding programs serve individual university campuses or a unique set of objectives. Three American universities have established programs for their students, postdocs, and faculty to work or study in France. The France-Berkeley Fund (FBF) encourages exchanges between the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and counterpart institutions in France. The program extends to UC Berkeley’s affiliated Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC campuses at Davis and Santa Cruz. FBF holds an annual call for proposals for collaborative research projects. In 2005, FBF awarded 38 grants for 19 projects in the life sciences, social sciences, mathematics, and humanities. The 2006 call for proposals closed in January.

The MIT-France Program provides Massachusetts Institute of Technology students with internships at companies or research institutions, and academic exchange opportunities with French universities. The internships give students hands-on work experience over the summer or (for Ph.D. candidates) during the normal academic year. Since it began in 2001, the internship program has placed more than 100 students with French companies or research institutes.

In 2001, the University of Chicago established its France-Chicago Center, funded in part by a grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The center offers a number of travel grants, summer fellowships, and research fellowships for university undergraduates and graduate students. Covered disciplines include science (including social sciences) and humanities.

The Office for Science and Technology of the French Embassy in the United States has established a program that combines support for science with business development in France. Its Young Entrepreneurs Initiative offers funding support of €5000 plus airfare for American scientists and engineers to start new companies in France based on innovative ideas and new technologies, especially in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science, and information technology. The 2006 call for proposals closed in March. Five awards were made in 2005.

The French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, or ANR) offers annual Chairs of Excellence, which combine recognition of accomplishment with a generous research grant. ANR provides its Chairs of Excellence grants to non-French scientists as a means of attracting high-powered research talent to France. Some of its awards are reserved for junior scientists. The grants provide up to €400,000 for 3 to 4 years of research. The 2006 call for proposals closed in March. In September 2005, Next Wave profiled an ANR Chair of Excellence recipient from Greece.

Comments, suggestions? Please send your feedback to our editor .

Alan Kotok, managing editor of Science Careers, is willing to pay his own way to Paris .

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